Generation X were a punk band formed in London in 1976 by former members of the group Chelsea. The new band made their first public performance in December 1976. Their vocalist and frontman was the charismatic Billy idol (real name William Broad) who would go on to lead a successful solo career in the eighties and beyond. Drummer Mark Laff, who joined in April 1977, had been part of an early Subway Sect formation. Generation X were one of the first punk groups to feature on Top of the Pops, appearing for the first time in September 1977 when their debut single on Chrysalis "Your Generation" was at no. 36, its peak position. The group also performed the track on Marc Bolan's Granada TV show Marc the same month. Their eponymous debut album, produced by Martin Rushent (Stranglers, Human League, Altered Images) reached no. 29 in April 1978. Generation X reached their commercial zenith in January 1979 with the much anticipated single release 'King Rocker' which reached number 11.
Although the band had become "punk pin-ups" at this point, their third year saw a deterioration in commercial success. Released soon after 'King Rocker', their second album Valley of the Dolls, produced by Ian Hunter, failed to impress either fans or critics. Pop weekly Smash Hits gave it a 5 out of 10 vote, while running an article entitled "Just a pretty buncha posers?" in the same issue. Differences in personalities within the group also began to surface together with disagreements over their future musical direction. A new line up re-named itself as Gen X in early 1980, although critical reviews and sales of their album Kiss Me Deadly continued to be poor, and Chrysalis consequently dropped the band who then broke up in mid-1981.
Billy Idol's first commercial success as a solo act was with "Dancing With Myself", a single originally recorded and released by Gen X. From the other original members Bob "Derwood" Andrews and Mark Laff went on to form Empire, while Andrews alone later founded Westworld and Moondogg. Bassist Tony James produced recordings for Sex Gang Children before forming Sigue Sigue Sputnik and later playing and performing with Sisters Of Mercy.
Links to Peel
Peel would have become aware of the band as being part of the 'Bromley contingent' and the first wave of punk groups emerging in late 1976, and went to see the group perform live at the Roxy in January 1977. It was his and The Pig's first punk gig. The group were then invited to record their first session in April, followed by a second one in July, both done before signing to Chrysalis. Such was their popularity with Peel, the group managed to obtain two entries in his personal 1977 Festive Fifty. The 1978 debut album would presumably have been on heavy rotation. A third session was recorded in early 1979 just as their second album was about to be released. Peel remarked of this last session:
"I think that Bob Sargeant makes the band sound a lot harder than Ian Hunter does on the LP: but, mind you, I suppose that kind of softness is what you require to get off the ground in America".
The second album was so much anticipated by Peel, that upon its release he played five tracks from it on the same show. He had also already spotted the potential of singer Billy Idol as a solo artist commenting:
"I think that Billy Idol could be another Alvin Stardust, you know. You can say what you like."
However, by early February Peel admitted he didn't like the album that much and went back to playing earlier material. A punkier B side 'Trying For Kicks' released in mid-1979 met with approval although interest waned soon after. Neither Gen X or Billy Idol solo material ever seem to have been played by Peel, although the latter occasionally featured in the UK charts during Peel's time as Top of the Pops presenter.
Festive Fifty entries
- 1977 Festive Fifty: Wild Dub (version) #49, Your Generation #29
- Day By Day / Listen! / Youth Youth Youth / Your Generation
2. Recorded 1977-07-12. First broadcast 21 July 1977.
- From The Heart / Rock On / Gimme Some Truth / No No No
- Paradise West / Love Like Fire / Night Of The Cadillacs / English Dream
Other shows played
- 16 August 1977: 'Your Generation' (7")' Chrysalis CHS 2165
- 23 August 1977: 'Your Generation (7")' Chrysalis CHS 2165
- 12 September 1977: 'Your Generation (7")' Chrysalis CHS 2165
- 21 December 1977: 'Day By Day' (session recording)
- 22 December 1977: 'Wild Dub (version)' (7" B-side) Chrysalis CHS 2189 Festive Fifty #49
- 26 December 1977: 'Your Generation' (7")' (Chrysalis) Festive Fifty #29
- 29 March 1978: Kiss Me Deadly (LP - Generation X) Chrysalis
- 04 December 1978: 'Your Generation (7")' Chrysalis CHS 2165
- 21 December 1978: 'King Rocker' (7") Chrysalis CHSH 2261
- 02 January 1979: 'Gimme Some Truth' (7" B-side) Chrysalis CHSH 2261
- 10 January 1979: 'King Rocker' (7") Chrysalis CHSH 2261
- 22 January 1979: 'Valley Of The Dolls', 'Running With The Boss Sound', 'Night Of The Cadillacs' - all from Valley of the Dolls LP, Chrysalis CHR 1193
- 24 January 1979: 'Boss Sound', 'Night of the Cadillacs' - both from Valley of the Dolls LP, Chrysalis CHR 1193
- 01 February 1979 (Paul Gambaccini): 'Running With The Boss Sound' LP), Chrysalis CHR 1193
- 05 February 1979: 'Valley of the Dolls' (Valley of the Dolls LP), Chrysalis CHR 1193
- 27 March 1979: 'Day By Day' (Valley of the Dolls LP), Chrysalis CHR 1169
- 18 June 1979: 'Trying For Kicks' (7" Friday's Angels B-side) Chrysalis CHS A 2330