There was a time when I declared the first 45 GRAVE record, 1981’s “Black Cross/Wax”, to be punk’s finest single to date. Granted, I was 18 years old at the time, and hadn’t yet heard Pere Ubu, The Pagans, The Bags nor most of the rest of the canon. I had a bit of “the goth” in me, despite appearances, and thought this one was about as ripping as ripping could be. 27 years after its release (!), I’m still pretty favorably disposed to it. Here’s a summation I wrote previously about this record and the posthumous LP “Autopsy” in 2005:
There was a brief period in my life, quite early in my punk fandom, when I declared to the world that the greatest 45 in the history of punk rock was this band's "Black Cross / Wax". I once stumbled onto college radio three sheets to the wind and pronounced it so, and proceeded to emit a ghoulish, gurgling on-mic scream along with Dinah Cancer during "Black Cross"'s crucial break. Only after years of ridicule and subsequent therapy can I make my fragile peace with that godforsaken evening. I bring this up because I've seen very few fans hold this band up for much of anything in the intervening years, except as one of many cool early 80s bands trolling for gigs in Los Angeles during a period in which there were plenty. Goths haven't really fully embraced them, least not last time I checked, given 45 GRAVE's -- or at least this album's -- fast, screeching, near-hardcore tempos. These tempos and the sheer power & speed of the delivery on this fine record mitigate a whole host of problems, not the least of which is the lyrics and all the bat/cave/crucifix/coffin tomfoolery they were peddling.
When "Autopsy" came out posthumously in 1987, a lot of us were truly floored, because outside of "Black Cross" we'd never heard 45 Grave play so fast. They'd made their mark up to that time with an awful dirgy metal tune called "Party Time" that was on the "Return of the Living Dead" soundtrack, a film soundtrack notable to me in high school because, like "Repo Man", it had PUNK on it!!! But "Party Time" blew, as did the majority of the band's only official LP, "Sleep In Safety". What I didn't know until In The Red put out that fantastic CONSUMERS LP was that the early 45 Grave were a direct outgrowth of that blazing Phoenix punk band's 1977 recordings, and that the "Autopsy" recordings were 45 Grave at their very earliest, ripping it up in fine full-fidelity style like THE MISFITS and THE BAGS. Since they featured not only Paul Cutler from The Consumers but Don Bolles from The Germs & Rob Ritter from The Bags, the tear-it-up pedigree was highly refined & practiced in the legend-making punk rock dark arts. And Cutler was bold enough to swipe most of his best songs from The Consumers, and then re-record them with a female singer & his hot new band = 45 Grave.
Granted, the horror BS was/is a little much, but like The Misfits, it was a gimmick that could mostly be shunted aside if you pretended you'd recently had a partial lobotomy. Only "Dinah Cancer"'s banshee vocals and some select atrocious lyrics still make my skin crawl, now that I've mentally removed my frontal lobes. This collection nets you that wild-ass "Black Cross" 45, certainly one of the top 197 punk 45s of all time, a large batch of 90-second howlers, the novelty "Monster Mash"-like "Riboflavin Flavored, Non-Carbonated, Polyunsaturated Blood" and even an early "Partytime" that almost doesn't suck. I wasn't even sure this even made it out to CD until I read here that it's one of the rarest CDs going, selling on eBay for $268. Now how do you figure that? I busted the LP out last week and gave it a full-bosom nostalgia listen, and I can say that the center still held. Check your local auction listings and keep that wallet stuffed!
In the meantime, here’s that first 45 in all of its blood-curdling glory.
Play or Download 45 GRAVE – “Black Cross” (A-side)
Play or Download 45 GRAVE – “Wax” (B-side)