Psychobilly: Bad Music For Bad People
Psycobilly is a sub-genre of music that mixes 1950’s rockabilly sensibilities with the DIY aesthetic of late 1970’s punk and B grade horror flicks (lyrically and especially visually). Musically speaking,
Psychobilly owes a massive debt to those Nugget era garage bands of the 60’s such as The Count 5, The Trashmen, and ? And The Mysterians.
Since the late 1970’s, Psycobilly has remained an underground cult sensation, and the self proclaimed leaders of the revolution were/ are The Cramps.
Led by the demented howler Lux Interior, the Cramps made a reputation for themselves by playing a number of incendiary gigs in and around their home base of NYC. Live they celebrated everything that was dirty and deviant, but always with a sly wink, a perverse joy in shocking their audience and a marvelous sense of warped humor.
The guitarist (Poison Ivy) looked like Satan’s concubine; drippy eyeliner, ripped fishnet stockings, birds nest hair and a dangerously pointy push up bra. She (yes, SHE) could play a swampy 1 note solo and make it sound like a drugged out lost John Fogerty riff, full of dread and voodoo precision.
I got hooked on these guys after hearing their 1981 album Psychedelic Jungle. A witches brew of wicked originals (Caveman, Voodoo Idol, Natives Are Restless) and superbly interpreted covers ( Goo Goo Muck, The Crusher and the sublime Green Door), this album was gone daddy gone, man, and still sounds great on a cheap pair of speakers.
The Meteors and The Fuzztones (and their Lysergic Emissions LP in particular) were two other leading bands of the genre . The Meteors were punkier than the Cramps and the Fuzztones were more musically adept. Thankfully, the Meteors discography is now available on iTunes, but the long forgotten Fuzztones are extremely hard to track down. Trust me, download whatever you can find by these guys. Scuzzy rock and roll at it’s finest, a zombified version of the Black Crowes.
Eugene Chadbourne, an innovative guitarist and one of rock and roll’s great eccentrics, first gained recognition for fronting the somewhat legendary band Shockabilly. His many, many solo outings (129 since 1975–no joke!) has made him a living legend and the genres spiritual leader. Chadbourne completests sure have their job cut out for them, and I wouldn’t recommend you become one. His albums were and remain spotty at best. For the curious, start with ‘83’s Chicken On The Way and 1987’s Vermin Of The Blues.
The spirit of Psychobilly lives on, and is being discovered by today’s college kids and re-discovered by early fans every day. It’s fun, throwaway music that has mutated into many different styles such as cow-punk, garage rock/ surf punk etc etc etc.
Some essentials to get you started:
Fuzztones, Lysergic Emissions
The Cramps, Psychedelic Jungle or Bad Music For Bad People
The Gun Club, Fire Of Love
The Meteors, Bastard Sons Of A Rock And Roll Devil
The Gruesomes, Gruesomology
…and don’t forget, folks: STAY SICK!