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X, The Band That Built Los Angeles

By

X, The Band That Built Los Angeles

X

Frank Gargani

Formed:

Los Angeles, 1977

Lineup

Exene Cervenka - vocals
John Doe – bass, vocals
Billy Zoom - guitar
D.J. Bonebrake - drums

The Independent Years of X - "Los Angeles" and Beyond

From the band’s earliest days, they were known for complex songs with a rockabilly edge. Unlike many punk bands from the same era, the band exhibited musical proficiency.

In addition, the band’s lyrics bore an amount of sophistication that was uncommon for punk bands at the time. Co-written by Doe and Cervenka, who was known as poet prior to joining X, the lyrics were more often than not poetry set to music. The lyrics were also co-sang by Doe and Cervenka, who complemented each other harmonically, adding a deeper layer to the music.

X’s first home was with independent label Dangerhouse, where they released two singles before moving to Slash Records, a larger but still independent label.

The band’s stint with Slash Records is the defining era for the band, when they released their debut album, 1980's Los Angeles. Despite its lack of commercial success, Los Angeles is still considered one of the most influential punk albums to come out of the L.A. punk scene in the '80s, and it’s title track the band’s most famous song. In 2002, the band was awarded an Official Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles in acknowledgment of their influence on the Los Angeles music scene and the city’s culture in general.

Their follow-up album, 1981’s Wild Gift, was similar in style, yet more stereotypically punk. Short, punchy songs, marked with frenetic energy earned Wild Gift critical acclaim, including being named Record of the Year by Rolling Stone.

X's Major Label Years:

Despite extensive critical acclaim, mainstream acceptance and album sales continued to elude them. In the quest for success, X signed to Elektra Records, polishing their sound over the next five years. By their fifth album, Ain't Love Grand!, X’s punk roots had all but vanished, converted to a polished, hard rock sound with a hint of country.

While the band continued to gain success, they never broke big commercially. Zoom left the band, citing this exact reason, to be briefly replaced by Dave Alvin and then Tony Gilkyson on the band’s 6th album, See How We Are, and a live album, before the band went on hiatus.

The Reunion Years:

In 1993, the band reunited with the original lineup, and began releasing albums and touring again. Their sound had dropped much of the polish from the Elektra years, drawing from a more countrified roots rock style, with elements of their early years. Regaining a devoted following, the band continues to tour with original lineup.

The Knitters:

While X was influential on the direction of punk in the U.S., one of their side projects, The Knitters, was one of the biggest influences of the cowpunk sound. Consisting of the original lineup of X, minus Zoom, with Dave Alvin on guitar (who was a member of X while Zoom was out of the band) and Jonny Ray Bartel on bass, the Knitters have only released two albums, 20 years apart.

Knitters Discography

Poor Little Critter on the Road (1985) (Compare Prices)
The Modern Sounds of the Knitters (2005) (Compare Prices)

In addition to the Knitters, both Doe and Cervenka have been prolific musicians, involved in a wide variety of solo projects. John Doe is also a rather accomplished actor, with a long list of acting credits.

Discography:

Los Angeles – 1980 (Compare Prices)
Wild Gift – 1981 (Compare Prices)
Under the Big Black Sun – 1982 (Compare Prices)
More Fun in the New World – 1983 (Compare Prices)
Ain't Love Grand! – 1985 (Compare Prices)
See How We Are – 1987 (Compare Prices)
Live at the Whisky a Go-Go – 1988 (Compare Prices)
Hey Zeus! – 1993 (Out of Print)
Unclogged – 1995 (Compare Prices)
Beyond and Back: The X Anthology – 1997 (Compare Prices)
The Best: Make the Music Go Bang! – 2004 (Compare Prices)
X Live In Los Angeles – 2005 (Compare Prices)
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