Perhaps the most underrated of the punk generation bands Generation X deserve another visit.
I guess at the time they looked to perfect, too pretty, too pop and were dismissed as lightweights (oddly enough they were loved by the early Dischord scene in Washington DC where they and the non Billy Idol post Gen X band Empire were a key influence on Minor Threat and the emerging hardcore scene in the city). Rock historians never like bands that girls want to fuck- only comfortable with bands that resemble themselves rock historians have conveniently removed whole swathes of groups from the narrative. This is unfortunate because Generation X cut some great records- classic punk rock pop from the early 45’s like ‘Ready Steady Go’, ‘Youth Youth Youth’ and ‘Wild Youth’ which are easily as exciting as some of their more esteemed peers like the Pistols or the Clash. In many ways I always felt that they were related to the Clash, bassist Tony James had cut his teeth playing with Mick Jones in London SS a non-gigging 1975 proto punk crew. They had the same sort of love of rock n roll but with an intelligent twist- Billy Idol (what a great punk name to give to yourself) may have liked to have played dumb but he was always a smart operator. Both him and James understood pop art- Tony James had his crash course from the Clash manager Bernie Rhodes and the pair of them we brimming with ideas from their initial days in the early Chelsea or Billy hanging out with the Bromley contingent. Even the name of the band generation X was knowing- being copped from a youth culture book from the early sixties.
‘Wild Youth’ remains one of my favourite punk singles- it sounds a raucous and exciting and anthemic as a classic punk record should and it sounds massive. Generation X always made really powerful sounding singles and their production was certainly better than the early Clash- maybe that’s not punk rock but damn these records sounded great.
The dub version of ‘Wild Youth’ is stunning, it has all the yearning and excitement of punk in a stripped down punky dub mix- a highly effective utilising of the dub style that was wafting around the punk scene- Gen X should get more credit for this but somehow they have been edited out yet again by the snobs in the new linear narrative of punk rock that seems to crush the movement down to a handful of approved bands.
All the way through their career its Billy idol’s vocals that really stand out- he’s such a great singer- with the sneer intact he’s got a pure rock n roll voice, rasping, powerful and convincing on every track.
The band’s romp through the punk era is signposted with really great songs, ‘King Rocker’ is a glam punk anthem, really funny lyrics and those amazing drums and that zig zagging riffs- an awesome tune it seemed to herald a big comeback for them becoming a mini hit when it was released but by the time they got to their next album, Kiss me Deadly’ the band was limping along but the criminally overlooked album is stuffed full of top tunes like ‘Dancing With Myself’ a powerful dark rock n roll tune which proved the band was still full on right to the end.
They collapsed after the UK tour for the album and Billy went to America and fully lived up to his name becoming the biggest selling artist from the punk generation whilst Tony James put together Sigue Sigue Sputnik- a brilliant pop art concept whose demos for the first album should be seeked out- rough and ready and full of great ideas this is their true moment.