If it’s possible I actually like this band MORE at the age of 45 then I did when I first heard them at the age of 13. To me X possesses all the proper characteristics of great rock and roll music: honest; intense; simple without being generic; powerful. Add the fact that bassist John Doe, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer DJ Bonebrake are class acts on their respective instruments plus Doe and Exene Cervenka combine to form an incredible vocal duo and it becomes pretty easy to understand why I love this band so much.
It is 2015. X has been around since 1977 and more important, the original line-up was together from 1977-1986 when Billy Zoom left the band after the release of their fifth album. I was heavily bummed because I feel his work on the guitar is some of the most prolific since the late seventies. X released two albums after Billy Zoom left with Tony Gilkyson on guitar, 1987’s See How We Are and 1993’s Hey Zeus! Dave Alvin from The Blasters originally joined X when Billy Zoom bolted, played on See How We Are and even played some live shows with the band.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the last two X albums as well but nothing compares to the first five when Billy Zoom manned the axe. Zoom returned to X when the 1997 compilation Beyond and Back: The X Anthology was released for a 1998 farewell reunion tour. Luckily for fans like this writer that farewell tour turned out to just be the beginning of this great band performing together again because X still performs live to this day. I hope X fans here in Arizona realize how lucky we are that the band has been coming to town during the holidays for several straight years now.
Many fans of X refer to the first two albums, 1980’s Los Angeles and 1981’s Wild Gift as the ultimate work from the band. While I won’t disagree that these records are amazing and Los Angeles is my favorite, I feel 1982’s Under the Big Black Sun and 1983’s More Fun in the New World are equally as outstanding. It was not until the band tried to change its sound a bit to appeal to mainstream radio with the release of 1985’s Ain’t Love Grand! that X began to lose some steam. The fact remains that some bands are simply too good and too cool for the mainstream to ever “get it”. X is the perfect example of that.
Years ago when More Fun in the New World was released there was a punk fanzine here in Phoenix called “Gagging Dog”. The old school scenesters will remember that zine well. I will never forget a comment Rusty (I think that was his name) wrote about the album; “if you’re too ‘core for X then you just don’t realize what great music is.” X may have been a part of the Los Angeles punk rock scene of the early eighties and it only made sense for the band to be a part of the 1981 film from Penelope Spheeris The Decline of Western Civilization. They are so much more talented than the limitations of that genre. If there was a band from all these postings I hope you check out if you were never exposed to the band before X would be one you really should, regardless of what kind of music you like. This includes you Mr. Dean.
Two videos for you, a live version of “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” from Los Angeles and The Decline of Western Civilization and “The New World” from More Fun in the New World. Enjoy.
Album Inspiration: Los Angeles