Generation X

Generation X was an English rock band that released three albums between 1978 and 1981. Signed to Chrysalis, the band promoted itself with a photogenic dress sense that aided the rise of charismatic front-man Billy Idol — one of the biggest and most iconic rock superstars of the 1980s.

Members: Billy Idol (vocals), Tony James (bass), John Towe (drums, 1976-77), Bob Andrews [aka Derwood Andrews] (guitar, 1976-80), Mark Laff (drums, 1977-80), Terry Chimes (drums, 1980-81), James Stevenson (guitar, 1980-81)

Founders William Broad and Brian James first met in the summer of 1976 through a network centered around the Sex Pistols and the soon-to-be notorious band’s management.

James had briefly played with future Clash guitarist Mick Jones and eventual Damned members Brian James and Rat Scabies in the rehearsal act London S.S. Broad had been part of the Bromley Contingent — an early group of Pistols followers that also included future Banshees Janet Ballion (aka Siouxsie Sioux) and Steve Baily (later “Havoc” and ultimately “Severin.”)

With Broad on guitar and James on bass, the two formed the band Chelsea with drummer John Towe and vocalist Gene October. After a series of gigs in the fall of 1976 — including an opening slot at the infamous COUM Transmissions event under the moniker “LSD” — it became obvious that no quartet was large enough for the conflicting, dominant personalities of the singer and the guitarist.

October retained the name Chelsea on his lookout for new musicians. This freed Broad to step up to the mic under his newly adopted stagename, Billy Idol. Roping in ace-guitarist Bob Andrews, the band rechristened itself Generation X and played its first gig on the opening night of London’s Roxy club, which would gain notoriety over the following year as the capital’s breeding ground for upstart rockers.

The summer of 1977 saw Generation X make its vinyl debut with the Chrysalis single “Your Generation” — a brisk lampoon of The Who‘s “My Generation.” Later that year, a followup single “Wild Youth” was cut in a similar speedy, simplistic vein. In the studio, however, the band was harboring grander ambitions.

In early 1978, Generation X delivered its homonymous debut album. A mostly high-speed affair, the material ranges from the brash angularity of “From the Heart” and “One Hundred Punks” to the expressionistic abandon of “Youth Youth Youth,” on which Andrews flexes his Tony McPhee-esque chops over a lengthy post-vocal playout. Elsewhere, the band show harmonized cohesion on the beat-inflected “Ready Steady Go.” Most impressive are the album’s two epics — the long-unfolding “Promises Promises” and the explosion/crescendo-laden “Kiss Me Deadly” — which exhibit James’ compositional maturity and Idol’s knack for narrative intrigue.

Discography:

  • Generation X (1978)
  • Valley of the Dolls (1979)
  • Kiss Me Deadly (1981)

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