It may be a rather obvious choice, today's featured selection. To anyone older than 40, into first generation U.S. punk, X's "4th of July" might as well be John Phillips Sousa. Never mind the fact that the lyrics to the song have little to do with patriotism. It's actually about a guy who's on the outs with his woman, moping and smoking cigarettes. He's trying to get her to lighten up, using the holiday as a feeble pass key. (But, you know what? That sounds exactly like something I'd do.) The song was written by Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin, during the short period that he was in X (what hardliners may refer to as X's shark jump). The early X were something special. No band sounded quite the same. Exene Cervenka and John Doe both had rather limited vocal talents, but interplay of the two together was pretty unique. And, jeez, with Billy Zoom (the first guitarist) and D.J. Bonebrake, they were a well soiled machine.
Check out the video below. Get your "(sigh) so young..." thing out of the way early, because it's a ride. It's from Letterman, in '83. Two songs and an interview. During the first song, they seem a little self conscious (though, I gotta say, it's the first time I've ever thought of Exene as cute). They all seem to be so happy, and with John Doe rocking the Porter Wagner do, it's easy to see Exene as some sort of raggedy ass Loretta Lynn. They seem to lighten up during the second segment, while being interviewed (it's a crack up). Then, antsy as all get out, they jump into the next song before Letterman even leaves the frame (at 6:30); a hot ass version of the Otis Blackwell's "Breathless" (made famous, of course, by the Killer). They're in their element, and what really gets me, remembering that this was a typical X performance. They really were that good, just about every night.
Here's X's version of "4th of July", and a couple others down there. One by Dave Alvin, recorded live in 2006 (the Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA). The other version, by Early Winters, is pretty damn good. I wanted to hate it, but I listened to it a couple times to clear out the old school ear wax. And the side story there is that the members of Early Winters all live in different countries, recording tracks and transferring files via the internet. (So, theirs has even less to do with patriotism.) There's a few other early X cuts (with Zoom), and two covers, and a bona fide oddball. Said oddball is X doing a Budweiser beer jingle, to the tune of "Wild Thing" ("Bud Thing"). The first cover is Elastica with Stephen Malkmus, doing "The Unheard Music" (which smokes), and the other is young'ins Yacht, doing a cover of "Nausea," that sounds Romeo Void-ish, if you can get your teeth into that.
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4th of July:
X - 4th of July mp3 at Bruised Fruit CDs
X - 4th of July (demo, streaming audio only) at YouTube
Early Winters - 4th of July mp3 at Scrink
Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men - 4th of July (live) mp3 at Archive.org
X - We're Desperate mp3 at Pop Dose
X - Nausea mp3 at The Bomarr Blog
X- We're Desperate mp3 & Adult Books (Dangerhouse) mp3s at 7 Inch Punk Note: This blog has MP3 linking disabled, so just go there, it's one more click. It is the Dangerhouse versions, so you may want them.Oddball:
X - Bud Thing mp3 at BillyZoom.com
Elastica & Stephen Malkmus - The Unheard Music mp3 at 4Shared (Click on blue "Download Now" button.)Yacht - Nausea mp3 at Boom Boom Chik
X - We're Desperate (live, from The Decline of Western Civilization) at YouTube
X - The World's a Mess, It's in My kiss (live, from The Unheard Music) at YouTube
Billy Zoom: Beyond X and Back