Generation X - Biography

Generation X was among the first wave of London punk bands, and it was the band that started Billy Idol’s career. William Broad was one of the Bromley Contingent, the gang of early Sex Pistols fans who gathered around that band in 1976. Like fellow Bromley Contingent members Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin, Broad took a punk name: as Billy Idol, he played guitar in the first lineup of singer Gene October’s band Chelsea, who made their live debut opening for Throbbing Gristle on October 16, 1976. The following month, Idol, bassist Tony James and drummer John Towe left Chelsea (or, alternatively, kicked Gene October out) to form Generation X, taking their name from a 1964 book about the conflict between Mods and Rockers. The talented Bob Derwood Andrews, still in his teens, joined on guitar and Idol switched to lead vocals. When their manager Andrew Czezowski started the Roxy that December, he booked Generation X for the London punk club’s first night. Drummer Mark Laff, who had played in Subway Sect, replaced Towe early in 1977.    


Idol and James co-wrote almost all the band’s songs, though their second John Peel session of 1977 included versions of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock On.” Generation X played the first Rock Against Racism show on May 1, and Chrysalis signed the band that July. Phil Wainman, whose production credits included the Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz,” recorded Generation X’s first two singles: “Your Generation” b/w “Day By Day” (1977 Chrysalis) and “Wild Youth” b/w “Wild Dub (Version)” (1977 Chrysalis). Martin Rushent, who had produced the Stranglers and the Buzzcocks, produced “Ready Steady Go” b/w “No No No” (1978 Chrysalis) and the debut album Generation X (1978 Chrysalis), eleven sparkling Idol/James tunes.   


Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople produced the second album, Valley of the Dolls (1979 Chrysalis), which started with an Andrews composition—seemingly the only one the band ever recorded, “Running with the Boss Sound.” Sessions for a third album in July 1979 fell apart; Andrews quit, and Laff was fired several months later. Idol and James shortened the band’s name to Gen X, recording the hit “Dancing With Myself” (1980 Chrysalis) and the final album Kiss Me Deadly (1981 Chrysalis) with the Clash’s first drummer, Terry Chimes, and guitarists Steve Jones (of the Sex Pistols), James Stevenson (of Chelsea) and John McGeoch (of Magazine). Meanwhile, Andrews and Laff formed the band Empire and made the excellent post-punk album Expensive Sound (1981 Dinosaur Discs), shortly after which they became New Empire.    


Gen X broke up after Kiss Me Deadly. Billy Idol initiated a successful solo career, taking “Dancing With Myself” with him; James formed Sigue Sigue Sputnik several years later. Idol, Andrews, James and Laff reunited for one show in London in 1993. The recordings the original lineup had made in the summer of 1979 before splitting up were released almost twenty years later as K.M.D-Sweet Revenge (1998 eMpTy).

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