Long before Billy Idol created his cartoon rock start image and remote control sneer, he started perfecting his public persona on the UK stages as the singer for Generation X. As with the other early Punk pioneers they had their own sound and style that was individual to them, heavily influenced by 50s Rock ‘N’ Roll such as Gene Vincent or Eddie Cochran but with a more aggressive kick.
Starting out with Gene October’s Chelsea before leaving him to create his own band, William Broad (Billy Idol), John Towe and Tony James formed Generation X with the name taken from the title of a book. The band had their first gig in December 1976 and took off from there, and in less than a year had signed for Chrysalis Records and released “Your Generation” which headed up the charts to No: 36.
With Billy Idol they had a charismatic front man who the cameras loved, and with the band far less abrasive than Punk bands of the time they were easier to market to the listening public in the mainstream. The release of their most successful single in the UK confirmed their status what we might call today Pop Punk, “King Rocker” rocketed up the charts to no: 11 with a more polished Rock ‘n’ Roll sound that really sound and style with public approval.
This, unfortunately, was followed by the start of the band’s decline, poor sales of the 2nd album “Valley of the Dolls” was a big disappointment only reaching 51 in the charts. The original Punk fans of the band had already turned their backs on the band for the commercial route they had taken and internal disagreements also manifesting itself at this time, it seemed to be only a matter of time before Generation X were going their separate ways.
Tony James and Billy Idol carried on with a new line up and reinventing themselves as Gen X, creating a softer sound presumably to replicate the sounds that was in the charts at the time and some chasing commercial success. With the album “Kiss Me Deadly being released and failing to chart the end was in sight for the band, by this time drug issues and further disagreements were more prominent than musical success.
Looking back you might say the music Generation X produced was very underrated at the time, the album “Valley of the Dolls” often being highlighted as not getting the recognition it deserves. With Tony James going on to form a number of bands including Sigue Sigue Sputnik, and Billy Idol going on to be… well Billy Idol, I don’t really think there is an argument to be had regarding the pairs best musical years.