Los Angeles
by X

Album: Los Angeles (1980)
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  • X was known for songs about the seedy side of Los Angeles, covering the shady characters and unsavory places instead of the glamourous side commonly portrayed in the media. This song is about a very racist person that feels compelled to leave the city for a less diverse environment. It's not about a real person, but a type of person X vocalist Exene Cervenka came across. Explaining how the song is not to be taken as an endorsement of this behavior, she told BAM in 1980: "'Los Angeles' is supposed to be this racist song. You wouldn't write, 'She hated every negro and other people too,' if you're being truthful about the character. You'd write, 'She hated every ni--er and Jew,' because she didn't hate negroes she hated ni--ers. It's not a personal she. People don't understand. When you read a book, you don't think the narrator's the person who wrote the book. There's a separation."
  • The lead singer of X, John Doe, wrote this with Cervenka and sang lead on the track with her. He appeared as Julianne Moore's husband in the movie Boogie Nights.
  • In a Songfacts interview with Exene Cervenka, she said: "That's real film noir there. John wrote the words on that one, and that is a pretty definitive song about racism, hatred, and all that kind of stuff. But in the punk days, it was a little different. It's hard to describe how people would think then, but people who were well-read had more literary minds and they could understand that kind of narrative. It's just a story about someone who couldn't handle the big city anymore. Very The Day of the Locust [a 1939 novel by Nathanael West]. Just too much."

    "A lot of people can't handle the city," Cervenka added. "Any city. But it's a fantasy kind of thing based on some real people and some who are fictional. I think of our songs as short stories."
  • Los Angeles was the first album X released, issued on a small independent label called Slash. The album sold over 50,000 copies, which was excellent for a debut independent release, but the band was pretty much unknown outside of southern California. X put out one more album with Slash before signing with the major label Elektra for their third release, Under The Big Black Sun, which gave them a bigger marketing push and landed the album at #76 on the national charts. (Get much more on X in our interview with John Doe.)
  • Careful if you're near a mosh pit when this song comes on - there was a lot of slam dancing going on when X would perform this in the Los Angeles punk clubs like The Masque. The song stayed in their set even after they became much more popular and graduated to venues that held thousands of people instead of hundreds.
  • Ray Manzarek produced the first four X albums. With his group The Doors, Manzarek made intricate music that often used the city of Los Angeles as a backdrop in clever narratives, the obvious one being "L.A. Woman." X had a similar ethos. "I think one of the reasons Ray liked us was because each one of our songs is like a little short story about a time and place, about people," Cervenka told Songfacts.
  • This song portended big things for X, which was leading the way in the Los Angeles punk scene. But like most groups on this scene (The Minutemen, Black Flag), they never took enough of a pop turn to break into the big time, and had to watch as new wave acts got the pop airplay and MTV exposure. X proved remarkably durable though. Guitarist Billy Zoom left in 1986, but when he returned in 1998, it re-formed their original lineup, which carried on another 20+ years.

Comments: 6

  • George From Ela from Los AngelesSupposedly the song was about some suburban white girl a groupie of John Doe, who didn't get along with Alice Bag (Mexican who gave her a lot of s--t) apparently said white girl was a real drama queen. Lyrics would definitely get a Parental Warning sticker in this day of age. One of my favorite bands and as a teenager (even now) it was nice that at least Mexicans were acknowledged in a song.
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaBeing of Latin descent in Los Angeles, I can relate to this song. 1980 was a pivital year for X, I believe they introduced a lot of people to punk rock.
  • Emmet from St. Paul, MnIf Exene's lyrics aren't good enough for you, just stick to the Britney Spears.
  • Spencer from Los Angeles, CaActually, not it doesn't.
  • Spencer Bronson from Los Angeles, CaMost people I know hate this song, but some of my friends and I like it a lot...the lyrics aren't so hot, but it sort of does reflect L.A. life.
  • John from Levittown, NyExene Cervenka was also briefly married to Viggo Mortensen, Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy
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