The Walking Rock Alphabet: L
After the difficulties I had in picking an album for the last couple of letters, my problem today was the exact opposite. The letter “L” is a treasure trove - two of my top three albums of all time (London Calling and Let It Be), along with many others that prominently sit in my Top 50 (L.A.M.F., Let It Bleed, Labour of Lust, Life’s Rich Pagent, Love Is the Law, etc.). I probably spent more time picking out the album than I did walking.
Somewhat interesting is that it was Bob Dylan of all people who helped make my decision. I’ve been reading Mikal Gilmore’s anthology, Night Beat, and in the middle of a 1986 interview, Dylan pulls out John Trudell’s AKA Grafitti Man. Calling it the best album of the year, he adds that “only people like Lou Reed and John Doe can dream about doing work like this. Most don’t have enough talent.”
It wouldn’t surprise me today to hear that Dylan is familiar with the work of the X leader, as Doe’s Americana-laced solo work isn’t far removed from what Dylan is releasing these days. But this is 1986, and X isn’t exactly a household name. I realize that his kids kept him in touch with acts like The Clash, but despite the Dylan-ish imagery of the best of Doe and Exene Cervenka, they just didn’t seem like they’d be in Dylan’s orbit.
As usual, being influenced by Dylan was a positive part of my life, though, as Los Angeles by X turned out to be THE perfect choice. While I generally avoid letting the music set my walking speed, D.J. Bonebrake’s tribal drumming style couldn’t help but set my pace today.
What an underrated album...and music scene! While the music press concentrated on the punk scenes in London and New York, what was going on in Southern California was just as inventive, influential, and (arguably) even more varied. X were the beatnik poets of the scene, so it made complete sense that former Doors keyboardist Rany Manzarek produced the album (and contributes his trademark sound to the Doors-ish “The Unheard Music”)...not to mention their cover of “Soul Kitchen”.
“Los Angeles” is the obvious favorite on the album, but there’s no letup. “You’re Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not” and “Johny Hit and Run Paulene” stands up against ANY other album’s first two songs, and the power and lyrical wordplay never let up. It’s a short album, which means I had a short walk, but the combination created an invigorating half hour.