X is the band that started it all. They were a sound that mixed Exene Cervenka and John Doe’s fluid lyrical vocals with Billy Zoom’s Rockabilly guitar and DJ Bonebrake’s hard edge drum style into a sound that emerged into what we now know as American punk rock music.
X formed in the late 1970’s. The band’s first two studio albums, “Los Angeles” and “Wild Gift” are ranked by Rolling Stone among the top 500 greatest albums of all time. Now, that sound, heard as part of the first wave of American Punk that became legendary and quintessential of that generation of music, will echo in the Canyon as X headlines Topanga Days May 27 from 5:30 – 7 p.m.
With so many bands from that era broken up and just a record or CD in our collection, one has to wonder how a punk band that flips off the establishment stayed together for so long. The lineup is the same as what we have all come to recognize as X. When asked, front woman and original Goth doll, Exene Cervenka, gave insight.
“Mostly luck,” said Cervenka. “Luck that we are all still here and able to play and sing. We get along better than ever, and there is a large measure of gratitude to our fans and never wanting to let them down.”
Back in the late 1970s when X first formed, there were shows and songs that defined the group and era of music. We asked if she recalled where she thought, “Man, this is it. We can see we’re cutting ground on a new genre of music.”
“That was how I felt about the scene back then,” said Cervenka. “It wasn’t so much about X, but more about all of us creating something radical and new. And good, also!”
From Cervenka’s writing, poetry, and other videos, it is clear she was very close to her sister. We asked how much of her lyrics were about her sister?
“Well, obvious ones are on the “Big Black Sun” record,” she said. “Also, though “Phone’s Off” is about our first real trip to play in New York City, and she is mentioned there. That was before she died; the other songs are after.”
X was recently honored by the Los Angeles City Council, which declared October 11, 2017, as X Day. We wondered if Cervenka ever foresaw X as having a lasting effect on music when punk music was first emerging? Or if she foresaw punk music as having such an effect?
“I don’t think anyone thought like that,” she replied. “Not us, not the other people in the scene. Everyone had a role back then; it was more than bands. There were writers, fanzine creators, cartoonists, photographers, and so much more. I think those in the middle of a new movement don’t really have time to wonder like that about the future. It wasn’t contrived, it was just very happening now.”
When asked about the band’s Kickstarter project, and if the music would be shared, Cervenka had a disappointing answer.
“Those that contributed have already received most of the rewards, including the music,” said Cervenka. “Nothing from the campaign will be for sale or distributed; it was just for fans who wanted to contribute.”
Topanga Days runs Memorial Day weekend, May 26 – 28. X will be playing at 5 p.m. on Saturday May 27. More information at www.topangadays.com.