When most music fans hear the name “Ray Manzarek,” most likely they immediately think of The Doors. But he had a great “act 2” in the ’80s, as producer for the legendary L.A. punk rock band X. He helmed their first four LPs: 1980’s Los Angeles, 1981’s Wild Gift, 1982’s Under The Big Black Sun and 1983’s More Fun In The New World.
They’ve been cited as a huge influence on later alternative rock bands, including Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but never made a big commercial splash. But Manzarek says X’s impact shouldn’t be measured by their performance on the charts. “They were, far and away, America’s best punk rock band. Holy Christ, they were fabulous. Boy, their records were great.”
Their debut, Los Angeles, got great critical response: It made the top albums of the year list in both New York’s Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. History has been good to the album, which sits at No. 286 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time,” and the title track was named as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” by the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Manzarek remembers that album fondly: “Los Angeles was great. Nobody got paid. We had a $10,000 recording budget, that went to the recording studio, the engineers. All four members of the band got paid for one union session. Your producer got no recompense for the whole thing. I did it for free… and it was fabulous. Great people, great working with them, we had the best of times.”
In fact, Ray reunited with the group a few years back and sat in with them for a pair of gigs to mark the 30th anniversary of Los Angeles: “Boy was that fun, playing with them live, at a punk rock show! It was hysterical to see 50-year old men moshing, with their elbows out, smashing into each other.”
X is currently on a U.S. tour. Their scheduled show at New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom has been moved to Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar, due to damage incurred by the Starland during Hurricane Sandy. $5 from every Wonder Bar ticket will go to the Monmouth County Food Bank.
— Brian Ives, CBS Local
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