Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hey Babe, It's the Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day

For a few minutes in the 1980s, guitarist Billy Zoom left the band X and was replaced by Dave Alvin of the roots-rock band the Blasters. Alvin had previously played with X's D.J. Bonebrake, John Doe, and Exene Cervenka in the acoustic-country collective the Knitters.

Alvin wouldn't last long in X, but he did bring in an amazing song he wrote -- a sad and poignant look at the City of Angels that's worth revisiting more than once a year.

And another version (sung here by Alvin himself) for your holiday listening pleasure:

Ironically, by the time X got around to recording the song, Alvin was already gone (replaced by guitarist Tony Gilkyson) and X itself would soon be gone (although they'd resurface and vanish again several times in the 1990s).

For years, one of my favorite radio stations would play this song every July 4th at noon. They played it from vinyl and the record was filled with clicks and pops that perfectly amplified the song's story of disappointments and the sad shimmer of hope. A few years ago, that radio station upgraded all their equipment and their library. When they played the song at noon on the 4th of July, the sound from a shiny, newly remastered CD free from surface noises.

It just wasn't the same.


Anonymous said...

Love this song. Did the Blasters record a version of it?

Alex said...

Not that I know of. But Dave Alvin recorded it for his first solo album (called Every Night About this Time in the U.K, but inexplicably renamed Romeo's Escape when it came out in the U.S.).

Mark said...

It's also on Dave's live album "Out in California" and he performs it at every show.