X–I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts.
I awoke this morning at my mountain top, the smell of coffee and bachelor chow ala campfire caught my attention. My sister’s
After my first coffee and choker, I was thinking of the band X. more specifically, I was thinking of the bass part from I Must not Think Bad Thoughts, from X’s 1983 Electra/Asylum release, More Fun in the New World.
When we were in high school, our youth minister, JD had the greatest vinyl collection–indeed, one of the greatest music collections–I had ever seen. JD was a divorced guy in his mid 30s. JD was the guy who could make a twenty minute drive in ten minutes when he had to. He was pastor of the Methodist Church. His favorite band is probably still the Rolling Stones. JD introduced us high school kids, living in the hills, to lots of punk rock and new wave…and the band X.
X–Will the last American band to get played on the radio, please bring the flag?
It’s funny that although I liked the way the Americans played rock and roll–we invented it, for cryin’ out loud!–I was still neck-deep in both British Invasions–Beatles, Stones, Sex Pistols, the Clash, I already knew who Sioiuxsie and the Banshees were, and my friends and I were starting to get into more American rockabilly. Some–okay, a lot of–the early Sun Records material still sounded kinda hokey to us at first. This would take some getting used to, but we would manage.
I already knew a little about Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins from my grandmother. Dad taught me about Elvis and Bill Haley and the Comets when I was younger–wasn’t rock Around the Clock used as the opening for the first season of Happy Days?
Anyway, I wasn’t just being plunged into ice cold 1950s rockabilly without any preparation. I was already a Stray Cats fan. I knew a little about rockabilly, I just preferred to work my way back to the original artists slowly.
One day after school, my friends and I went to see what JD was up to. When we got to his place, JD was watching a beta–anyone old enough to remember Betamax?–copy of an X concert that we watched. I was about 16 at the time.
I was drawn to X. I remember not being able to take my eyes off of Exene Cervenka. Billy Zoom, standing like a damned statue,playing all the right guitar notes. And to me, X has always been about John Doe and his amazing, perfectly-timed and phrased bass parts and vocals.
X wasn’t even really rockabilly, exactly. I heard the term “Cowpunk” a few times to describe X’s sound. I like it. I think it fits.
Discovering what other American bands were doing in the early 1980s
I had pretty much been a Clash guy for a few months at that point–with other music drifting in and out–but when I heard I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts, and the long list of perhaps unjustly over-looked American bands, I knew I was on a mission. I had to find out about some of this music. I had heard of many of the American artists they mentioned in the song, but I had really yet to discover “…the Minutemen, Flesh Eaters, D.O.A., Big Boys and Black Flag…”
I was looking forward to the journey. I still enjoy the journey.
In the Beatles’ song, Let it Be, Paul McCartney tells us that in his times of trouble, he is comforted by Mother Mary and her words of wisdom. That’s cool. I’m glad. I often like to listen to X and remind myself that I must not think bad thoughts. In many ways, it’s the same thing.
From the top of my mountain, morning chores and devotions over, I listen to the band X, and I don’t have to remind myself not to think bad thoughts. X.