X: The Unheard Music 1986 directed by W.T. Morgan

In the late 1970s, a new sound burst upon the Los Angeles music scene – the music made by a four-person rock band with the enigmatic name of X. Playing in clubs like the Whisky and the Starwood, X set a new standard for driving, forceful songs that both critics and the public felt revolutionized the California sound.

X: The Unheard Music takes long, detailed, and often funny look at this scene but focuses on the group that critics have singled out as the leader of the underground pack.




Los Angeles - SlasH

1. Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not 2. Johnny Hit And Run Paulene
3. Soul Kitchen
4. Nausea
5. Sugarlight
6. Los Angeles
7. Sex And Dying In High Society
8. The Unheard Music
9. The World’s A Mess; It’s In My Kiss

“The quintessential L.A. punk band made the first great West Coast punk album with its debut. Los Angeles is best known for its city-defining anthem and the torrid “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene”; produced by Ray Manzarek of the Doors, it also shows that punk and classic rock can be occasional friends” -Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time:  Los Angeles by X ranks #286

Under the Big Black Sun -Elektra

1. Hungry Wolf
2. Motel Room in My Bed
3. Riding With Mary
4. Come Back to Me
5. Under the Big Black Sun
6. Because I Do
7. Blue Spark
8. Dancing With Tears in My Eyes
9. Real Child of Hell
10. How I (Learned My Lesson) 
11. The Have Nots

“X’s first album issued on a major label, 1982’s Under the Big Black Sun, is arguably their finest record. All 11 songs are exceptional, from both a performance and compositional point of view. Ray Manzerek’s production is more akin to hard rock bands than their earlier punk works, but the songs still pack quite a punch. Before the recording of the album, singer Exene Cervenka’s sister was killed by a drunk driver, and the band decided to work out their grief in the music, as evidenced by two of the album’s best tracks: the melodic “Riding With Mary” and the vintage ’50s sound of “Come Back to Me.” The highlights don’t stop there, however; also included are the Led Zepplin’esque “The Hungry Wolf” (an early video favorite of MTV), the accelerating “Motel Room in My Bed,” the rocker “Blue Spark,” the spacious title track, and the album closer “The Have Nots.” Again, Cervenka and John Doe supply some great vocal harmonies (perhaps the only punk band to ever do so), while Billy Zoom shows off great rockabilly chops throughout. Under The Big Black Sun is one of the quintessential rock records from the ’80s.” – G.Prato, allmusic.com

Ain’t Love Grand – Elektra

1. Burning House of Love
2. Love Shack
3. My Soul Cries Your Name
4. My Goodness
5. Around My Heart
6. What’s Wrong With Me… 
7. Watch The Sun Go Down
8. I’ll Stand Up For You
9. Little Honey
10. Supercharged

“For 1985’s Ain’t Love Grand , the most noticeable difference is in the production. Renown heavy metal producer Michael Wagener  was on board (whose credits include Motley Crue and Great White), replacing longtime X ally Ray Manzerek. As usual, the songwriting and performances shine, but the raw sound of their earlier work is noticeably absent — instead of changing his approach for X, Wagener produced them as he would a metal band of the ’80s, smoothing out the rough edges. Still, the band scored perhaps their biggest radio and MTV hit ever with “Burning House of Love,” and they composed such other highlights as “What’s Wrong With Me,” “All or Nothing,” and “My Soul Cries Your Name.” G. Prato, allmusic.com


Live At The Whiskey A Go-Go On The Fabulous Sunset Strip - Elektra

1. Los Angeles
2. House I Call Home
3. The New World
4. Around My Heart
5. Surprise, Surprise
6. Because I Do
7. Burning House of Love
8. My Goodness
9. Blue Spark
10. The Once Over Twice
11. Devil Doll
12. The Hungry Wolf
13. Unheard Music
14. Riding With Mary
15. World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss
16. White Girl
17. Skin Deep Town
18. So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh)
19. The Call of the Wreckin’ Ball
20. Year 1
21. Johny Hit and Run Pauline

“Recorded in late 1987 at a hometown venue, Live At The Whiskey A Go-Go On The Fabulous Sunset Strip finds X with a new guitar player in Tony Gilkyson, a bigger live sound, and an undiminished fire in their hearts. After the disappointing Ain’t Love Grand album and the subsequent return to form album See How We Are, X hit the road with a somewhat new sound to go along with their somewhat eclectic punk rock brew, and the resulting tour and shows were nothing short of what had become expected of this band. Which is to say outstanding.”  -J. Cruz, sputnikmusic.com

Beyond & Back :
The X Anthology - Elektra


Disk 1 : 
1. Los Angeles
2. The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss
3. Yr Ignition
4. Year One [Demo Version] 
5. Hungry Wolf
6. We’re Desperate
7. Beyond & Back [Live] 
8. Back 2 the Base [Live]
9. Blue Spark [Remix Outtake][Mix]
10. Some Other Time [#]
11. Sex and Dying in High Society [Demo Version]
12. Motel Room in My Bed
13. Heater – X, Doe, John [X]
14. The Once Over Twice [Live]
15. Because I Do
16. In This House That I Call Home
17. Soul Kitchen [Demo Version]
18. Universal Corner [Live]
19. Delta 88 [Demo Version] 
20. Real Child of Hell [Remix Outtake][Mix] 
21. I’m Coming Over [Live] 
22. White Girl [Single Mix] 
23. Nausea [Live]
24. Johny Hit and Run Pauline [Demo Version]
25. Your Phone’s off the Hook, But You’re Not
26. Riding With Mary [Single Mix]

Disk 2 :  
1. The New World [Demo Version]
2. Breathless [Single Mix]
3. Poor Girl
4. What’s Wrong with Me [Rough Mix]
5. How I (Learned My Lesson) [Live]
6. The Have Nots
7. Someone Like You [Demo Version]
8. The Stage [Demo Version]
9. See How We Are [Demo Version]
10. Surprise, Surprise
11. 4th of July [Demo Version]
12. Arms for Hostages/Country at War
13. Wild Thing [Single Edit]
14. Burning House of Love
15. Devil Doll [Demo Version]
16. True Love
17. Call of the Wreckin’ Ball – X, Alvin, Dave [1]
18. In the Time It Takes [Demo Version]
19. I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts [1997 Mix]

It was the release of Beyond & Back: The X Anthology that caused Billy Zoom to rejoin X. Tower Records in Hollywood wanted to do a record signing.  The line of people stretched down Sunset Blvd. and they thought maybe we should play together again… 

X cannot be praised enough. The legendary L.A. band wrote countless classics, released consistent albums, and have influenced many along the way (just check out the raves fellow rockers give the band in Beyond & Back‘s liner notes). It’s a testament to their greatness that the material on Beyond & Back: The X Anthology sounds original and fresh in the present day. The group touched on many styles, such as rockabilly, folk, and punk, and successfully made each one their own. This two-CD release is a hefty two hours long, and is 50 percent hits and 50 percent rarities/unreleased material (demos, outtakes, live takes, etc.).” G. Prato, allmusic.com


X Live in Los Angeles  |  Shout Factory – 2005 (Album & DVD)

1. Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not
2. In This House That I Call Home
3. We’re Desperate
4. Beyond & Back
5. White Girl
6. The Unheard Music
7. Los Angeles
8. True Love
9. I’m Coming Over
10. Blue Spark
11. The New World
12. Nausea
13. Johny Hit And Run Paulene
14. Motel Room In My Bed
15. Because I Do
16. Devil Doll
17. The Hungry Wolf
18. Year 1
19. The World’s A Mess, It’s In My Kiss
20. Soul Kitchen

“X is still a great live band. A quarter century after that cracked onto the LA scene, essentially defining punk in that town, they still rock the old way—simple back beat, gut-kicking rockabilly guitar and vocals that ride the wave of music directly. This pair of releases—a CD and DVD of a no-frills, straight-up rock show in November of last year—X delivers the goods.

 X poses a series of dilemmas for rock history buffs or historians. It is a band that both defied and defined an era, and the mystery is that they didn’t either (a) blow up the way Talking Heads did, transcending its origins, or (b) explode into nothingness so we could either forget about them or romanticize their absence. X was an original, authentic punk band in a glitzy, unpunky town. Their punk rock credibility was undeniable—strong, angry lyrics over a direct guitar attack that did not trade in bullshit. Then, when they went beyond punk, it was not to become more accessible in the manner of, say, Elvis Costello or David Byrne, but to embrace the older roots of their punk sound: rockabilly or folk. Though their fronts were John Doe and Exene, the once-married singers, the image of the group for many fans was the pompadoured guitarist, Billy Zoom—a guy who visually as well as musically bridged the musical divide of the band.


Wild Gift - Slash

1. Once Over Twice
2. We’re Desperate
3. Adult Books
4. Universal Corner
5. I’m Coming Over
6. It’s Who You Know
7. In This House That I Call Home
8. Some Other Time
9. White Girl
10. Beyond and Back
11. Back 2 the Base
12. When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch
13. Year 1

“Wild Gift is the second album from the Los Angeles based punk rock outfit X. Coming close on the heels of their critically acclaimed debut album Los Angeles which was released just over a year earlier, this much anticipated follow up promised to be a good indicator of whether the band was indeed deserving of all those “Best Band/Album” of 1980 mentions it had garnered just several months earlier.

With Wild Gift X answered all doubters and believers at once with what can only be described as an out of the park homerun. Harder, edgier, and more mature then the album which came before it, and with improved songwriting as well, Wild Gift is a slice of lowdown living and even lower down good times, all wrapped up in a punk rock romance X was continuing with their city, their music, and in the case of co-songwriters and lead singers John Doe and Exene Cervenka,with each other.” –J.Cruz, SputnikMusic.com

More Fun In The New World - Elektra 1983

1. New World
2. We’re Having Much More Fun
3. True Love
4. Poor Girl
5. Make the Music Go Bang
6. Breathless
7. I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
8. Devil Doll
9. Painting the Town Blue
10. Hot House
11. Drunk in My Past
12. I See Red
13. True Love, Pt. 2

“Coming off their 1982 masterpiece Under the Big Black Sun, X offered their follow-up More Fun in the New World one year later. While its predecessor won the band a slew of new fans, it didn’t serve as the major breakthrough that it so deservedly should have. Rightfully, they didn’t fool with their already winning formula; they issued another solid set of songs produced, again, by Ray Manzarek. The anthemic album opener “The New World” is still powerful years later, as is the absolutely beautiful ballad “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts,” which perfectly captures the paranoid feeling of Reagan’s America in the ’80s. X achieved new rough and rocking heights with the vicious “Devil Doll,” “Painting the Town Blue,” and “Make the Music Go Bang,” while returning once again to their retro ’50s roots with “Poor Girl.” – G.Prato, allmusic.com

See How We Are - Elektra

1. I’m Lost
2. You –
3. 4th of July
4. In the Time It Takes
5. Anyone Can Fill Your Shoes
6. See How We Are
7. Left & Right
8. When It Rains… 
9. Holiday Story
10. Surprise, Surprise
11. Cyrano de Berger’s Back

“For See How We Are, X “enlisted the help of newcomer Alvin Clark, who merges the punk sound of X’s earlier work with Wagener’s glossy approach. Included as the title track is one of X’s all-time best ballads — proof of how beautiful and affecting John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s vocal harmonies can be. Also featured are the anthemic rocker “4th of July” (written by ex-Blasters and sometimes X fill-in guitarist Dave Alvin), and the standouts “In the Time It Takes,” “I’m Lost,” and “Surprise Surprise.” G. Prato, allmusic.com

Hey Zeus! - Big Life/Mercury

1. Someone’s Watching
2. Big Blue House
3. Clean Like Tomorrow
4. New Life
5. Country at War
6. Arms for Hostages
7. Into the Light
8. Lettuce and Vodka
9. Everybody
10. Baby You Lied
11. Drawn in the Dark

Unclogged - Infidelity Records

1. White Girl
2. Because I Do
3. Lying in the Road
4. Unheard Music
5. I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
6. Burning House of Love
7. The Stage
8. See How We Are
9. True Love
10. The Have Nots
11. The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss
12. I See Red
13. What’s Wrong w/ Me

The Best:
Make the Music Go Bang -Warner


Disk 1 :  
1. Adult Books
2. We’re Desperate
3. Los Angeles
4. Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But Your Not
5. Johny Hit And Run Paulene
6. Soul Kitchen
7. The World’s A Mess; It’s in My Kiss
8. The Unheard Music
9. White Girl
10. The Once Over Twice
11. Universal Corner
12. Some Other Time
13. In This House That I Call Home
14. Beyond And Back
15. Riding With Mary
16. The Hungry Wolf
17. Motel Room In My Bed
18. Blue Spark
19. The Have Nots
20. Under The Big Black Sun
21. The New World
22. Breathless
23. We’re Having Much More Fun
24. True Love
25. I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

Disk 2 :  
1. Wild Thing
2. Poor Girl
3. The Call of the Wreckin’ Ball (Knitters)
4. Someone Like You (Knitters)
5. What’s Wrong with Me
6. Burning House of Love
7. My Goodness
8. 4th Of July
9. You
10. When It Rains
11. Surprise Surprise
12. I’m Lost
13. See How We Are
14. Skin Deep Town
15. Around My Heart
16. Just Another Perfect Day
17. Devil Doll
18. Big Blue House
19. Clean Like Tomorrow
20. County at War
21. New Life

“…Compiled by bassist, vocalist, and songwriter John Doe, The Best: Make the Music Go Bang just skims the high points from X’s catalog, but oh what high points they are — disc one culls the gems from the band’s first four albumsand it’s a stunning reminder of why this band was so important, with Billy Zoom’s roots-thrash guitar lines, John Doe and D.J. Bonebrake’s precise but furious rhythms, and the hot and sour harmonies of Doe and Exene Cervenka sounding as potent today as they did in 1980.

Disc Two covers the more underappreciated Ain’t Love Grand, See How We Are, and Hey Zeus!, as well as the live set Live at the Whisky a Go-Go on the Fabulous Sunset Strip and the sole album from Doe, Cervenka, and Bonebrake’s country-leaning side project, the Knitters. At over two and a half hours, The Best: Make the Music Go Bang is an intensive introduction to this band whose bulk might scare off casual observers, and loyal fans will already have nearly everything here (beyond some rare single sides). But if you want a thorough tutorial in a truly remarkable band and a solid dose of quality listening, this more than fills the order…” -M.Demming, allmusic.com 

 It’s in Billy’s guitar sound that X makes itself felt most profoundly. The guy can thrash it out, no doubt. But there is an undeniable twang in his sound. Just like The Ramones were always more than punk because they were essentially and self-consciously rooted in ‘50s and ‘60s garage rock (in a way that say, the Damned and the Pistols never were and probably never could have been), X seems knowingly to come out of the string-strangling style of Elvis guitarist Scotty Moore. All their tunes, whether they overtly reference rockabilly or not, seem like real rock ‘n’ roll rather than just “punk rock”—the act of defiance, the social statement, the music you might play when you’re 25 but hardly when you’re 50.

So here’s X, fully a quarter century after their emergence, aged 50 or better it seems, still playing “Los Angeles” and “Johny Hit and Run Paulene” and “We’re Desperate”. And they sound great. They sound punk even. They sound like people playing pop music with direct energy genuine conviction and blues wit, which is to say that they sound like rock ‘n’ rollers, still, whatever kind of rock you want to call it.

With the passage of time and the chance to really see these guys perform, what comes through is what superb singers Doe and Exene are, particularly together. On recent albums, Doe has duetted to fine effect with rock chicks like Juliana Hatfield and Neko Case, but the former couple of X seem to lock in naturally—Doe on the bottom, Exene riding the top, the vaguely bored punk phrasing belied by the urgency of the music and the bite of the lyrics. It is quite reminiscent of Talking Heads and Television rather than the shoutier punk of, say, The Clash, and you realize what artful music this always was, even when it was shocking LA kids during the Carter administration. It’s probably the most accessible and most grand thing about X—that you can not only understand the words but actually relate the singing as a human voice the same way you hear Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits or, shit, Sinatra. God forbid, X is a punk band that can not only play its instruments real well but even sing like an angel. And it turns out there’s nothing wrong with that.” – W. Layman, popmatters.com