Kid Congo Powers got his kicks from punk rock, from being a teenage hellraiser, from playing in The Gun Club, The Cramps and The Bad Seeds and, it turns out, from pint after pint of that old frothy quencher so beloved of the 80s alternative music scene: heroin.
It’s difficult to know what the Kid brought to those bands but he was in the right place at the right time: they were three of the most exciting bands of the 80s, outlaws prowling the edge of the gothabilly frontier, stampeding punk rock cattle right through the pristine 80s, kicking cowshit all over its synths and shooting holes in its gated drum sounds.
Kid Congo couldn’t play guitar when he joined The Gun Club and still could barely play when he joined the Cramps for their Psychedelic Jungle album a few years later. But he did have mystical credentials: “The Cramps believed they were a magical entity,” he writes. “They believed in psychic phenomena, ghosts, and spirits. And that all misfits and freaks, like them, were people who came from some other planet… To Lux and Ivy, any true non-conformist was viewed as a magical person. I think that’s why they picked me for their band. It certainly wasn’t because I was a skilled guitarist.”
The Kid was a non-conformist alright. A gay, Mexican, punk, bohemian hellraiser, his autobiog captures a heyday spent drinking, tripping, shooting up, briefly planning the murder of notorious sleazeball Kim Fowley, and generally being a well-dressed car-crash for several decades. His early years as a fledgling punk – popping pills, running the Ramones fanclub, showing Siouxsie Sioux around LA, and causing trouble at Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco – are most vividly drawn.
The book doesn’t tell you much about the all great songs he played on, or even deliver much in the way of gossip, but he's an interesting guy to hang out with for 250 pages. A fast take on a reckless life.
Some New Kind of Kick by Kid Congo Powers is out now. (opens in new tab)