Top 10 X Songs (Musical Group)

X Songs

Photo: lawatt [CC BY-SA 2.0

X was one of the most influential early Los Angeles punk bands. Founded in 1977 by bass player and vocalist John Doe, guitarist Billy Zoom, drummer D.J. Bonebrake and vocalist Excene Cervenka. X’s music was characterized by punk rock riffs and rough vocal harmonizing between Excene and John Doe. X combined poetry and rock and roll. X was influenced by multiple artists such as Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard, Raymond Chandler, Charles Bukowski, The Troggs and rockabilly music.

X experimented with different genres, mixing their brand of punk with elements of blues and country music. X released their first album in 1980. Titled Los Angeles, it was produced by former Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek who also played organ on the album. X has recorded and toured since 1977 save for a brief hiatus in the 1990’s. X proved highly influential on the Los Angeles and national punk scenes. Excene and John Doe have collaborated with contemporary musicians such as Lydia Lunch and are highly influential on newer bands and artists such as Pearl Jam, Henry Rollins and The Breeders.

10. Adult Books

We open our Top 10 X Songs list with the great track “Adult Books.” The first single by X “Adult Books” was released in 1978. “Adult Books” is a mid tempo punk rock song, rather slower than their New York and Washington contemporaries like Bad Brains or The Dead Boys. “Adult Books” is based around a simple guitar riff. “Adult Books” was the first X song to feature Exene and John Doe’s trademark off-kilter punk harmonizing. Elements of folk and country rock can be heard in “Adult Books”foreshadowing the band’s future experimentations with country and americana music.

9. New Life

Continuing with our X Songs list we turn to the second single off X’s 1993 album Hey Zeus! “New Life” was written by John Doe. “New Life” hit number twenty six on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. “New Life” has a more indie and alternative rock sound than X’s earlier straight punk rock songs. “New Life” is sung mainly by John Doe with some harmonies from Exene. “New Life” has a clear country and blues influence.

8. Country At War

The first single from 1993’s Hey Zeus!  Country at War” has a sound influenced by the alternative rock of the early nineties. “Country at War” was written and sung primarily by John Doe with harmonies from Exene. “Country at War” has a hard rock sound with metal influences in contrast to their earlier punk based material. The lyrics to “Country at War” are very political in nature. “Country at War” has one of X’s most complex arrangements with several tempo changes throughout. “Country at War” peaked at number fifteen on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

7. Riding With Mary

Appeared on X’s third full length album and first major label release 1982’s Under the Big Black Sun“Riding With Mary” was written by John Doe and Exene Cervenka.This is one of their fan’s favorite X songs. “Riding With Mary” and the other tracks from  Under the Big Black Sunare all produced by former Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek. “Riding With Mary” continues X’s punk rock sound. “Riding With Mary” is much more polished than their earlier work. “Riding With Mary” features lead vocals shared by John Doe and Exene. The lyrics of “Riding With Mary” are about having an affair with a woman named Mary. “Riding With Mary” features Ray Manzarek on the keyboard.

6. Under the Big Black Sun

The eponymous track from X’s third release 1982’s  Under the Big Black Sun. “Under the Big Black Sun” was written by John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Exene does most of the lead vocals in “Under the Big Black Sun” with supporting harmonies from John Doe. “Under the Big Black Sun” is an upbeat, fast tempo punk song with elements of pop music. The lyrics of “Under the Big Black Sun” are about adultery, romance, alcoholism and death written in a poetic style and delivered at high speed.

5. White Girl

“White Girl,” appeared on X’s critically acclaimed second album Wild Gift released in 1981. “White Girl” is based around a simple punk rock guitar riff. “White Girl” was written and sung by John Doe and Exene Cervenka. The chorus of “White Girl” shows pop and soul influences to X’s punk sound. The lyrics of “White Girl” are about are about living with a white girl. Like many of X’s songs “White Girl” features themes of love, adultery, abuse, sex and depression.

4. Johny Hit and Run Pauline

Off of X’s first full length release 1980’s Los Angeles“Johny Hit and Run Pauline” is a high energy punk song written by John Doe and Exene Cervenka. “Johny Hit and Run Pauline” is about living in Los Angeles society. The lyrics of “Johny Hit and Run Pauline” frankly discuss drugs, sex and violence. “Johny Hit and Run Pauline” shows heavy influence from early rock and roll music. The introduction to “Johny Hit and Run Pauline” is reminiscent of Chuck Berry’s guitar work in the 1950’s, especially “Johnny B. Goode.”

3. Los Angeles

The title track from the first full length X album, 1980’s Los Angeles“Los Angeles” is about the underbelly of the LA punk scene in the late 1970’s. “Los Angeles” is an upbeat, fast-paced punk rock song. The lyrics of “Los Angeles” are about a girl trying to escape her negative life in Los Angeles. “Los Angeles” focuses on Exene and John Doe’s unconventional punk harmonies. Musically “Los Angeles” is a fairly straight forward early punk rock song with the exception of the unique dual vocals.

2. Sex and Dying in High Society

Another track from X’s first album Los Angeles“Sex and Dying in High Society” is about the corruption, sexuality and decadence of the rich in LA. “Sex and Dying in High Society” features fast tempo punk riffing and X’s trademark dual vocalist set up. “Sex and Dying in High Society” has a punk rock edge but is as catchy as a pop song, anticipating the rise of pop punk over a decade before it happened.

1. Nausea

We close out our top 10 X Songs list with the great track “Nausea.” The song appeared on X’s first album Los Angeles released in 1980. “Nausea” is one of X’s most interesting tracks. “Nausea” pairs John Doe and Exene’s vocals with punk instrumentation. “Nausea” features legendary Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek on the organ. Manzarek’s virtuoso playing mixed with X’s raw punk energy makes “Nausea” stand out among X’s songs.

Exene sings most of the vocals for the verses of “Nausea” while John Doe joins for the chorus. The lyrics of “Nausea” are intense, poetic and introspective with vivid imagery. The refrain of “Nausea” is simply “nausea bloody red eyes girl” repeated over Manzarek’s manic keyboards. Due to John Doe and Exene’s vocals, a punk rhythm and Ray Manzarek’s legendary keyboard playing “Nausea” stands out as a unique song, not just for X but for punk music in general.

One Response

  1. Howard Brown July 16, 2021

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