4th of July
by X

Album: See How We Are (1987)
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Songfacts®:

  • This was written by the guitarist Dave Alvin, who had recently replaced Billy Zoom in X. Alvin still had ties with his former band, the Blasters, when he wrote the song, and in early 1986 he recorded the song with the group, with Nick Lowe producing. These sessions deteriorated when Lowe decided that Dave should sing the song, not the group's lead singer, his older brother Phil Alvin. The Blasters album was never released, and it ended up being an X song, with their vocalist John Doe singing it.

    As for Dave, he got some life-changing advice from Lowe in those sessions. "I can't sing either, but I've somehow made a living doing it," Lowe told him.
  • In our interview with Dave Alvin, he explained that as a student of poetry and literature, he learned to appreciate the beauty in the mundane, which is how he arrived at lyrics about typical, working-class 4th of July.

    "There's a line in the song, 'On the lost side of town,'" he said. "When I sing it what I'm thinking about is where I come from. It's a part of town where great things don't come out of it. It's the kind of place where your job in life is just to work, eat something, sleep, and pay your bills. I think any relationship in that kind of situation has its difficulties, where you're sort of transitioning from your youthful dreams into possible adult disappointments. That can put a lot of stress onto a relationship."
  • This song began life as a poem Alvin wrote, which he remembers calling 4th of July in the Dark. This was typical of his songwriting, with Alvin composing poems and then pulling images from them if something struck him for a lyric. The lines from the poem that made it into this song were "Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below," and "She turns out the lights and lays in the dark."
  • Alvin wrote a third verse, but decided the song had more impact without it, as it leaves the ending up to the listener. He told us: "When X wanted to record the song and we recorded a couple of demos for Elektra, one of the producers, who is a notable musician who shall remain nameless, said, 'I'm not getting enough. It needs more.' So, I thought, well, maybe I should pull that third verse back into it? But then I thought, no, it's getting the point across. They're either breaking up or they're staying together.'"
  • This song is beloved by the band's fans and has grown in popularity, but it was never a hit. A victim of timing, the late '80s found X out-of-favor at radio stations, as anything perceived as "Punk" had a hard time getting airplay (Billy Idol excepted). A few years later, Nirvana knocked down that wall, but it was too late for "4th Of July."

Comments: 2

  • John from Los Angeles"Whatever happened, I apologize" SUCH a relationship line.
  • Patrick from Wahiawa, HiThis sounds like something Joseph Plumb Martin might have written after his Continental Army days and was a "working stiff civilian" again.;)
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