Generation X emerged during the punk explosion of 1976. Singer Billy Idol had previously worked with bassist Tony James in the short-lived band Chelsea.
With Bob “Derwood” Andrews on guitar and John Towe on drums, Generation X made their debut in London in December 1976. By the following May, Towe had been replaced by Mark Laff. Towe reappeared in The Adverts.
Branded the Soft Walters of new wave by the music press, they endured hailstorms of beer glasses and gob at their gigs, but they were regarded as gold dust by the record companies eager to snaffle a premier division punk band.
The band signed with Chrysalis Records in July 1977 and soon arrived in the lower regions of the UK chart with Your Generation and Ready Steady Go.
The latter, strange for a punk group, was an affectionate tribute to the 1960s, full of references to Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Cathy McGowan (legendary presenter of the 1960s UK music programme Ready, Steady, Go!).
Their biggest commercial success was with their 1979 single King Rocker, which reached #11 in the UK.
As lead singer and visual focus of the band, blonde Billy Idol – a kind of new wave Alvin Stardust with eyeliner and pursed lips – received most of the media’s attention, to the point of making him England’s first teeny-punk heartthrob. He began a relationship with Hot Gossip dancer Perri Lister while his growing drug addiction eroded his friendship with Tony James.
The group’s name was abbreviated to Gen X, and a new line-up emerged with James Stephenson on guitar and Terry Chimes on drums, and Billy took to wearing a cape and a leather codpiece on stage.
After the pulsing Dancing With Myself stalled at #62 (twice), the band called it a day early in 1981, with Idol going on to an extremely successful solo career, especially in the USA.
Chimes rejoined The Clash, Tony James later formed Sigue Sigue Sputnik, while Stephenson joined Gene Loves Jezebel and eventually The Cult.
Bob ‘Derwood’ Andrews