Sometimes I’ve introduced you to bands I’m surprised you don’t know (The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac). Sometimes, it’s groups I doubt you know (the Roches). Today, I’m sharing a band I very much doubt you know. And when better to do so than on the most difficult letter of the round. The name of the band is X. Just the letter X. And yes, I have those first four albums, on vinyl, all of which were produced by The Doors’ keyboard player, Ray Manzarek.
From the Wikipedia: “X is an American punk rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1977. Established among the first wave of American punk, the original members are vocalist Exene Cervenka, vocalist/bassist John Doe, guitarist Billy Zoom, and drummer DJ Bonebrake.” The family band connection: Exene and John were married from 1980 to 1985.
“The band released seven studio albums from 1980 to 1993. After a period of inactivity during the mid to late 1990s, X reunited in the early 2000s, and currently tours.”
“X achieved limited mainstream success but influenced various genres of music, including punk rock and folk rock. In 2003, X’s first two studio albums, Los Angeles and Wild Gift, were ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as being among the 500 greatest albums of all time.”
Here is Los Angeles And here is Los Angeles (again).
“1981’s Wild Gift, broadened the band’s profile when it was named “Record of the Year” by Rolling Stone, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and Village Voice.
Here is Wild Gift.
My long-time friend Karen, who’s in the music business, once told me that John Doe was “like us.” By this, I believe she meant that he was not a pretentious jerk, like some of the people she has worked with.
“X then signed to Elektra in 1982 to release Under the Big Black Sun, which marked a slight departure from their trademark sound. While still fast and loud, the album’s country leanings were evolving and its raw punk sound was channeling raw guitar power chords. The album was heavily influenced by the death of Exene Cervenka’s elder sister Mirielle (Mary) in an automobile accident in 1980.”
Here is Under the Big Black Sun, which is Exene’s favorite album.
“1983 saw the release of the More Fun in the New World album. X slightly redefined their sound with this release, making it somewhat more polished, eclectic and radio-ready than in previous albums. With the sound moving away from punk rock, the band’s rockabilly influence became even more noticeable.”
Here is More Fun in the New World.
“A side project of some of the band members was Poor Little Critter on the Road in 1985, under the name The Knitters: X minus Zoom, plus Dave Alvin (of The Blasters) on guitar and Johnny Ray Bartel (of The Red Devils) on double bass.” Dave Alvin taught Exene how to play guitar, and was briefly in X..
LISTEN to Someone Like You – the Knitters.
Walkin’ Cane – the Knitters
And for good measure: LISTEN to I’m Shakin’ – The Blasters from their eponymous album I also own; in fact I probably bought the LP for this song.
My collection of X ends here save for Shoot Out the Lights (LISTEN), a cut on a collection of Richard Thompson covers. Though I DO have one John Doe and two Exene solo CDs.
I’m going to guess that, of the four albums, most of you may find the last one more accessible, and the first less so. Or not.