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The No Principals Tour unites two very different flavors of 1980s new wave.
Back during punk’s first generation, X and Blondie may have shared some fans, but the two groups never toured together. For one thing, they came from different scenes: Blondie from CBGB-dominated New York and X from the hardcore-oriented Los Angeles. Now, though, the groups are setting out on a month-long tour together, beginning Thursday in Hampton Beach, N.H., and ending Oct. 4 at New York’s Roseland Ballroom. “I think there’s a lot of respect” between the group’s members, says X bassist John Doe. “We are kind of the last bands standing, and X is still all the original members. We’re all healthy. Maybe Blondie was a little more pop, a little more listener-friendly, weren’t quite as scary.”
They’re having much more fun. At the group’s commercial peak, when videos for Hungry Wolf and The New World got play on MTV, X toured on a bus, followed by a semi truck carrying lighting and sound equipment. Today’s tours are “simpler, smarter, less hijinks, less substance abuse,” says Doe, with just a couple vans. Over the years, the group’s four original members — Doe, ex-wife Exene Cervenka, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake — have “settled all their stuff, all their inter-political band business. There’s very little friction, and it’s good. There’s something to be said for the craziness of hard living and hard drinking. You get some kind of off-balance and crazy performance. We put in solid performances, with moments of craziness.”
The house they called home. The group played its first gig in 1977, at the Los Angeles house were Doe and Cervenka lived. “It was an old house that got torn down that was too beautiful and was in the way of a parking lot,” Cervenka says. “We played on the floor in the living room. Everybody was drunk and wild and we had a great time. I remember feeling relieved it was over, because I’d never sung to anybody before except at a practice.”
The Ritz is a mess. Zoom recalls, but claims no responsibility for, an ’80s show at New York rock club The Ritz where members of the group and crew got a little out of hand afterwards. “I think our lighting director and Exene got in a food fight in the back room at the Ritz,” says the guitarist. “The large Italian man in the suit, with the gun, made them clean it up. And made Exene get down on her hands and knees and pick up the macaroni salad up off the floor. But I wasn’t involved in that. I was somewhere else…. ”
“This week, Rhino Entertainment released The X Collection: 1980-1987, a digital set compiling X’s first six albums. Those albums, plus the 1988 set Live at the Whisky A Go Go, are now available digitally for the first time. A new limited-edition vinyl set of the first four albums — Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under the Big Black Sun and More Fun in the New World — also includes a booklet written by the late Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who co-produced the albums….”
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