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X: The Unheard Music (1986)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Music | March 1986 (USA)
This film is a documentary about the personalities in, and the music of, the early 1980's Los Angeles punk band X. There are studio and live performances by the band and interviews with ... See full summary »

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Credited cast:
...
Himself
...
Herself
Billy Zoom ...
Himself
D.J. Bonebrake ...
Himself
...
Himself
...
Himself
Brendan Mullen ...
Himself
Frank Gargani ...
Johny
Alizabeth Foley ...
Pauline
Denise Zoom ...
Herself
Diana Bonebrake ...
Herself (as Dinky Bonebrake)
Bob Biggs ...
Himself
Al Bergamo ...
Himself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
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Christopher Blakely ...
Himself
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Storyline

This film is a documentary about the personalities in, and the music of, the early 1980's Los Angeles punk band X. There are studio and live performances by the band and interviews with band members; all nicely interspersed with footage of area DJs, record stores, old TV shows and commercials. Written by Fred Goodridge

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Documentary | Music

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Not Rated
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March 1986 (USA)  »

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The Unheard Music  »

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Did You Know?

Quotes

Billy Zoom: I have read a review of the Ramones in some trade paper, I think it was Rolling Stones or something like that, and they trashed them, said they were awful, the guy really hated them, he said they were dumb, they played these... He said all their songs were too fast, too short, only had three chords, no guitar solos, the lyrics were dumb, and it just all sounded like real positive things to me.
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Crazy Credits

"To The Lonesome & The Twosome & Whoever Still Has Ears For The Unheard Of..." See more »

Connections

References The Shining (1980) See more »

Soundtracks

I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
Written by John Doe and Exene Cervenka
Performed by X
Courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records
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User Reviews

 
Innovation and Art vs. the Music Industry
17 June 2008 | by (Vulcan) – See all my reviews

Before I present my review, please note that I have been an X fan since 1979, and was a first-generation American punk rocker. I do not state this as credentials, but rather because I am going to directly contradict some of the views of other reviewers who were there. Of course, this is all a matter of opinion, but - in my opinion - seeing "The Unheard Music" only as a tribute/biopic/fan movie about X misses the point by a wide margin. The genius of "The Unheard Music" is that it simultaneously provides a solid biography of X and an indictment of the American popular music industry - two stories which are, unfortunately for X, inescapably connected.

As an X fan, I especially appreciated the artistry of the film - which nicely mirrored Exene's aesthetics and poetry, and highlighted her as both John Doe's muse and, in many ways, the driving force behind the band. X was an almost leader-less group. With Billy Zoom - a very talented RnR/Rockabilly guitarist, John Doe - an excellent bassist and song-writer, DJ Bonebrake - a solid and innovative punk drummer and Exene - the brilliant bizarre and strangely beautiful poet and lead singer, they really did not need a leader. The film depicts and appreciates each band member's personalities accurately, and unlike most fan films, does not soft-soap them or go out of its way to make them all look good.

X was fascinating in concert - the juxtaposition of Billy's endless stiff smile and totally suppressed energy, Exene's inexplicable obsessive weirdness and often avant-garde vocal style, John's wild energy and exceptional vocal talent, and DJ's pounding rhythms - all welded into tight, exciting and loud but still very melodic and musical Rock and Roll. X, like many punk and old school hardcore bands, sincerely enjoyed their own gigs - and it was apparent. The band had great chemistry and excellent presence. All of this shows up nicely in the film's occasional live clips.

The film's story is nicely summed up in their classic song "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts"

"Will the last American band

to get played on the radio

please bring the flag"

and

"Woody Guthrie sang about

b-e-e-t-s, not b-e-a-t-s"

X welded traditionalism (both in lifestyle and musical form), patriotism and radicalism (much like the libertarian political philosophy of the American founding fathers) and punk DIY ethics harmoniously. This hybridization produced a remarkably distinctive, original, yet familiar and fun musical repertoire.

Unsurprisingly, the music industry was not ready for them. Despite critical acclaim and a few 'album of the year' awards, only an open-minded independent label would sign them early-on, and they were systematically mismarketed and mishandled by distributors.

The flip-side of this, however, is that X was not and would never be a sell-out. Unlike more contemporary 'popular punk', X retained their uniqueness, their originality, their obscure politics, and their artistry, throughout their largely successful career. It is worth comparing this film to Jim Fields' "End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones" (2003). Though the Ramones were a larger commercial success than X, End of the Century paints much the same story for them.

I believe that this is a trope which has come to identify post-punk sentiment. There is a considerable amount of whining to be done about the injustices of the pre-home-studio-cheap-cd music industry, for sure, but perhaps we should try to remember what happens to the musical integrity of almost every band that actually does emerge from the underground to the harsh light of commercialism - The Clash, Metallica, etc. Think about it - most people really don't have a great deal of taste when it comes to music. They simply want something to dance to, or something to distract them from life, or something undemanding in the background.

I liked the Ramones DESPITE their commercial success. I loved X because of what they did, who they were, and how they sounded. I can't say the same about any of the neopunk groups signed to major labels and spreading expensive designer 'punk' fashion all about magazine covers today.

What is a looming commercial monolith on the surface is a barely recognizable shadow in the underground.

Nicely filmed, wonderfully edited and compiled, with never a dull moment. X: The Unheard Music is a great introduction to X, the music industry, and American punk.

Highly recommended.


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