Try Googling “X” and See If You Can Find Anything

Nowadays no one cares about the band X, which probably has to do with no one really caring about them back in the early 1980s, when they were good. Unlike the dreadful Germs and other West Coast bands that latched onto punk music as an excuse to stand onstage and be fuckups, X understood the relationship between the punk aesthetic and American folk music.

As the video shows, front man John Doe bore some mild physical resemblance to Jim Morrison, which may have been the reason the perpetually marketing himself Ray Manzarek produced X’s first two albums. Despite the obvious Manzarek touches, Los Angeles (1980) and Wild Gift (1981) are the only solid records the band ever released.

John Doe has an extremely limited vocal range, and Exene Cervenka screeches, yet for a few years, backed up by Billy Zoom (guitar) and DJ Bonebreak (drums) they were able to do something that perfectly reflected their culture. Good (if Beat-influenced) observational writing and an ability to filter the essence and structure of earlier American sounds (particularly rockabilly and The Weavers) into their own make their early work still worth listening to.

Unfortunately, as punk’s limited appeal withered, their next efforts were marred by over-production and marketing, turning them into an only occasionally interesting Rock Band with Country Overtones, with a palpable desperation for a Hit. After that they just sucked. John Doe decided that a few badly-performed movie roles meant he should be an Actor, and Exene Cervenka thought that Lyrics were Poetry, and then worked as an Assistant Librarian at a middle school (or something).

Decades past it, they get back together fairly regularly and do the punk version of the State Fair circuit, where they all wear a lot of make-up and look like the Beach Boys.

The video looks like the clip that was in Penelope Spheeris’ 1979 documentary film The Decline of Western Civilization. Spheeris went on to direct Wayne’s World and The Beverly Hillbillies, but Part One of Decline is worth watching, mostly for X.


About dilaceratus

Encaustic Artist
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