"He was by far the best guitarist on the scene." Zoom's finesse stood out during those early years, when disintegration and chaos were at times the status quo in the scene. Bonebrake recalls over the phone from the road that other legendary bands that weren't so eager for polish: "Some bands would make a career or a show out of acting like they weren't together. The Germs were a perfect example. Pat Smear would show up and go, 'Hey, does anyone have some strings? I only have two strings.'<0x2009>"
What Zoom brought to X was a firebrand guitar equal parts carefree rockabilly and complex melodic riffage that came to represent X on each successive album until he left the band in 1985 and was replaced by Tony Gilkyson. "John wrote all of his songs with his bass, so there were no chords," Zoom explains. "That gave me a lot of freedom to experiment with more complex chords and unusual voicings." Although he has gone on record as being displeased with the production on almost all of the X albums he appeared on, he cites their first, Los Angeles (Slash, 1980), as his favorite because it was recorded almost entirely live and thus sounds the most like the group. Asked the same question, Cervenka chooses their third full-length, Under the Big Black Sun (Elektra, 1982), calling it "the purest X album. To me, it's like the cover. It's a very black-and-white album. That was a really weird time. My sister had died. The second album had come out, but I hadn't really written about it. Wild Gift [Slash, 1981] came out, and then Under the Big Black Sun was more about death."
In the end, after eight studio albums and innumerous hiatuses, X still see fit to reunite and tour sporadically. Three decades on, Cervenka is still content to perform X's catalog of love-stained, liquor-soaked rebellion future libraries and galleries notwithstanding: "Life is doing something to be remembered for, whether it's building your grandkids a tree house that they pass on to their kids or making a record that changes people's lives." In my version of the future, those are the records that rise up to claim history, in a giant blazing X obscuring all else, symbols of a feisty queen with a wink and a cigarette and her court of angry, vagabond cavaliers. *
With the Hooks
Dec. 2829, 9 p.m., $30
333 11th St., SF