Photo by Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
By Steve Beard
Members of the legendary punk rock band X were honored by the Los Angeles City Council in celebration of the group’s 40th anniversary and the Council officially declared Wednesday, October 10 as X Day in Los Angeles.
The band was launched in 1977 and began playing at The Masque, a Hollywood punk club. The four original bandmates – Exene Cervanka, John Doe, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake – were all in attendance for the recognition.
Heralded as a “groundbreaking, historic band” by Council member Mitch O’Farrell, X produced four critically-acclaimed and defining albums in the early 1980s: Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under the Big Black Sun, and More Fun in the New World. O’Farrell characterized the albums as explorations of “aspects of dark love amidst the dark, Moorish backdrop of Los Angeles.”
In her remarks before the Council, Cervanka compared the fledgling days of punk rock to the silent movie era of the Roaring Twenties “when all the girls looked like Theda Bara and Clara Bow with their bobbed hair and their red lips and the guys were unpredictable Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd figures and the crowds paid a nickel and sat in the dark and did not know if you were going to be terrified or cry or laugh.”
“Those movies – like the silent movie days – were gone in an instant,” Cervanka said. “It was a brief, shining and glorious moment. And today is our moment. Thank you very much.”
“We are all dreamers in this band. We just dreamed something up and it became real,” John Doe told the Council. “That’s something that could happen in Los Angeles and the West. You could just introduce yourself as John Doe and then after a while someone says, ‘Oh, hey, there’s John Doe.’ Or you can say, ‘What do you call yourselves?’ And we say ‘X,’ and they say ‘What?’ And you say it a second time: ‘We’re X.’ And in Los Angeles and the West, they will say, ‘Oh there’s X. They’re over there.’”
“We’ve been here for 40 years and we’ve given something to LA to put LA on the map for punk rock,” Doe observed. “And now it’s really rewarding to have LA give something back to us. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for recognizing us.”
The irony of having politicians honoring punk rock legends was observed by Council member Paul Koretz. “When X was founded,” he said with smirking smile, “the most likely thing that you thought would be happening is that 40 years later you would be surrounded by a bunch of folks in suits at City Hall. But here you are.”
X was recently honored on August 16 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and John Doe’s memoir, “Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk,” was nominated for a Grammy in the spoken word category for the audio version of the book. The Grammy Museum at LA Live will open an X exhibit titled X: 40 Years of Punk in Los Angeles on Friday, October 13.
Steve Beard is the founder of Thunderstruck Media.