Behind the Punk Rock Band Name “X”

Southern California, and especially the city of Los Angeles, is rich with incredible bands. But one of the most important in the city’s history, especially when it comes to the Los Angeles pedigree of punk rock, is the band known simply as X.

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But what is the history of the group’s name? And why does so much about the band seem mysterious when it comes to their moniker?

Let’s dive in.

The Band

The punk rock band X was formed in Los Angeles in 1977 and comprised of founding members singer John Doe, guitarist Billy Zoom, drummer D.J. Bonebrake, and singer Exene Cervenka. (For more on Doe, read HERE.)

From 1980 to 1993, the group released seven studio LPs. They later reunited in the early 2000s and still tour today.

To some, the band name “X” in some way “marks the spot” at the nexus where punk, folk, and rock came together. The group’s brand of lo-fi but impactful music created a cult following and the band has since been cited as an influence to many who came after them.

Los Angeles

But the group wasn’t one for especially creative names. As such, the band’s first studio LP is called, Los Angeles. Nevertheless, the album has been considered by critics to be one of the more essential LPs of its time.


Knowing the band’s members, it’s not hard to see how the group got its simple moniker.

The band was founded by Doe (real name John Nommensen Duchac) and Zoom. “John Doe,” of course, is the generic name hospitals and morgues and courts use when identifying an individual who has no other name or who wants to remain anonymous. In that way, it’s the perfect moniker for a punk rock frontman.

Not long after, Doe brought his girlfriend, Cervenka, to band practice. She was a poet and her words resonated with the group and she joined the musicians formally.

It’s easy to imagine the members of the band sitting around wondering what they should call their new group when Doe looks around and sees Cervenka, realizes her unique first name, and just shortens it: Exene to X.

Perfect. Simple. Mysterious. Timeless.


The band signed its first record deal with the indie label Dangerhouse. For the label, X dropped the 1978 single “Adult books” as the A-side and “We’re Desperate” as the B-side.

Later, the band released the Ray Manzarek-produced album, Los Angeles, featuring the hit single of the same name, in 1980. That was the same year Cervenka and Doe married. The album was released by the label Slash. At that point, the group of musicians were off to make, well, a name for themselves.

Photo by Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

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