Generation X - Generation X (Cover Artwork)

Generation X

Generation X (1978)


Full throttled rock n roll Gen X flailed full force into their seminal freshman release with songs about the truth within rocknroll, the markers of punk and alternative culture of the Gen x’s, and being part of the youth.

I sat at the train station as people shuffled about. While quiet on the platform, my world was exploding with the sounds of Gen X’s seminal self titled album. From the heart of a young Billy Idol growled the truth of rocknroll into my ears.

As the train stopped in the station and I boarded towards work in the city, the boys turned from the power of rocknroll to an anthem of the punk takeover. The ticket attendant stamped my pass and pointed to a button on my studded jacket that read, “I’m drunk.”

“It’s 1030 and you’re already drunk,” he questioned and laughed. He handed me back my pass, moved on, and left me with the words of Gen X, “they look so sharp, they look like one. If you ain’t got the look, you’ll never be one.”

Punks might have dressed the part to fit the roll but they weren’t the only ones. Gen X rolls from their anthemic shout out to the punk scene, to the Martha’s and Jennifer’s of their generation. “Listen” was the stiff finger to the airheads of the world. The ones that went nowhere and did nothing. The pawns.

The landscaped whizzed by my window. The local election was only a few days passed at this point and many people on the train still proudly bore their “I voted” stickers stuck to their outer layers.

“What’s it like to play the part?” Idol asked.

“You think your clothes and actions control the universe,” he replied to himself.

Tony James bass became apparent for the first time. That high thump that replied to Derwoods melodic and cool guitar. James’ playing was the kind that held everything down. When the guitar dropped out, the bass was there to remind you what time it was. Gonna change the world, they reminded us. For many punks growing up in later generations, these words rang true.

“Ready. Steady. Go,” and sure the music came in just as such. Ready and steady, it chugged at me as the train took off from another station. The drums, played by Mark Laff (who replaced Alternative TV’s John Towe by this time in the bands history), hit me with a beat so sure that my head noticeably shook involuntarily to other passengers. The vocal wail from Idol swelled to a big verse.

Previous to this particular train ride, I was unaware of the subject of this song. I enjoyed creating my own meaning from art. But who was Cathy McGowan, I wondered.

I had never before thought twice about the lyrics. All I knew was that I was ready and steady to go.

Ready Steady Go! was a British television show starring none other than Cathy McGowan. As I read this, I suddenly felt like a kinderpunk. A starter punk that had just cracked open my fresh punk kit.

Cathy McGowan was indeed a teen idol. The perfect answer to the times. Young and in-the-know, she was the presenter of the Friday evening music show that started the weekend for most British youth; they began every show with “The weekend starts here!” It was the counter-culture answer to shows such as Top of The Pops. The song even called out a competing show of the time “Juke Box Jury” as something that they weren’t in love with, because they’re “in love with Cathy McGowan.

Derwoods guitar followed the silence of Ready Steady Go with a soft laugh.

By this time, I had arrived to work to undress and redress in a stinky hallway. The restaurant didn’t have a room for employees, so I chose to allocate the stairwell to the alley as my catchall locker, changing, and relaxation room. I unplugged my earphones and blasted music from a small Bluetooth speaker, filling the spaces with the next song, Promises Promises.

As Derwoods guitar rang through the hall, a new coworker had peaked in through a door and asked me what was up. Upon hearing the song he smiled and chirped, “this is my favorite Gen X song!

“There are so many places it could end and they just keep going,” he laughed, “like right here.... but no, they’re not done!”

And he was right. I never noticed before but the song felt never-ending. The song clocked in at over 5 minutes, which made it the second longest song after Youth Youth Youth. But the well-crafted song never felt tiring to listen to. It was a journey to take. A journey that took too long and made me late for work. I quickly disconnected from my life, packed up my belongings, and clocked into work. The rest of Gen X would have to wait.

With another shift done, I picked up where I left off. After a long day of customer service and food industry woes, Derwoods guitar was there to blast me back into my reality. I always felt discontent after a hard days work, and today was no different. As I tore off my uniform that reeked of the days daily specials, I listened close to what the song had to say.

“Day by Day, it’s all work no play,” Idol squeaked at me, “I feel like a robot on the production line ain’t got no tomorrow on the circle line.” I walked out of my job, not looking forward to another work day tomorrow.

I hurried out of my job to catch the train home, feeling “locked into” a food service life I saw no future in. I passed suits and ties under umbrellas as rain began to fall on their nice shoes.

“Hate your next door neighbor ‘cause he’s not more than you.”

As I entered the train station and shook off the rain, Derwoods guitar crooned me to quiet my wildly beating heart. Kiss Me Deadly started as a lullaby that helped segue my mood from the outside world to my own. I found a bench on the platform and sank low into my seat.

This song was a favorite of my earlier youth. It was a call-out to all the bad shit you do when your young: going to shows, fighting, skipping school, and quietly having sex so your parents don’t hear.

“And later in a downstairs room she pulls her lover down in ecstasy. But they can’t make a sound case her mother comes down,” Idol crooned into my ears as I smiled a smile only the boys (and girls) I took home in high school would recognize.

Trains came and went. Eventually the right one stopped on the right track and I shuffled on with the rest of the commuters. I landed in the back of the train, slumped into a comfy spot and kicked my feet onto the top of the bench in front of me.

As the train left the station, Youth Youth Youth chugged into my ears. I dreaded doing the same routine again tomorrow.

Idol mocked me, “Don't wanna spend my life saving up for things. Don't wanna have what a steady job brings. I don't want security; don't want responsibility.”

Thanks, young Billy.

This album was timeless, but as actual members of generation X crowded into the train in their business attire, looking to head back to their suburban homes I looked at my worn out backpack sitting to my right. It was stuffed with my stank-ass uniform and it REEKED - a gross deterrent for all looking for a seat.

“I don’t want no uniform. I don’t want no book of rules.” Me neither Gen X, but we all got bills to pay.

I leaned back as Derwoods guitar lifted me out of the train, out of my situation, and away from the dirty glances of actual Gen x-ers. Gen X - the band - played for the youth. They played for the kids playing hooky and the punks looking for a place to belong. As Youth Youth Youth wailed to its climactic and frantic ending, I wondered just how much the youth of yesterday truly held to their beliefs.