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John Doe and Tom DeSavia gather stories for Under the Big Black Sun

San Diego’s The Beat Farmers were included in this cowpunk movement

John Doe, of X fame, loved San Diego cowpunkers The Beat Farmers.
  • John Doe, of X fame, loved San Diego cowpunkers The Beat Farmers.
  • Photograph by Autumn De WIlde

X bassist/vocalist John Doe has spent a large chunk of the last five years taking a trip down memory lane. In 2016, his book Under the Big Black Sun, which explored the early days of the punk rock scene in Los Angeles, was published. Doe, along with co-author Tom DeSavia, gathered stories from musicians and scene participants which painted an entertaining picture of that movement in its infancy. The duo followed it up with a sequel, More Fun in the New World, which was published this past summer. The new book picks up where the old one left off, exploring LA music from 1982-1987 as bands signed to major labels, occasionally fell too hard for drugs, and splintered into various sub-genres.

As for the latter, one of the main offshoots was cowpunk. It was a rootsy version of punk rock that displayed clear country influences. The Beat Farmers, a famous San Diego act from this same era, were often included in this movement.

“I loved the Beat Farmers, they were a great band,” Doe explained. “I still miss Beat Farmers’ drummer Country Dick. Mojo [Nixon] was a real force at that point, and I got to be good pals with him, and still am. It was a good time. As Tom DeSavia says in his chapter, it allowed people to take Merle Haggard… literally take his albums out of the closet. Not in the current definition of ‘out of the closet,’ but you were able to say ‘Yes, I like The Everly Brothers.’ I think our brand of punk rock was always based on early rock and roll. Based on Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee and stuff like that. It wasn’t a big stretch, but it was something that added and allowed you to stretch out a little bit more.”

The new book also features chapters by individuals influenced by the scene who applied the punk DIY ethos to their own work. Street artist Shepard Fairey, who created the well known “Hope” poster for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, gets a chapter, as does Carlsbad native Tony Hawk. Although Doe would cross paths with skate pros such as Steve Caballero and Tony Alva during the early days of X, the friendship with Hawk happened further down the road.

“It probably started ten or so years ago when he contacted us about being on his video game. From there, we got to be acquaintances. Then he asked us to do a charity event out in Las Vegas. We got to be friends there,” Doe said.

Past Event

Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival

  • Friday, November 22, 2019, noon
  • Waterfront venues including Seaport Village, Broadway Pier, Bayfront Park, Embarcadero Marina Park
  • $199 - $1200

The Birdman has now requested their presence at his showcase during the Wonderfront Music Festival. Hawk will be resurrecting his Boom Boom Huck Jam skate demo (last seen in the early 2000s) for the event. If you head down to the waterfront and catch X, don’t be surprised when you see their guitarist, Billy Zoom, taking it easy on stage. He has traded his trademark straddle for a stool in recent years.

“He’s had two cancer treatments over the past ten years, and he just got his knees replaced,” Doe explained. “He’s even older than me. I think he just enjoys it. He doesn’t have to walk around and do all of his stuff. But he’s good. He’s really healthy and plays his ass off, so I don’t mind.”

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