The story of X starts with two ads in the Recycler. Both John and Billy had placed ads in the same issue. Billy Zoom, who's real name is Ty Kindell, had a strong background in soul, Rockabilly and Blues dating back to the 60s and had a been in The Loved Ones, Art Wheeler & the Brothers Love which backed up soul legends like Etta James, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Bobby Day, Johnny Taylor and others. Also in the early 70s he played with Rock-a-Billie Legend Gene Vincent. He went to a Van Halen and Ramones show with Top Jimmy. He had been looking for something new and different the Ramones and Punk turned out to be what he was looking for. So he took out this ad and the first one to respond and second to try out was John. Since he seemed better then the first guy they began to practice in a garage at Top Jimmy's.
Exene had moved to LA from Florida and landed in an apartment with her friend Fay(she was the person that the song 'Los Angeles' was based on) and three other people. She ended up sleeping in the kitchen. Fay helped her get a job at Beyond Baroque and she went to her first Wednesday Night Poetry Workshop there. It just so happened that John also did and they ended up sitting next to each other. They struck up a relationship and began exchanging their poems and other writings. One stood out to John, 'I'm Coming Over', he told her that it would be a great song and asked if he could sing it in his band. She replied,"No, I'll sing it. It's my song."
Billy and John had practiced a few times when John showed up with his girlfriend Exene in tow. John suggested that she sing. Billy was not happy with the idea but felt he could work with John and even though she couldn't sing, he'd carry on and hope that John came to his senses. Top Jimmy had rented a house at 601 South Van Ness, Billy moved in with his girlfriend and then when they broke, John and Exene moved in to keep the practice space. They played their first gig their in the parlor with Beyond Baroque/Beyond Baroque playing drums the first half of the set and Pat Garrett playing the second. After that they played with a number of drummers including MIck Basher for a short time. After he quit, John went on a search for a steady drummer.
Enter DJ Bonebrake. As it is told in the movie X - The Unheard Music, John saw DJ Bonebrake(his real name) playing a gig with The Eyes at the Masque. He called up Billy told him, "There's a drummer here with a really big snar and he hits it really hard." Billy responded, "Promise him anything, just get him." Thus X was formed and it would be the line-up that would continue for until 1986.
X quickly became a regualar and a band to see at the first regular punk venue in LA, The Masque and Whisky A-Go-Go. Sharing the bill with the who's, who of the first generation of LA Punk Bands including: The Weirdos, The Plugz, The Bags, The Screamers and The Germs. In 1978 they signed with Dangerhouse Records and released the 'Adult Books' 7" and apeared on the 'Yes LA' Comp.
After reading an article was published in LA Weekly about the budding Hollywood Punk scene, [Ray Manzarek] was so impressed with X's lyrics he went to see them at Whisky A-Go-Go. As it's told he walked in just as they broke into 'Soul Kitchen'. He quickly signed on to produce a record for them which was a relationship that continued for 1983's More Fun in the new world.
In late 79, Slash Magazine had decided to start Slash Records while they were recording The Germ's GI, they signed X. The first outcome would be the Album 'Los Angeles'. Considered by many to be the finest record to come out of the LA punk or music scene in the 80s. The whole record was recorded for $10,000. Most of the material for LA and it's follow up had been a steady part of their set list for the last 2 years. They also released the 'White Girl' single. The releases were followed by a tour of NYC and England. The reaction wasn't the best but they let the world know there was something going on in LA. Also, John and Exene got married.
They Followed up 'Los Angeles' with the release of 'Wild Gift' in 1981, basically the budget was the same as the first. No one got paid and the only difference is that the record has a more edge feel. This could be do to the fact that [Ray Manzarek] didn't play organ on this one. In 81, X sold out the 6,500 Greek Theater. This was unheard of for any unsigned band. With the Go Gos topping the charts, it really looked like LA's Punk scene was about to take over and Elektra signed X.
'Under the Big Black Sun' was their first release on Elektra in 1982. In a lot of ways it was the first new material since 1980 while most of the first two records were tested material, their third album reflects what had happen since 80. The lyrics are very personal with references to Exene's sisters death and troubled marriage. It had a major impact on the Exene and the band. Also it includes the bar fly anthem 'The Have Nots'. Elektra didn't really know what to do with the record. It didn't fit into the New Wave and British Invasion of pop bands that was dominating FM radio and MTV. It would haunt the band for the years to come.
1983 saw the release of 'More Fun in the New World' it would show a break with punk to a new direction that moved toward their roots with more nods to Blues, Country, Rockabilly and Woody Guthrie. It showed up even more in their side project with The Blasters's Dave Alvin The Knitters. Though the music seemed a little more polished then earlier releases, the subject of the lyrics covered more political and social subjects with 'I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts' which covers everything from the apathy of the American public to the state fo the music industry. Though some would say that they had toned down the music to target a larger audience, Their lyrics and message did not. This would be the last record they would do with Ray Manzarek. Also released in 1983 was the single 'Breathless' which was featured in the film of the same name. Then in 1984 they released 'Wild Thing' which was used on the sound track of 1989 film Major League.
Though the band continued to gain praise from the critics they enjoyed little commercial success. Billy Zoom stated that if the next record was successful he would be leaving. 'Ain't Love Grand' though at it's heart is the X lyrics with the ussual nods to root and traditional music, there is a shift from their punk roots to a more commercial hard rock sound. Pop-metal producer Michael Wagener was brought in to produce and this may have effected the softer out come. Sadly though they did only gain a little success with the minor hit, 'Burning House of Love', the record didn't sell well and left many of the hardcore fans whispering "Sellouts". Gone was the hard cords and Billy Zoom's trademark Sliver Jacket. It's an on going debate if this was the natural progression and growth of the band or was it a play for more success? That all said it was still one of the best major label releases to come out 1985.
1986 saw Mr Zoom's exit from the band and the release of the X - The Unheard Music documentary film. The film was filmed between 1980 and 1985 and has some of the best footage of the band at their peak. Also it covers the forming of the band, a brief history of the early Hollywood Masque scene and countless interviews. The film seems to break down about 3/4 through and starts to go on and on about why they weren't the biggest band in the world. You can see the frustration of the band being a wall flower at the big Dance, Summed up best in a scene where Exene points to an X on the Wall and states something to the degree, "X- the unknown Quantity. Too bad we didn't know that would be true when we named it."
Dave Alvin would come in to replace Zoom but would only stay through the recording of 'See How Were Are'. They also brought in Lone Justice guitarist Tony Gilkyson as a fifth member. Though Dave wouldn't stay his influence on the record can be felt through out the record and especially on '4th of July'. The record may have reflected more what Dave and John would do on their solo records but more in the commercial and hard rock style of the last record. After touring on the record, they released 'Live at the Whisky A Go-GoOn The Fabulous Sunset Strip' and called it quits.
The story could end there but in 1993 they went into the studio and recorded the alt rock sounding 'Hey Zeus..." which managed to chart on Billboards Modern Rock Chart. 'A Country at War' peaked at 15 and 'New Life' at 26. Also they toured the areas effected by the flood of 1993. They followed with the great 'Unclogged' which is a collection of acoustic sets played in 94 and 95. Unclogged was a mix of mostly the first 4 albums. After it's release the band took a break.
To the joy of many of X's fans in 1997, Billy Zoom united with the band to promote the bands 20th anversiery release of 'Beyond & Back: The X Anthology'. The focus of the release focused mostly on the early Zoom period and included Demo, single and live version of many of the songs. Since the reunion the band has continued to play around LA and has toured the US a number of times. Including their 30th anversary tour in 2007 and 31st anversary club tour in 2008. Though the band has been active again since 97, at this time(2009) the only new material they have released is the cover of The Doors Crystal Ship on 'The X-Files - the Album'. There has been talk recently that new material is on the way though.