X signed with Elektra and in 1982, unleashed yet another masterpiece with Under The Big Black Sun, which saw the band beginning to incorporate elements of American roots music into their breakneck rockabilly punk rock. 1983’s More Fun In The New World – produced, like its predecessors, by Manzarek – bore a slightly more polished sound, as well as a Modern Rock radio hit in a high-velocity cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Breathless,” while standing out as a defining protest album of the Reagan era.
The band’s passion for hillbilly, folk, and country led to the formation of The Knitters, an acoustic side-project also featuring their longtime friend, Dave Alvin of The Blasters. X then parted ways with Manzarek to collaborate with Mötley Crüe/Dokken producer Michael Wagener on 1985’s Ain’t Love Grand! The album would be Zoom’s last with X, who then recruited Alvin for a fruitful but short-lived union that yielded 1987’s very fine See How We Are, the first X album to fully embrace a more traditional roots-rock approach.
Alvin amicably parted ways with X during the recording of See How We Are, and was replaced by ex-Lone Justice guitarist Tony Gilkyson, who appears on 1988’s blazing Live At The Whisky a Go-Go On The Fabulous Sunset Strip. The latter would be X’s last with Elektra, with the members pursuing solo careers – including Doe’s successful vocation as in-demand character actor – during what would become a series of long hibernations between new X projects.