Friday, October 15, 2010

Los Angeles By X Hits 30 Years

There have only been three times in my life that I might say a band and the experience changed my life. The debut of Los Angeles by X was one of them. The other two were the debut of The Ramones and the first time I discovered the Carter Family.

For this one, it almost feels a bit sobering to think that this imperfectly brilliant debut would only earn the band a loyal following in and around Los Angeles. It never catapulted them to the big time. It's largely because they were ahead of their time.

It Took 30 Years For Everyone To Catch Up With X.

Most of the punk bands that performed when X released its debut are long gone. X is one of the few that endures. They still play with the same energy that they did then too.

The reason is who rounds out the band: poet/vocalist Exene Cervenka; vocalist/bassist John Doe; rockabilly guitarist Billy Zoom (with an awesome blond pompadour); and steady handed jazz drummer D. J. Bonebrake.

The tag team lyrics by Cervenka and Doe, along with peerless musicianship, put them on the map. It helped, I think, that Cervenka and Doe were boyfriend and girlfriend. Then, husband and wife. And today, friendly exes.

For the X novice, they covered the most ground with songs like Sugarlight, which explored heroin addiction, and Your Phone’s Off the Hook (But You’re Not), which was a not-so-classic breakup song. Both are about as melodic, poetic, and intelligent as punk would ever hope to get.

Inside Los Angeles, They Opened Doors.

Indeed. It helped that Los Angeles was produced by ex-Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. He had heard of the band and immediately took a liking to their new sound. They needed some help. He had to translate what they were doing on stage into the studio. He got it right.

He also helped them translate something else. When X covered Soul Kitchen by the Doors, they got it right. It's a rare gem, and Manzarek ought to be thanked outright.

Nowadays, Los Angeles appears on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time at number 286. It deserves better, but I might admit it wasn't the band's best. Wild Gift and Under the Big Black Sun are near perfect follow ups.

X’s Los Angeles Screams 9.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Los Angeles was reissued in 2001 with five bonus tracks, including a demo of I’m Coming Over. It also included a rough mix of Adult Books, which would later be cleaned up to make an appearance on the amazing Wild Gift album (circa 1981).

The legendary X is set to embark on a West Coast club tour later this year, starting on Dec. 15 in West Hollywood. They’ll be performing their best-loved songs and Christmas gems like Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and Jingle Bells. They'll also be screening the documentary X-The Unheard Music, already 25 years old.

You can find Los Angeles on iTunes. X (The Band) - The Unheard Music is available on Amazon.
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