The pioneering influence of Cramps member Poison Ivy
One of the legendary bands to surface during the first wave of American punk was The Cramps. Rooted in the strong and ever-changing friendship of Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach, the band captured hearts for three long decades starting in 1976. The band didn’t just represent a revolution in rock, the punk scene. being a useful tool to bring down the established dad rock of the day, but also a change in attitude towards gender and a powerful fight against sexism.
Typically, most people undermined Ivy’s musical achievements and focused all of their attention on the group’s most visible male member, Interior. “No one ever talks to me about music or guitar,” she once said. “I am the queen of rock n ‘roll and for this to go unrecognized is pure sexism,” said the uncrowned ruler of The Cramps. So let’s take a look back and rediscover Ivy as a musician and radical figure in rock’n’roll history.
Kirsty Marlana Wallace, aka Poison Ivy, was born into a family in San Bernardino, California, where the music was carefully passed down from her grandfather, who was a violinist accompanying John Phillips Sousa, to her brother and then, finally, to Ivy. . Recalling her childhood days, Ivy said, “When I was very little I was especially obsessed with a punch that my brother had, ‘Martian Hop’ by the Ran-Dells. He played it when his friends came because they had fun watching me jump and fly around the room and out of the furniture whenever I heard it.
Living a nomadic lifestyle, the only constant in Ivy’s life was music and she provided a much needed backbone. By the time she graduated from high school, her family had crossed the country nine times, which left young Ivy with no friends and no place to call home. It was a perfect breeding ground for the discontent of society.
Born rebellious in every sense of the word, Ivy spent her teenage years breaking the rules and creating new ones. Whether she wears makeup on her eyes or smokes cigarettes in the girls’ bathroom, she showed utter disregard for all school rules and was frequently reprimanded. Although a brilliant student, she lost interest in typical bookish learning and sought a deeper understanding of spiritual and religious disciplines as well as dance and music. It was around this time that she picked up the guitar for fun and to give a new voice to her concerns: “My brother was playing guitar, and he taught me to do the riffs for Pipeline and some chords, but other than that, I never had a class. I just started picking songs on my own.
It was Bo Diddley’s Sacramento Live this inspired Ivy to consider music more than just a hobby. It was actually ‘The Duchess’, the woman who played guitar with Diddley on stage, who fulfilled Ivy’s dream and provided her with one of the few inspiring guitarists to learn. She was so in love with the guitarist that Ivy even bought a pair of gold pants, identical to the Duchess’s stage costume, to emulate her as a tribute.
American guitar maestros Link Wray and Duane Eddy also left an everlasting impression on Ivy’s mind. “My most identifiable influences would be Link Wray and Duane Eddy… the simplicity of it… the austere chords of Link Wray and the austere note of Duane Eddy,” said Ivy. Adding enthusiastically about Wray, she said, “He had the most apocalyptic and monumental sound I have ever heard – really emotional and so simple and so violent. It means rock ‘n’ roll, which is meant to be violent and dangerous and h; I have this dangerous sound… No matter how long I’ve been doing this, I hear something new when I listen to it… He’s so… it’s like the guitar at the end of the world. So austere. And so much drama. You know he gets the most out of it, at least for sure.
As these musical influences slowly came together inside Ivy to form something new and special, Ivy soon met her criminal partner, Erick Purkhiser, a figure we all more commonly recognize as Lux Interior. . There are many versions of this story, some stating they met at a party at the University of Sacramento and others saying Lux saw Ivy walking the road, hitchhiking. in her ripped shorts and fell in love with her instantly. But the version Ivy recounted seems the most likely: “We met in a class called Art and Shamanism.
“The textbook for this class was called The sacred mushroom and the cross“, she continues,” and the subject of this book is how the real subject of the Bible is the mushroom Amanita muscaria and that Christ is a metaphor for this magic mushroom. “Not only their love affair but also their work-life balance is something to admire.” I think we’ve kind of elevated ourselves to each other, we’ve been together for so long, “said said Ivy. “Getting together made us think of things to do, being accomplices. While alone we could have been nameless wanderers. God, I love a happy ending.”
The Cramps were their child of love. The couple stayed briefly in Akron, the hometown of Lux, Ohio, which was the hotspot of the punk movement and raised musicians such as Chrissie Hynde and Devo. Then the duo moved to New York and founded the group with guitarist Bryan Gregory and drummer Pam Ballam. Although it has to be said, the band members have been tossed around continuously over the years, sparing Ivy and Interior. As the world began to look for new and towering styles, the Cramps first looked back, hinting at their intelligence. Exploring the darker side of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, the band garnered a huge following in a short period of time. Playing CBGB and Max’s Kansas City alongside Blondie, the Ramones, Patti Smith and the Dead Boys, they “decided to become a hybrid patchwork with a life of their own – a rock n ‘roll Brides of Frankenstein”, according to the inside. The ‘hybrid’ he’s talking about is ‘psychobilly‘, a unique combination of rebellious rock ‘n’ roll and rural country with a hint of dastardly blues.
Starting with a solid body guitar, a rare Canadian model, Ivy upgraded to a 1958 Gibson 6129 hollow body and fell in love with its deep, heavy sound. He quickly became part of Ivy’s distinctive style, something that shaped psychobilly music and Cramps culture in general. After moving to Los Angeles, Ivy even served as the team’s bassist for live performances and studio recordings. In addition to her sensational guitar work, Ivy also co-wrote all of the band’s originals with Interior. However, Ivy didn’t care much for symbolic accomplishments.
For her, the thrill of playing live music for an audience was above all, “I think some guitarists get into an ego affair where they want to play in a technical way, which even if you do. can, is not always the best thing to do. choose to do, ”she once commented. “I always like the idea of playing for pure euphoria. My favorite thing to play, always, is the beat. It’s so euphoric that I really get high playing it. Some things I play don’t even feel like I’m playing them, and it’s my favorite kind of game.
A former dominatrix, Ivy was a sex symbol of her time. With a wardrobe of latex clothes and pin-up costumes, she’s manipulated fashion to highlight the dark side of pop culture and its relationship to sexuality. Line notes in the album How to make a monster read: “We wanted to be as shocking, sexy and original as the great rock and roll pioneers who changed the culture in the 50s and 60s.” In other words, her bold style sketched the aesthetic of the group and challenged single-sided stereotypes of femininity.
With the Cramps disbanded in 2009, following Interior’s death, Ivy’s status became increasingly obscure. But as the old saying goes “actions speak louder than words”, Ivy’s actions were too great to ignore. Not only did she overturn 1970s stereotypes about the lack of female musicians, but she did it in her own way, excreting her free will, dressing as she wanted without worrying about hiding her sexuality. She dared future musicians to live their dreams.