Track eight on X
's 1981 album Wild Gift
It's funny how a lyrics sheet and some liner notes make you realize that you've been completely wrong about a song for years. I only knew maybe half the words to this one, and all the talk of bombs, severed limbs, and drawing the line, coupled with the quiet panic that comes out in Exene's voice now and again, led me to believe it was about the Cold War -- metaphorically depicted as a relationship of mutual distrust. Not a bad interpretation of a punk song from the dawn of the Reagan era.
But then I picked up Wild Gift on CD and read every single word the little booklet tucked into the case said, because I think it's just about one of the best American rock 'n' roll albums ever. And the liner notes said this: that "Some Other Time" was rumored to be a song about temptation. That Exene wrote it about Phil Alvin of the Blasters just as her husband John Doe wrote the following track, "White Girl", about his crush on Lorna Doon of the Germs. With that I listened to the song again, and that revelation coupled with an extra seventeen years of life experience behind me made it all snap into place.
That quiet panic, it's not because she thinks the world's going to end in a rain of ICBM's. It's because her own heart is betraying her. The two of them, they run into each other everywhere: at shows, in bars, at parties. But they can't seem to ever find a quiet moment to talk so she can say what she desperately wants to say.
But that's for the best, right? Because nothing--least of all an affair--can be kept secret for long in a close-knit society like the Los Angeles punk scene of the early 1980s. Lines must be drawn. Ground rules must be set, and if they can just do that thing then everything will be okay.
But...talking like this, looking into that person's eyes. Her resolve drains away. I'll make no mistakes, and I'll behave; but maybe the world will end tomorrow in that nightmare of war and bombs and severed limbs. Maybe here, tonight, we won't draw that line.
The terrible tug of war is there in Exene's voice, and it's matched perfectly in Billy Zoom's guitar -- in my opinion, the best work he's ever done. It builds and builds, then draws itself abruptly back from the edge and drops into a low but insistent riff like an idling hot rod.