Soundtrack of the Apocalypse

The Have Nots * X * Under the Big Black Sun * 1982

I will try to avoid hyperbole and stick to the topic at hand, but I’m going to fail. It’s one of the problems writing about music. More than any other artistic medium, the experience is entirely subjective. Either the song hits you, or it doesn’t. Obviously, there is craft involved, that’s not what I’m talking about. There’s plenty of well crafted, highly respected music out there that I could care less about. It don’t hit me in my feelbasket, you know? This band does, and hard. They always have, and here we have (maybe) my favorite song off of what is generally accepted to be their best album. X have always been one of the most sincere bands in existence, and Under the Big Black Sun is as beautiful and devastating and wonderful as anything a band has ever created. It is a singular achievement, and “The Have Nots” closes the album in as fitting a manner possible.

The song is something of a blue collar anthem. An ode to various Los Angeles watering holes for those who are struggling to get by to maybe forget the grim reality of existence for a while. The chorus sums up the point of the song: “Dawn comes soon enough for the working class/It keeps getting sooner or later/This is the game/That moves as you play.” This is a song for people who can’t win, but haven’t stopped trying. It’s also a song for those who have. It’s melancholy and upbeat. It’s a song for the downtrodden trying to get enough strength for just one more day. It’s a song about camaraderie and a broken kind of unity in the face of overwhelming, oppressive stress. Not bad for a song where half the lyrics are just names of bars.

One last thing. X are old now, but considering I was three years old when this album came out I am grateful that these old salts of the original punk scene are still out there touring. A year or two ago, the band announced that Billy Zoom (the guitarist) would no longer be touring with the band because he was fighting cancer. Happily, it seems he’s doing better because he’s playing shows again. Billy Zoom, whose nickname is “the nicest guy in punk rock,” is a joy to watch on stage. He’s like the coolest rock n’ roll uncle you never had. Seriously, look at this guy. He’s been playing these songs for a million years and he’s just serene and enjoying the night. I love this band, so here’s a live performance from not that long ago.

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