Since its inception in 1985, the Farm Aid benefit concert has become an annual event (there have been 27 of them so far). It might surprise you to learn that Los Angeles punk pioneers X played the first two. As John Doe was always one of the more countrified punk artists, maybe it isn’t that surprising after all.
The clip below comes from their second appearance, which indeed occurred exactly 28 years ago, on July 4, 1986, in Manor, Texas. “4th of July,” which was written by Dave Alvin of The Blasters, hadn’t been released yet, it would appear on See How We Are, which would come out in 1987.
It’s been a rough year for Exene, what with her incoherent online ramblings causing such an uproar and leading to questions about her mental state, so it’s nice to remember her in better times.
Cervenka’s First Amendment right to make a complete and utter fucking laughingstock out of herself is indisputable—last time I checked, this was still America—but I can’t imagine that the other members of X think this is all that hilariously funny. (Consider what having to tour with this hillbilly nincompoop must be like, always wanting to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage on the radio).
Some of her fans seem unwilling to believe Cervenka could be this big of a fuckwit and are sticking up for her, saying this must be some kind of Andy Kaufman-esque “performance art.” Bullshit, she’s just an ugly human being. Fuck you, Exene. People died and you’re spreading batshit crazy conspiracy theories on the level of Alex Jones. You should be ashamed of yourself, lady, but these days, you don’t even seem acquainted enough with reality itself to fully comprehend why.
Donnaland Vintage Variety has announced that an “ECLECTIC 4-day VINTAGE & ANTIQUE sale” will be held in Santa Ana, CA this week. Among the items offered include some fantastic vintage jewelry, a really, really cool old Dutch bicycle, and, interestingly, set lists and posters from the legendary and seminal L.A. punk band X, original artwork by that band’s co-lead singer Exene Cervenka, and even some guitars of hers. And indeed, though this is a multi-family sale, it turns out the majority of the items are Cervenka’s. The sale’s inventory page features this quote from the woman herself:
Calling all Betty Crocker Punk Rockers!!! 100 years of Americana needs good home. Treasured memories of the past can live on in your hands! Like a small inheritance, but without the squabbling with siblings!
I got a good chuckle out of “Betty Crocker Punk Rockers.”
The address of the sale will be made public on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, and the sale itself begins on Thursday the 13th at noon. This Rickenbacker guitar shown below is really making me wish I was in the Santa Ana area. The bike’s not too shabby, either.
1955 Rickenbacker Combo 600
Electra bicycle, made in Amsterdam
Early ‘60s amp-in-case Sivertone guitar. RIDICULOUSLY cool.
Assorted posters, many for X, plus an X set list
A ton of cool vintage jewelry
”Greek Tragedy,” original artwork by Exene Cervenka
A metric shitload of knives. Um, OK.
A brief and far from complete primer for those who don’t know: X were by far one of the greatest bands to emerge from L.A.’s early punk scene. Their first three LPs, the independent Los Angeles and Wild Gift, plus the major label debut Under the Big Black Sun, all remain essential. Cervenka and the band’s bassist (also her then-husband) John Doe sang gripping harmonic dual leads that are still capable of haunting the dreams of the unsuspecting. The band later took a rootsward turn that, in addition to being pretty damn good musically (see especially See How We Are and its single “4th of July”), foreshadowed the emergence of Alt-Country. They’ve periodically reunited, and continue to tour. The anthemic “Los Angeles,” from their debut LP, is exemplary of their early sound.
And just because it’s just too damn fun, here’s a 1983 Letterman appearance, wherein they sing Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Breathless,” from the Richard Gere remake of the 1960 Jean-Luc Godard film by that title. The interview segment is great, don’t skip ahead to the song!
A mighty grateful tip of the hat to Swag for alerting me to this.
On the surface Dick Clark looked about as hip as Dick Nixon and as a kid I thought Clark was somewhat dubious as a purveyor of youth culture, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate his massive contribution to rock history, particularly when he went out on the limb and booked edgy acts on American bandstand, including Pink Floyd Public Image, Captain Beefheart, Bubble Puppy, Love, and X.
Here’s something I’d never seen before and I think it demonstrates just how on top of the rock scene Clark could be. Pink Floyd on American Bandstand
John Doe and Exene Cervenka shilling for their latest album, 1987’s “See How We Are,” on syndicated TV show The Record Guide. This almost looks like a SCTV parody.
John and Exene were divorced in 1985 but seem to have maintained a great working relationship over the years. In this clip, they are clearly still quite fond of each other even as they are assaulted by cheesy video effects and a dumb as fuck off-screen interviewer.
“See How We Are” was their first album without the beatific Billy Zoom.
Sad news as Brendan Mullen, founder of LA’s pioneering punk rock cub The Masque, passed away earlier today from a stroke. Here’s what Variety had to say about this absolutely essential Angeleno (by way of Scotland):
Mullen emigrated from London to Los Angeles in 1973. He created the Masque—a dank, soon graffiti-scarred 10,000-foot space at 1655 N. Cherokee, behind and beneath the Pussycat adult theater on Hollywood Boulevard—in June 1977 as a low-rent rehearsal space for local musicians. (Mullen himself played drums in his own punk lounge act, the Satintones.)
It quickly morphed into the principal performance venue for the city’s then-nascent punk scene, mounting its first show by the Skulls on Aug. 18, 1977. It served as a stage and a hangout for an honor roll of first-generation punk groups: the Germs, X, the Go-Go’s, the Screamers, the Flesh Eaters, the Weirdos, the Alleycats, the Plugz, the Bags.
The freewheeling Masque, where the charming and oft-acerbic Mullen hosted the proceedings, was a magnet for the antipathy of local merchants and daily scrutiny by police, fire, and licensing officials, and was soon cited by city authorities for various licensing violations.
Closed and reopened more than once, it moved to another space on Santa Monica Boulevard before shuttering permanently in February 1979.
Mullen is seen in the abandoned Cherokee Avenue club in W.T. Morgan’s 1986 documentary about X, “The Unheard Music.”
From 1981-92, Mullen booked shows at the Sunset Boulevard bar Club Lingerie. His diverse shows included sets by talent ranging from veteran R&B, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll acts to hip-hoppers and avant garde rockers. He also mounted dates at the downtown Variety Arts Center in the late ‘80s, and stage managed some of the L.A. Weekly’s music awards shows.
In recent years, Mullen prolifically chronicled the history of L.A. punk, and, not incidentally, his own role in the scene.
His books included “We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk” (2001, with Marc Spitz); “Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs” (2002, with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey); and the photo history “Live at the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley” (2007). He also authored the Jane’s Addiction oral history “Whores” (2005).
Mullen is survived by his longtime companion Kateri Butler.
Whatever your thoughts may be on Manzarek and The Doors (and believe me, my own thoughts on the matter have ranged wildly over the years), I return to this “torch-passing” clip over and over again. Sure, it reminds me that no matter how many times I saw X as a kid, it was still never enough—could never be enough.
But it also tethers me to a moment in LA time I was privileged enough to have witnessed up close (too close, sometimes, depending on the act and the stage).
A moment that felt, in clips like this one, intensely connected to some larger arc of history. Even on our most receptive days, those moments of connection to a place and time can be a hard thing to muster. Indirectly or not, Mr. Mullen provided me with some of mine.
My thoughts are with Kateri Butler and the family of Brendan Mullen.