Sunday, January 26, 2014
Generation X - Valley of the Dolls
Today (January 26th) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Valley of the Dolls, the second studio album from Generation X. Produced by Ian Hunter, this album went to number 51 on the UK charts in 1979.
The line-up for Generation X included Billy Idol (vocals), Bob “Derwood” Andrews (guitar), Tony James (bass) and Mark Laff (drums). Idol and James co-wrote all of the tracks, however the first one was credited to the entire band.
Side one begins with “Running With the Boss Sound”, a post-punk track about the various genres of music filling the airwaves at the time.
“Night of the Cadillacs” tells of maniac drivers who terrorized the West End of London. The song has a heavy rock sound, until you get to the bridge which goes to the other extreme - a light, pop quality.
“Paradise West” is a ballad young soldiers that starts out acoustic before the rest of the band joins in.
The third single “Friday’s Angels” stalled at number 62 on the UK charts. With a repeat of the title at the end of each verse line, this one speaks to the façades people hid behind.
“King Rocker”, the first single, hit number 11 in the UK. This one mixes in rockabilly with punk while paying tribute to the King, Elvis Presley. This is my favorite track on side one.
Side two opens with the mid-tempo title track. “Valley of the Dolls” was released as the second single, reaching number 23 on the UK charts. It remarks on how the band had attracted a large female audience.
“English Dream” has a motivational message of following your dreams, backed by a mid-tempo rock rhythm.
“Love Like Fire” is straight-forward boy-meets-girl, boy-falls-for-girl, girl-breaks-boy’s-heart song. It features a searing guitar solo.
“The Prime of Kenny Silvers (Part One)” and “The Prime of Kenny Silvers (Part Two)” together make up a seven minute narrative tale about a young man who disappears into the London underground nightlife. He yearns to find a woman to love and he finally does.
The 2002 CD release added two bonus tracks. The first is a cover of John Lennon’s 1971 song “Gimme Some Truth”. The other was a cover of “Shakin’ All Over”, a 1960 hit for Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.
I was a big Billy Idol fan during my college years (still am) but most of his earlier work with Generation X was unknown to me until a few years ago. On Valley of the Dolls, one can hear the transition the band was making from its full on punk roots to a more mainstream rock sound (they were not there yet as this one straddles the divide between the two sounds). This was my first listen to the album; I definitely want to run through it a bit more before I consider picking it up at some point.