All right, that’s enough talking. Put your books away, you won’t need them today.No. Today’s a fun day. It’s music time! But this ain’t your mama’s boring music class. This is Professor Fiendy’s Music Room 138 and I won’t be making anyone sing rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”This will have to fall into the “Strange” category, as I don’t know how horrifying it is. It’s bizarre, to be sure, but definitely not terrifying.
Today’s video madness comes in the form of “The Cramps: Live at Napa State Mental Hospital.” Yeah, you read that right. Mental hospital. Don’t get too excited though, it’s not as no holds barred insane as that title could imply. But ask for a bathroom pass just yet, because it’s still pretty damn interesting.I’m not going to assume just because you’re horror fans you like, know about, or have even heard of The Cramps. Horror fans are a scattered breed and even when talking about guts, ghouls, ghosts and gore, the musical proclivities of the average horror fan can be pretty unpredictable. They’re not all death metal heads and gutter punks that’s for damn sure. So, I’ll speak a little bit about the band.
The reason I think this is a fun video to feature is two phased. The first phase is that The Cramps are most definitely stripped down, 50’s era horror/explotation infused, pure red, black and blue American rock ‘n roll. With songs like “The Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon,” “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” and their contribution to the kick-ass soundtrack for 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead” entitled “Surfin’ Dead,” it’s almost impossible to separate The Cramps from the Russ Meyerish, schlocky, midnight b-movie fare that influenced their image and sound so heavily. The Cramps are not straight up horror rock by any means, though. It’s more of a mood and a tone than anything overtly horrific. In fact, their lean as far as subject matter falls more often into the innuendo dripping, sexually charged, fetish/bondage arena. I don’t wish to start generalizing here when I didn’t do it above, but these things can often go hand-in-hand with horror and the people that love it. You freaky kids out there know who you are, and I know where you’re hiding the whips, the chains and the blindfolds.
The second phase, whether you’re familiar with The Cramps or not, is far more obvious – they did a gig at a mental institution. That’s not some campy, exploitive joke either. They quite literally did just that. In 1978, much to the delight of the patients (perhaps) and much to the chagrin of the staff (more probably), The Cramps played a free show for the patients of the State Mental Hospital in Napa, California. Luckily for us, the folks at Target Video sent some people down from ‘Frisco to record this madness for posterity.
Today’s clip is just the opening number entitled “The Way I Walk” but the whole show is available on DVD under the title “The Cramps: Live at Napa State Mental Hospital.” From Target Video. Or, if you’re a bit tight in the belt, I’m pretty sure you can view the show in its entirety on youTube.
If you love The Cramps, but have never seen this, enjoy. If you own this DVD, then you’re probably gonna watch the clip anyway, because it’s there and you love The Cramps. If you’ve never heard The Cramps before, this is a great way to be introduced to them. If you don’t much care for The Cramps, at least give it a viewing. To the best of The Professor’s knowledge, no other band has done anything like this before or since. Some people have played prison shows for sure, The Ramones I believe, Johnny Cash definitely, but not in a mental hospital. And that my friends, is pretty f*cking Rock ‘n Roll with a capital F.