Generation X Generation X (Chrysalis Records)
Released: March 1978
Billy Idol Vocals
Tony James Bass & Vocals
Mark Laff Drums & Vocals
Bob Andrews aka Derwood Gtr & Vocals
Generation X were the 4th Punk band to emerge from the ashes of The London SS: legendary garage band that never actually made it out of the garage.
Tony James left Brian James & Rat Scabies to form The Damned & Mick Jones to build The Clash & hooked up with Bromley Contingent member, William Broad, to form Chelsea in October 1976. The Bromley Contingent were exactly that: a bunch of well-to-do kids from the suburbs who began to follow the Sex Pistols around in early 1976. The entourage also included Siouxsie Sioux & Steve Severin, later of The Banshees.
Gene October Vocals
Tony James Bass
Billy Idol Gtr
John Towe - Drums
James & Broad (nee Idol) had met singer Gene October through an advert & the Chelsea line up was completed with the arrival of John Towe on drums. The band was short lived, however, playing only a handful of shows before splitting after supporting The Stranglers at The Nashville on 21st of November 1976. James, Idol & Towe left October with nothing but the name Chelsea & had re-grouped as Generation X (named after a dog-eared paperback book they found on a bookshelf) in time for their debut show in early December 1976.
On December 14th 1976 Generation X became the first band to play The Roxy Club in Londons Covent Garden. Immediately after Christmas 1976, John Towe was asked to leave the band & Mark Laff was recruited from Subway Sect. With their line up now complete, the band set about scoring a deal & getting a record into the racks. A series of white-hot shows at leading Punk venues throughout the capital attracted good reviews, eager punters & desperate A&R men keen to cut themselves a slice of this Punk rock pie. Chrysalis Records finally emerged with the ink on the dotted line & Generation X were trapped by the Man. Chrysalis, the home of Genesis, UFO, Peter Gabriel & a whole host of old school dinosaurs, was not exactly the hippest label the band could have chosen much of the criticism they were dogged by for the rest of their existence began here. Dont drink, dont smoke what do you do? Generation X could well have been the subjects of Adam Ants later Goody Two Shoes they were so clean they squeaked. Tony Parsons championed the band early on with very positive live reviews but had changed his mind completely by the time he interviewed them for the NME in January 1977:
Street soldiers fuelled on orange juice? Revolutionaries who dont give a shit about Bergen-Belsen? The orders-nouveau sung to pleasant pop melodies? If Generation X didnt hype themselves as being such a big deal then I would probably not be as turned off by the band as I am now.
Generation Xs debut 45, Your Generation/Day By Day (CHS2165), was produced by Phil Wainman & released in September 1977. Your Generation was a tenuous answer record of sorts to The Whos My Generation & employed many of the same techniques. The single peaked at number 38 in the BMRB charts & further cries of sell out were hurled in the general direction of Generation X.
Second 45, Wild Youth/Wild Dub, was somewhat of a step backwards. The a-side was a strictly average blast of mod tinged punk pop posturing with distinctly pub rock overtones & a forced chorus that temporarily threatened to derail the gravy train before it even made it out of the station. B-side, Wild Dub, however, was truly ahead of its time with its dub-technique-applied-to-rock-song approach (it would take Tony James old mucker Mick Jones substantially longer to get round to this method with The Clash):
Heavy, heavy dub Punk Rockers Youth, Youth, Youth.
Generation X finally began work on their debut long player under the guidance of producer Martin Rushent & engineer Alan Winstanley (both of whom would enjoy considerable success further on down the line!) at TW Studios in Fulham in late 1977 early 1978. The sleeve proudly boasted that no session musicians were used during the making of the LP (phew, thats a fucking relief! - Ed.). The LPs striking (i.e. made them look pretty) cover shots were taken by Gered Mankowitz (another connection to the 60s Mankowitz famously shot The Stones from 65 to 67) Generation X were well aware of rocks lineage & not afraid to pay homage where ever it was due.
The LP, simply entitled Generation X, was preceded by the bands 3rd 45, Ready Steady Go, an anthem in celebration of the 60s TV show of the same name. The song may have harked back to an era already forgotten by most hardcore Punk Rockers but it was their strongest yet & fired them straight back into the pop charts Ready Steady Go was a bona fide hit record - with airplay!!!
Generation X was released in March 1978, hot on the heels of The Buzzcocks Another Music In A Different Kitchen. Many of Punks big guns had already gone off (in order of appearance): debut LPs by The Damned, The Clash, The Boys, Sex Pistols, Wire & The Adverts had already hit the pockets of young Punks hard.
Generation X opened with the sonic assault of From The Heart: the boys didnt just wear them on their sleeves in the early days, they wrote about them too. A searing blend of 60s mod suss & calculated punk aggression, complete with guitar abuse that surely warmed the cockles of Pete Townsends rapidly ageing heart. One Hundred Punks kept the pressure up from the off an excellent tribute to the outsider/underdog trying so (too?) hard to be accepted by the newest gang in town. Handclaps, harmonies & one of the best Punk guitar sounds yet achieved by anyone. Listen makes its case for new ears, promising change in return for effort get on up, get involved:
Whats it like to play a part?/Whats it like to have a wooden heart?/Just a puppet on a string.
Generation X were blessed with one of the most truly gifted rock & roll guitarists in Punk rock in the shape of Derwood. The man knew his shit backwards, & Generation X is testament to his awesome six-string dexterity. His licks, fills & solos are tight, minimalist & melodic throughout, & still dominate the LP like a colossus.
Ready Steady Go still raises the hairs on the back of your neck: images of Cathy MacGowan, name checks for the Beatles, Bobby Dylan & Rock & Roll, prove once again that Generation X were as in love with the past as the future they were presently involved in the writing of. Kleenex, another storming rocker, chuggs along on a monster riff with ooh-eee-ooh backing vocals & a strident chorus:
Whats he gonna do next, whats he gonna do now use a Kleenex.
Sadly, a tie in with the tissue company failed to materialise & the chance to make a shed load of dosh ahead of schedule fell by the wayside. Promises Promises has an air of majesty about it. Ostensibly, a song about authenticity, it contains some wonderfully barbed digs at the Punk elite:
We play worse than they do
Never sell out like they did
Where were you in 1975 when there were no gigs
Watch out kid, youre next in line
Who could they have been having a pop at? The list of suspects is as long as the sleeves of a Seditionaries t-shirt & twice as likely.
Day By Day was re-recorded from the b-side of Your Generation & fitted the general atmosphere of the LP perfectly. The Invisible Man was one of the LPs more modest cuts the fact that Generation X could do Generation X by numbers so early into their career was indicative of the lack of quality control that would eventually shoot them down in flames.
Kiss Me Deadly is Generation Xs first true epic (the kind of tune they would expand & decorate vividly for most of their second LP) wracked with angst & loaded with imagery, its still a powerful & beautiful song nigh on 25 years since it hit the tape. Too Personal is a tetchy put down to (possibly) an overfriendly female associate with ideas above her station:
If love is possession, baby, you better change.
The LP closes with Youth, Youth, Youth, another attempt at re-writing My Generation as a further ode to alienation:
I never want to be an adult/I always want to be involved.
Youth: wasted on the young.
Youth, Youth, Youth closes with an extended guitar work out thats part Townsend, part Hendrix & all pretence. Punters could be rightly be excused for wondering exactly which revolution Generation X were involved in!
Generation X is often maligned by hard line Punks for being too poppy, too Moddy & a touch shoddy. This is grossly unfair Generation X may not have been the Punkest Punks on the block, but they had the lineage, theyd done their R&R homework & they never forgot to sound like they were at least having fun.
Generation X deserves its place in the Top 10 UK 2cnd Wave Punk Rock Debuts on merit, & if youve previously shied away from them due to crimes committed in a later life by Billy Idols solo career & Tony James Sigue Sigue Sputnik, then get off the snob bus & give it a shot. They even made half a good second LP with Valley Of The Dolls, including the awesome Running With The Boss Sound. Generation X captured the zeitgeist perfectly with Generation X: the second wave was upon us before the first wave had time to decide where they were going next. The fall out from the Punk Rock explosion was gathering momentum & heading for the suburbs & the satellite towns of the UK it would get to everyone, eventually.
Evan Halshaw trakMARX.com Jan 2003
Jean Encoule recently tracked down Generation X guitarist, Rob Andrews aka Derwood, to quiz him on his time with the band.
trakMARX - What were you up to in the days before Punk landed in the UK?
Derwood - In the summer of '76 I was 16 and working at Kensington Palace as Princess Margaret's gardener. Sunbathing and smoking dope in the Royal tool shed.
trakMARX - When did you first discover the term "PUNK", & in what context?
Derwood - I wasn't aware of Punk until Dec 4th 1976 when our band, Paradox, decided we should do a gig and about 200 Punks showed up thinking we were a new Punk band. We started with Johnny B. Goode into Smoke on the Water and finished with
Johnny B. Goode and repeated that a few times until fisticuffs broke out. We locked ourselves in the dressing room and hoped everyone would leave.
trakMARX - How did you 1st meet up with Tony & Billy?
Derwood - Billy was at that gig looking for a guitarist, I guess. We exchanged phone numbers and 6 days later Generation X played our first gig.
trakMARX - You chose yr. band's name from the spine of a paperback. Can you remember the author or the title's implied significance?
Derwood - Billy and Tony had the name by the time I joined. One of the best names for a group, I reckon.
trakMARX - Right from the off, hacks (Parsons particularly) seemed to enjoy painting Generation X as a bunch of do-gooders. Don't drink, don't do drugs - what did you do?
Derwood - I think we drank a lot and did lots of drugs.
trakMARX - Generation X shared both sonic & sartorial influences with the Mod movement. Who brought that to the table?
Derwood - I think it was a mutual respect and empathy for The Who, Mark Laff, the
drummer, being the main fan.
trakMARX - By the time "Your Generation" blew out of the box (Sept 77), many of the "big guns" had already gone off. What did you make of those first
Derwood - Everything sounded pure and true and like nothing that had come before. They were exciting times.
trakMARX - "Wild Youth" was somewhat of a disappointment by comparison, although it's dubbed b-side was way ahead of the pack. Were Generation X in too much of a hurry at that stage?
Derwood - I think Wild Youth was great Generation X music. What can I say? We should of pursued the Wild Dub thing much more. It wasn't until the third album that we got back on track to try and solidify what Generation X music was to be. By then it was too late.
trakMARX - Considering the "high art" aspect of much of Martin Rushent's later work, how did you get along making "Generation X"?
Derwood - Martin told great jokes. His engineer, Alan Winstanley, was more responsible for the sound of that album.
trakMARX - The debut LP was a superb sonic market place for your dominant guitar sound. At the time did you feel you'd said all there was to say on the subject?
Derwood - Yeah, I think putting a 4 minute guitar wreck on the end of the album showed we really didn't give a fuck.
trakMARX - By the time the debut LP had hit, Punk was already on the back foot. Did it feel that way at the time?
Derwood - Yeah, the first 6 months or so was unforgettable. After that it all started to become what Punk was supposed to destroy.
trakMARX - Was there any camaraderie between Tony, Mick, Rat, Brian, Matt & any other London SS strays?
Derwood - Tony and Mick were each others greatest fans, it was kinda gay if you ask me.
trakMARX - The London SS spawned: The Damned, The Clash, Chelsea, Generation X & The Boys - did you ever hear what they actually sounded like?
Derwood - No, they didn't do anything as far as I know. I did here Tonys hippy band, Random Frog. That was funny.
trakMARX - The Pistols & The Clash benefited greatly from a resident hoodoo guru man. Did Generation X miss out in this department?
Derwood - Yes, we had sloppy seconds management. No vision whatsoever.
trakMARX - The choice of Ian Hunter as producer of the 2cnd LP raised a few eyebrows back in the day. Strange choice, or have we all just conveniently
forgotten how much of a massively respected influence Mott The Hoople actually were?
Derwood - We actually were hoping for Jimmy Page, but he didn't want to know.
trakMARX - Was there any connection between Mick Jones' (Clash) adoration of Hunter & that of Tony James?
Derwood - Of course. It was interesting working with Hunter, but by that time we were all guilty of being blinded by ego. We took a wrong turn away from the first album, that was truly us, and began to emulate our heroes and so, to me that album sounds like anyone else. Not Generation X music. Billy wanted to be Bruce Springsteen, I wanted to be Paul Kossoff/Mick Ronson, Mark wanted to be Keith Moon and I was never sure about Tony.
trakMARX - That barked Strummer invective, "You're my guitar hero", or the Steve Jones sprayed cab: "Guitar Hero", were both somewhat at odds with the
Punk ethic that you "didn't need to be able to play too well". As one of the most technically gifted guitarists on the scene, were you aware of the
Derwood - There were contradictions everywhere. But you have to realise how young and naive we all were. As soon as a taste of ' Rock Star' trappings came along, ethics went out of the window. Not just for Generation X. I don't mean money either, we never got more than about 30 quid a week, ever! Just the fact of being taken seriously and getting away with stuff, you know.
trakMARX - Your solo intro & stunning lead work on "Running With The Boss Sound" still stands head & shoulders above the rest of "Valley Of The Dolls"
today. Why did the LP tail off the way it did (it almost sounded like a different band by side 2)?
Derwood - I think I just answered that one. Not a bad Koss impression though.
trakMARX - The supporting 45s from "Dolls" proved to be hits & all the razamataz that entails duly followed. How did you enjoy your time in the "fast lane"?
Derwood - I liked it to a certain extent, who wouldn't? But it also troubled me to see the ugly side of people you thought you knew. Including me!
trakMARX - By the time "Dancing With Myself" changed from being a Generation X song to a Billy Idol song, how were you & the rest of the band coping with the singer's ambitions?
Derwood - I'd departed long before that happened. I could see it coming though, that's one reason why I split.
trakMARX - How did Generation X blow up?
I quit in '79 to pursue my own thing: Empire. I came back to tour Japan and try and finish the third album. I left for good at the end of '79. They carried on for a while as Gen X, then Billy left for the States, I believe.
trakMARX - How did Generation X feel about "White Wedding", the LA Years & the general practice of "turning rebellion into money"?
Derwood - I don't know how the others felt. I guess Billy got what he wanted and changed his persona into a cockney speaking biker and people bought it. Good for him. Although, 20 years on from his success, I get the impression that he's thought of as somewhat of a joke, like Gary Glitter ( without the child molesting) and consequently Generation X will not be thought of in the same class as The Pistols, Clash & The Damned. Which is a travesty as we were a great Punk band for a while and took a lot on the chin. Oh well.
trakMARX - Tony James has allegedly been punting to reform London SS (it stood for social security by the way, ain't that right Mick?). What chance
Generation X reforming if that doesn't work out for him?
Derwood - Absolutely no chance. We did it about ten years ago in London. It was real fun but that was it for me.
trakMARX - Looking back on it all now, would you change anything if you could?
Derwood - Yeah, I'd of got things in writing rather than leaving it to trust and honour. But that's about it. It was a great time for music and it was good to be a part of it.
trakMARX - Did Punk Rock achieve anything after all?
Derwood Yeah, and it still is. Music is timeless and even something recorded 30 or 50 years ago can be brand new to someone who's just discovered it, and the meaning and energy remain. Punk Rock put a huge dent in music, as it should of.
trakMARX - What do you make of today's dangerous young rock & roll rebels?
Derwood - It seems very comfy to me, but then again I was in different times.
trakMARX - What do you listen to these days?
Johnny Cash, Trojan Reggae, old Jungle, and the radio, I guess.
trakMARX - Considering the recent sad loss of Joe Strummer at such a relatively early age, did his passing inspire you to pick up where you left
off (while there's still time)?
Derwood - It didn't inspire me whatsoever. It was sad and shocking. I think Punk has to be created and performed with youth, otherwise it's a sad joke.
trakMARX - What lies over the horizon for Derwood in 2003?
Derwood - Well, to be honest, musically I've done everything I wanted to do. I was lucky enough to be in a great Rock & Roll Punk band. I created my own perfect pop band, Westworld, and had a blast with that. And now I put out albums with my band, Moondogg, when I feel like it. My Empire album comes out on CD this year, which is cool, and I play in a band called Speedtwinn with my buddy, Gary Twinn, of Twenty Flight Rockers fame. So with all that, plus living in the Californian Desert with a bunch of Red Neck bikers, I have all bases covered, so I'd be quite happy for nothing to change at all.
Derwood was talking to Jean Encoule trakMARX Feb 2003