X : Encyclopedia

X is the name of an American band whose tales of urban decay, corruption, and sleaze, delivered with skilled musicianship and unique vocal harmonies, marked them as important contributors to the punk movement. The original members were Exene Cervenka (original name Christine Cervenka; b. Feb. 1, 1956, Chicago, Ill., U.S.), John Doe (b. Feb. 25, 1954?, Decatur, Ill.), Billy Zoom (b. Feb. 20, 1949?, Illinois), and D.J. Bonebrake (b. Dec. 8, 1955, North Hollywood, Calif.). Later members included Dave Alvin (b. Nov. 11, 1955, Los Angeles, Calif.) and Tony Gilkyson.

Formed in 1977, X released Los Angeles in 1980. That effort and the follow-up albums Wild Gift (1981) and Under the Big Black Sun (1982) drew critical raves, as X broadened punk's do-it-yourself ethos with excellent musicianship (guitarist Zoom, who had once played with rock-and-roll pioneer Gene Vincent, blazed through country, rockabilly, heavy metal, and punk licks with dispassionate aplomb, while drummer Bonebrake added a background in jazz), the unusual harmonies and sophisticated songwriting of onetime husband and wife Doe and Cervenka (the latter an active poet), and careful production by Ray Manzarek, formerly of the Doors. In the process, X became prime movers of the Los Angeles punk scene chronicled in the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization (1981). Capable of matching the fury of other punk bands, X also excelled at melancholy ballads and flirted with pop music throughout its career, though its efforts to reach a broader audience on a major label were largely unsuccessful. With diminished commercial success (and new guitarists), X recorded sporadically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, formally disbanded in 1996, and then re-formed in the late 1990s.

Encyclopedia Index