Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – X

Well this doesn’t seem fair, one of the busiest weeks of the year and one of the toughest letters to cover. This one may be a shorty.


Although they came up in the L.A. scene X never had the hard core mentality or sound that a lot of their local contemporaries adopted. With the harmony vocals of singers John Doe and Exene Cervenka, propelled by guitarist Billy Zoom (who may have the best stance and smile in rock`n`roll) and anchored by monster drummer DJ Bonebreak the group were equal parts punk and rockabilly.

Although they released a myriad of albums over the years, both band and solo, it is their first two Los Angeles and Wild Gift that brought them almost universal accolades. Songs such as `Los Angeles`, `We’re Desperate` and `White Girl captured their unique sound.

The band, after many a break-up, reformed with the original line-up and performed at NXNE in 2010. John Doe also made a great album with local heroes The Sadies in 2009 called `Country Club`.

I seem to recall a show in 1980 in Toronto at The Edge. The Edge was a great little room run by The Two Garys at the corner of Gerrard and Church. The Police played there for three nights and the club was to be the venue for the first ever Canadian Joy Division show on May 25, 1980. This is the tour that never happened as singer Ian Curtis took he own life the night before their scheduled departure to North America. The 2007 film `Control` is a brilliant black & white recreation of the story of Ian Curtis starring Sam Riley in the lead role.


With a dozen albums under their belt few bands have a discography as diverse and compelling as XTC. Always critical faves the band had few songs that made it on the charts. Canada was always one of their better markets and the band scored here with `Making Plans For Nigel`, `Dear God` and also had their song `The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead` become a hit for the Crash Test Dummies, with a great lead vocal by Ellen Reid.

The nucleus of the band was formed by Andy Partridge (guitar and vocals) and Colin Moulding (bass and vocals) in 1972 bur it was not until 1976 that they come up with the moniker XTC. The first release I purchased was the 12“ 3D EP released by Virgin in 1977 and featuring the single “Science Friction` but is was their debut album “White Noise“ that brought the band their first taste of fame. Songs like `This Is Pop` and `Radios In Motion` showed signs of promise for things to come. In 1979 they released their best selling album `Drums And Wires which featured the hit single `Making Plans For Nigel`. `Black Sea` followed and they scored a minor hit with `Generals And Majors` and `Respectable Street`. By the time they released the following up English Settlement the band had stopped touring due to the extreme stage fright of singer Andy Partridge. Much like The Beatles some of XTC`s finest work was done after the touring stopped. The group released another half a dozen studio records before finally calling it quits in 2005. I never had the chance to see them live (few in North America did).

X-Ray Spex

X-Ray Spex was a glorious mess of a band. Although they only recorded one full length album (`Germ Free Adolescents`) their singles remain some of the best ever released from the early British punk rock scene. Their classic “Òh Bondage Up Yours! “ was originally recorded live at only their second live gig at The Roxy. With arresting vocals by Poly Sterene and honking sax from Lora Logic the single is oft-credited as the nucleus of the Riot Grrl sound that would develop out of the America Northwest in the early nineties. The group was very fashionably anti-fashion and anti-commercial but would become fashion icons and have commercial success despite themselves. When Poly became a fashion symbol she quickly shaved her head and when their singles became successful she quit the band.

X Marks The Spot

As stated last week The Royal York Hotel will be the epicentre of the music industry this week as the world gathers for the annual Canadian Music Week. Old friends will be spotted in the Library Bar, the usual gaggle of smokers will gather at their usual spot on Front Street and the scallops and lobster rolls will be quickly consumed at the annual Music Nova Scotia Tiki party at The Rivoli on Saturday. In between a lot of music will be heard, late night shots will be downed at The Bovine and sleep will be at a premium. Come Sunday the world will return to a hazy normal and a lot of new memories will be added to the ever expanding mental Rolodex. A week later we can do it all again in Ottawa at the Junos and before you know it we will be knee-deep in NXNE. Do yourself a favour and go check out some live music. We are in one of the greatest cities in the world for live entertainment and the world is at our door step right now.

Looks like it will be patio weather this week at The Shanghai Cowgirl at 538 Queen Street West, right beside the world famous Bovine. Check the back deck; I imagine a few meals (and pints) will be consumed during CMW.

Cam’s column appears every Wednesday

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Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

One Response to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – X”

  1. i’m still having trouble falling asleep before 5am and without a belly full of booze. cmw was amazing!! great column cam!

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