CONTEST: Win Tix To See X @ Underground Arts



To live and die in L.A., in­deed. From the late ‘70s to the early ‘80s, X was the po­et­ic con­science of the City of An­gels, de­clar­ing that be­neath all the hot sun­shine and white teeth, it was in fact the city of the damned. Up to Ain’t Love Grand, X was everything you could ever want from a rock band (and even though they were punk-iden­ti­fied, they were so much more than the just safety-pinned pogo mer­chants). Smart, lit­er­ate, versed in all man­ner of Amer­ic­an roots mu­sic, X was ar­gu­ably the finest band to ever emerge out of Los Angeles. When bassist John Doe met Me­dusa-coiffed Exene Cer­ven­ka at a Venice Beach po­etry work­shop in 1977, it was bo­ho love at first sight—the world was a mess and it was in their kiss.

The couple de­cided to get mar­ried and start a band, re­cruit­ing perma-grin gui­tar­ist Billy Zoom, he of the Chuck-Berry-on-speed riffs de­livered with feet spread miles apart, and aptly named drum­mer D.J. Boneb­rake. The sound and the sens­ib­il­ity was Los Angeles on $5 a day with a dog-eared Bukowski pa­per­back in one back pock­et and a fifth of gin in the oth­er. As the Circle Jerks’ Keith Mor­ris puts it: “They saw it like they lived it … this was an ugly stew sprinkled with glit­ter, sug­ar and wax drip­pings, gas­ol­ine or fire, some­where over an un­der­pass along the 101 free­way boun­cing between sky­scrapers, 22-hour days cooled off by Coro­nas, Bud­weisers or some such chilled piss at 7:30 in the morn­ing in an old ‘50s Ford with re­li­gious crap scattered on the dash, chipped bones, fat lips, bruises, broken glass, sun­shine-baked brain, dirty-sock-stuck-in the-mouth hangover.”

X was im­me­di­ately em­braced by the cre­ativ­ity-chal­lenged West Coast punk scene and word spread quickly. Doors key­board­ist Ray Man­zarek was an early fan, and pro­duced the first four re­cords—Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Un­der the Big Black Sun and More Fun In The New World (all re­cently re­is­sued, all es­sen­tial). This part­ner­ship with Man­zarek is as not­able for X’s re­fus­al to kow­tow to punk or­tho­doxy (i.e. hip­pies = bad) as it is for any­thing the Doors’ key­board­ist brought to their mu­sic. After four al­bums and end­less tour­ing for mea­ger fin­an­cial re­turn, the fab­ric of the band began to strain. Mean­while, Doe and Cer­ven­ka’s mar­riage was slowly dis­in­teg­rat­ing.

In a bid to broaden their audi­ence bey­ond the post-punk in­tel­li­gent­sia, X par­ted ways with Man­zarek and hired heavy met­al knob-twid­dler Mi­chael Wa­gen­er to punch up Ain’t Love Grand. This proved to be a ca­reer-end­ing mis­take, as the al­bum nev­er con­nec­ted with the main­stream and the Def Lep­pard pro­duc­tion val­ues ali­en­ated much of the band’s core audi­ence. Gui­tar­ist Zoom op­ted out, re­placed briefly by Dave Alv­in of the Blasters and then Tony Gilkyson, formerly of Lone Justice. From here on they con­tin­ued to make con­sist­ently re­spect­able mu­sic, but X now seemed safe and pre­dict­able. They were still des­per­ate, yes, but by this point we were used to it.

In recent years, the original line-up reunited for victory lap tours. Sadly, guitarist Billy Zoom has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time and the tour that brings them to Underground Arts on Sunday may well be his last. As such, we are pleased to announce that we have a pair of tickets to see X at Underground Arts to give away to some lucky Phawker reader that can answer the following X trivia question: What is the name of the Doors song that X famously covered? Email you answer to with the words UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN in the subject line. Please include your full name and a mobile number for confirmation. Twenty-second reader to email us with the right answer wins. Good luck and godspeed!