NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t



FRESH AIR: As a co-founder of the band X, John Doe helped define the punk scene that emerged in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. Doe tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that punk was about breaking rules and challenging the norms of the existing music scene. “One of the things that was going on in music at the time is everything was all brainy and white guys. [There was] so much intellectualization and so many notes and so many long songs.” Doe says. “Punk rock [was] saying, ‘Screw all of this. I’m just gonna do something and see what happens.'” In his new memoir, Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History Of L.A. Punk, Doe brings together his own essays and stories from other musicians and scene-makers of that time. One contributor to the book is Exene Cervenka. She shared vocals and songwriting duties with Doe in X, and the two were married for a time. Cervenka tells Gross that the L.A. punk scene was open to everyone. “Anybody could belong to punk that wanted to be there. [It] didn’t matter how old you were, what you were like,” she says. “It was a free-for-all for outcasts.” Under_The_Big_Black Sun_By_John_Doe copyCervenka says the movement was centered on fighting the “corporate takeover” of culture. “We wanted things to be real, and we thought that this music was going to prevent that from happening,” she says. Dave Alvin was in the band The Blasters with his brother Phil, but also played guitar with X for a few years. He wrote a chapter for the book, and joined Doe and Cervenka for this interview. “In those days in the ’70s, in the larger pop culture, everything was being planned,” says Alvin. “It was the beginning of nothing you would hear [that] hadn’t been approved by a committee, and that went from advertising all the way down to popular music. It seemed that the sort of thing that made me turn up the radio when I was 8 years old, the car radio with my mom driving, that thing had disappeared from music. When I heard, for example, X, the first time, I saw them live, and heard the harmonies, I heard all sorts of things going on. I heard Richard & Mimi Fariña happening, whether they knew it or not. I heard the unique folk Appalachian blend, I heard all these things going on that you just didn’t hear on The Love Boat. And in those days, things like The Love Boat, kids today don’t realize just how oppressive pop culture had become.” MORE