The New York punk scene of the late 1970s had its seminal acts -- its Ramones, Dolls and Heartbreakers -- and London had more than its share in the Sex Pistols, The Clash and others. On the other side of the world, in some ways (and a much larger world in those pre-Internet days) was the Los Angeles scene, ground zero for influential and enduring punk innovators X.
X formed in 1977 around the couple of charismatic frontwoman Exene Cervenka and bassist and songwriter John Doe, with guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake; its early output combined brash, emotionally direct melodies with rockabilly-influenced grooves and guitar lines, and the poetic lyrics of songwriters Doe and Cervenka. Scoring a record deal with the influential Slash label, the band recorded its first full-length with producer Ray Manzarek of the Doors. That would be 1980's Los Angeles, which featured "Your Phone's Off the Hook, but You're Not" and the frantic cover of the Doors' "Soul Kitchen." 1981's Wild Gift solidified X's status as one of L.A.'s premier bands of any genre, with such classic cuts as "White Girl" and "Adult Books."
Across subsequent albums like More Fun in the New World, the band continued to expand its palette, exploring its country and acoustic roots as well as its harder-edged side; after 1986's Ain't Love Grand, Zoom left the group, and eventually Doe and Cervenka split up and took time off from X.
The band continued to record and tour sporadically, and X's reputation has since been parlayed into outside careers, including Cervenka's writing -- Henry Rollins' 2.13.61 press published an illustrated volume of her work -- and solo recordings under Exene Cervenka and The Original Sinners. Doe, for his part, has several acting credits as well as a strong solo career; his latest, A Year in the Wilderness, was released to critical acclaim in 2007 on the Yep Roc label.
Now the original lineup is touring once again, celebrating its 31st anniversary this year with a tour that brings X to the Rex Theatre on Fri., May 23. Consider it a little wild gift.
X with Detroit Cobras. 8 p.m. Fri., May 23. Rex Theatre, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $23. 412-381-6811 or www.rextheatre.com
- Gifted: X, back in the day