"In the summer of '76 Billy Idol met Tony James in a Soho pub and, noticing they looked pretty good together, formed a group. Tony at this time was pretending to be a guitarist but Billy pointed out he never used the top 5 strings and, anyway, looked better playing a bass down by your knees.

For two months they practised with the drummer John Towe, with Billy playing guitar. After three gigs the three left to start their own group."

That evening Tony found a '60's paperback called GENERATION X, a romantic account of Mods and Rocker violence, under Billy's bed, and thought it would make a great name for the group. After phoning all their friends who hated it, they decided to use it anyway.

Since Billy decided he could sing better than he could tune his guitar, potential guitarists were auditioned but all were ugly or deaf. Then one night at a local youth club Billy spotted a young guitarist, Bob "Derwood" Andrews from Fulham.

The next night Billy & Tony took him to a party and introduced him to Marc Bolan, and realising that they knew stars, he joined immediately.

After five days rehearsal the group had lined up their first gig, but gigs were hard to come by for punk rock groups in the winter of '76. The group decided it would be easier to open their own club and play there, and so, on December18, played the first gig at the Roxy Club in Covent Garden which soon became the rock mecca.

The group quickly became very popular, with queues of punks and record companies stretching round Covent Garden for their regular shows. Just after Christmas, in a fit of generosity they decided to give John Towe 10 years off to learn to play in time. Impressed by his warm overcoat and spikey hair, Mark Laff, who was playing with minimalist group Subway Sect was then asked to join the group. Mark proved to be a great character, truly believing himself to be Keith Moon, and helped to improve Gen X's raw chaotic stage show.

The group was finally complete and the four Londoners continued to play a number of sold out concerts around the English clubs. Their London concerts soon became like company conventions, A&R men were attracted by the group's good looks and pop potential.

Gen X soon began to get a very large following & vast coverage in the teeny magazines, owing to their punk image. The music papers began to hate the group giving them continuous coverage every week for being such image conscious stars. Enhancing this reputation considerably, Tony stated in an interview that he would never have a fat person in the group. Journalists everywhere promised to flatten Tony for being so astute.

Chrysalis Records eventually signed the group with promises of ceaseless faith, creative control & huge advantages, which they handed over to the group’s managers to invest in Alfa Romeos for their wives & themselves.

The group’s first single, produced by Sweet/Baycity Rollers producer, Phil Wainman, whizzed straight into the charts at 38 & Gen X were the first punk band to sell out & go onto the fading Top Of The Pops, finally bringing punk rock home to the BBC.

Tony Blackburn, DJ for the show was not as thrilled as the kids, but the group continued to hound him at studio 1 with their next three hit singles, until the eventual break up of his marriage.

Billy & Tony went to see Chris Wright, head of Chrysalis, to see if he could help them find a new manager who was a friend of God, & he promised he would ask. God had several close friends & next day Billy & Tony flew to New York to meet them. One manager in particular seemed ideal & they got on very well, but they decided to keep his name a secret as they were so embarrassed about the other group he managed (Kiss!) During Nov/Dec, whilst their lawyers had lunch together, the group promoted their own tour of English clubs, at this time unable to release any records.

For some months Derwood's attitude to recording & playing had become increasingly disillusioned, indeed he began to find it impossible to remove his Rory Gallagher shirt. So after weeks without a bath he left to pursue a more suitable career in motorcycle maintenance. Realising this was an ideal opportunity to rid the group of the creeping heavy metal disease that had begun to afflict them, Billy & Tony decided to give Mark Laff their traditional ten years off to practice Led Zeppelin songs in case a vacancy ever occurred.

After a successful tour of Japan the group returned to produce their third album.

Despite their continued success the group found themselves broke. Their manager Stewart Joseph tried to help by looking for a bigger house & a new car for himself, but said he could do no more.

The group decided he should do no more, & since he seemed to avoid the heavy, sometimes fatal traffic conditions in London , asked their lawyer to have a quiet writ in his ear.

And then there were two; Billy & Tony, christened the Dodgy Charlatans, or CHARLATWINS as they became known, with a bunch of new songs & a bunch of writs from their old manager, loaded a fresh clip into their lawyer, pointed him at the enemy & waited for the dust to settle.

When the gold-dust did eventually settle in Stewart Joseph’s bank account, he was gone forever & then there were three.

Terry Chimes had heard the call up & arrived fresh from the Cowboys International & first Clash album, indeed with the same drumkit & unshakable rock steady beat. Billy had started to play guitar again & the three began rehearsing every day in a World’s End studio.

Gen X, as it was to be called, then decided to see whether, if they laid all the guitarists in England end to end, they would stretch from AIR number 1 studios to Chris Wright's house in Barbados . Steve New, the legendary horizontal man & guitar hero from the Rich Kids joined the group for two months, but had to leave whilst recording the groups new single to carry out some urgent chemical research. An urgent call brought Danny Kustow down to the studio to complete the track.

Producer Keith Forsey was flown back from LA for a third time to complete the album.

Keith Foresee, friend & drummer for Giorgio Moroder & Kenny Jones lookalike, promised to complete the album as long as Steve New was banned from the studio, although Steve Jones was sneaked back in to play on five tracks whilst Keith was on the phone to his girlfriend. To push the group further into debt, John McGeoch, guitar player from Siouxie & The Banshees was brought in to help out on the other seven tracks.

During this time it became increasingly apparent that it would be handy if the group had their own permanent guitar player who could help to split the debts four ways, instead of getting in people who expected a million pounds a minute (when they could stand up).

Eventually, all was delivered & after a minor incident with a naked 10 year old girl for the sleeve of the single (& a massive budget) Chrysalis were still happy, saying " If we cant make this a hit, we shouldn’t be in the business"

Much to everyone’s surprise, ‘Dancing With Myself’ received great reviews & amidst an expectant hush from Chrysalis, the record rocketed to no 62, then died of loneliness.

Undaunted, though suprisingly still in business, Chrysalis got ready to jump headlong (after weeks of meetings), into their favorite acts next adventure. Doug D’Arcy, managing director of Chrysalis UK, meanwhile was said to be consulting an exorcist about the group.

Meanwhile, the Charlatwins & Mad Chimer were back were back in their World’s End rehearsal studio teaching the 999th guitar player the chords to ‘Dancing With Myself’, wondering if a dead rhinoceros might look & play better, when in walked a white Les Paul clutching babyfaced James Stevenson.

After careful study to make sure it wasn’t Steve Andrews, the groups faithful A&R man, or the dreaded Doug in disguise in a last ditch attempt to get the group off their backs & out on the road again, it was discovered……..he could play.

Thinking this must be too good to be true, (he wasn’t a giraffe either) they made him join the group immediately before they woke up.

After 10 solid days of rehearsals, without sleep or food or Crossroads, the group had learned a catalogue of 20 songs & were ready to operate again. The group built a stage at the World’s End studio, renamed it the Congo Club for the night & invited all their friends, record company, press & punks. Everyone was mighty impressed; the difference between the new & the old was like night & day. A small tour was booked to lead up to Christmas to break in the new group & a new 4 track single of ‘Dancing With Myself’ comes out in the New Year. The title of the LP is ‘Kiss Me Deadly’.

Extract taken with thanks from Regeneration by Ray Stevenson  

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