"Never Enough," from Doe's latest solo record, Keeper (Yep Roc), rumbles like a vintage engine and features Doe ruminating about life's excesses and all the stuff we don't need. Its lyrics embody the slyly meditative outlook of its writer, who jokingly credits his success partially to having a really bad short-term memory. "We really need a lot less than we think we do," he offers. "The other theme of that song is the same thing that I've always written and that Exene has always written about — just thinking. Considering what you are doing as you are doing it."
A bad memory and a persistent nature have been the keys to Doe's durability. By the '90s, he began to establish himself as an actor (Boogie Nights, Roswell) and as a reputable singer-songwriter in his own right. But isolated from Exene's allure and X's loudness, Doe finds himself back in the same plain clothes that he was wearing when he arrived in Los Angeles in the first place. Now 57, with thousands of miles on the road behind him, Doe sits on nearly 20 albums between his work with X, the Knitters (his country side-project), and his steady proliferation of solo projects.
Like fellow punk-in-exile Alejandro Escovedo (of first wave LA punk band the Nuns), Doe has slowly distilled the rock medium for all its worth. His songs vacillate among folk, country, blues, and ballads all before coming home again to a familiar round of rowdy rock. Keeper's lyrics are rich with scenes that recall Doe's coming-of-age in the '60s: bars at 2:30 am, pizza joints, hotel rooms, jails, oceans, and factories. "I think any song has enough good detail to give you a place and sort of a time," says Doe. "I can remember a teacher that I had who said, 'Some of your stuff makes me think of movies.' I do have a good amount of respect for and am drawn to landscapes. And that's one reason why I still love California."
Alter egos: Part-time punks on the other side
In 1989, John Doe appeared in the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire and the Patrick Swayze cult-classic Roadhouse. These roles set Doe on the road to appear in more than 50 films and television shows over the next 20 years. But Doe was not the only member of punk's first class to take a detour.
Prior to her days as a Magic 106.7 fixture with hits like "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," the Go-Go's' BELINDA CARLISLE played drums for the Germs under the name Dottie Danger. Only 19 at the time, Carlisle was smart enough to know that if she ever wanted to do an album cover that featured bathing, any band with Darby Crash was not going to work out.
Fans of Pee-Wee's Playhouse certainly have the twinkling closing credits piece burned into their brains forever (after Pee-Wee ejects from each episode). The music for that show was composed by Devo's MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, who has done about a million soundtracks since — including the forthcoming Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, which may or may not have anything to do with the future de-evolution of humanity.