The Cramps Live at Napa State Mental Hospital(1978)
In Bay Area rap history there are several instances of artists rapping live from jail - perhaps most notably
the late great Mac Dre
rapping over the phone from Fresno County Jail
back in the early nineties and X-Raided
at that same period rapping over the phone on series of occasions that would finally be released as the 1995 album Xorcist
(in later years the still incarcerated rapper would get smuggled in recording gear to record albums). But there are also many instances of artists performing for inmates at jails and prisons, as well as other institutions.
Of the performances in mental institutions perhaps the best (and the best known) is from when The Cramps,
in June 1978, did a live show from the California Mental State Hospital
in Napa. Also performing were San Francisco's wonderful post punk act The Mutants.
It was when the pioneering psychobilly gods had just had just finished up recording Gravest Hits
- to be released the following year that would include the track "The Way I Walk" that they are captured performing in the Napa hospital concert clip above care of Target Video.
The great Leonard Cohen
also did a series of free concerts about forty years ago in mental institutions but without much media attention at the time. According to Sylvie Simmons
' bio I'm Your Man
Cohen performed, like the Cramps, at Napa State Hospital as well as at Henderson Hospital
(in the UK), and at an unnamed facility in Montreal (Canada). Reportedly he booked these shows "without fanfare" and on his own dime, reportedly telling a reporter a few years later that he was drawn to mental hospitals because he had "the feeling that the experience of a lot of people in mental hospitals would especially qualify them to be a receptive audience for my work." Cohen later commented, according to Simmons, that “I’ve always loved the people the world used to call mad.”