Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

After the moderate success of their debut album, the band went in to record their sophomore album with famed musician and producer, Ian Hunter.  Yes, the Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople.  The album would come out just a few months later in January 1979.  Before the album was released, the record company, Chrysalis, came to the band and basically told them, the album better succeed or they were to be dropped from the label…no pressure.

The album was quite different than the first album.  It had some of the punk sound from the first album, but there were elements of some glam (thanks to Ian) and even more of an American sound ala Springsteen (or at least what they felt was like Springsteen). The songs were a little more complex than the first album and the writing was more mature, but I am not sure it was good yet.

The two writing contributors were Billy Idol and Tony James so everything was based around what they wanted.  Heck, in fact when promoting the debut album, it was only Billy sent to America to promote it.  That started putting thoughts in Billy’s head about what he could do on his own. However, on this album, most of the influence on the album seem to be coming from Tony (he even picked the producer).  It was the start of things to come.

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Well needless to say, the album didn’t do very well.  It only peaked at #52 in the UK charts and touring didn’t go much better.  They were chased off stage at several shows by the punk crowds rebelling against them as a matter of fact.  Now that is punk!!  They have always struggled with the not being perceived as true punk due to their overall sound being more pop-punk than the more in your face punk of the The Sex Pistols and The Clash.  They were the black sheep of the family basically.

To make matters worse, guitarist Bob “Derwood” Andrews and Billy were kind of polar opposites and weren’t seeing eye-to-eye anymore and by the end of the tour, Andrews left the band.  And shortly after, drummer Mark Laff left the band which is no surprise as during the recording of this album, Ian wasn’t real thrilled with his “technical ability” and brought in a session drummer by the name of Clive Bunker to play the parts.  That had to hurt a little I would imagine.

Okay, time for some music…

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Side A:

The opening track “Running with the Boss Sound” was a great rocker full of energy and that punk sound, but at over 5 minutes it wasn’t your typical punk song.  It leaned more rock and had a great guitar solo from Andrews.  It really made the song and a great choice to open the album.  So far so good.

“Night of the Cadillacs” is perfect for track #2 as it continues the punk rock sound and really gets things flowing.  Not a bad one-two combination to start things off.  More aggression and more of what was great about the first album.  And this would be it!

With “Paradise West”, I don’t know what the hell they were going for.  It was not punk, it was like they thought the were trying to be Springsteen or someone great songwriter.  Billy’s delivery was odd and unappealing and overall the song structure was bizarre.  It just seem to go on and on and for me was a total clunker.

The third single from the album was “Fridays Angels”.  The single didn’t do well and failed to chart which was not a good sign for the band.  The song was really pop with shades of glam and yet kinda plain, but compared to some songs on this album it is much better.  If it had a little more edge musically, it might have fit nicely with Billy’s solo stuff.

The first single and one of my favorites from the album is the rockabilly track, “King Rocker”.  It made me think of the Stray Cats when I heard this and so naturally, I loved it.  As a single, the song did pretty good and peaked at #11 on the UK charts which is what they needed to happen after getting the ultimatum from the label.

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Side B:

The title track opens Side B.  “Valley of the Dolls” was the second single and reached #23 on the UK Charts.  It wasn’t punk by any stretch of the imagination.  It doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album, but it was still a good song.  It was a slower tempo, yet also a little glam which I am sure was influenced by Ian’s input.

“English Dream” was up next and I found it a little boring and flat and things don’t get better from here on out.

More of the same with “Love Like Fire”.  The back half of this album, with the exception of the title track, is not worth your time and not worth really commenting on for me. Alright, there is a bright spot on this track if only for a few seconds, Andrews guitar isn’t bad and the ending is pretty good and punk, but the song is all over the place.

Oh, if you think it can’t get any worse, you are wrong.  What the fuck are they doing with “The Prime of Kenny Silvers (Part One and Two)”? Are they progressive rockers?  These two songs are so bad and so out of place, I am at a loss.  Was Ian even in the room to give direction??  Who knows, maybe it is a classic and I just don’t get it.  Then again, maybe not.  I will say the transition between the parts had some music highlights with a piano and the guitar work but it turned in to a pretty depressing piece after that.

Track Listing:

  1. Running with the Boss Sound – Keeper
  2. Night of the Cadillac – Keeper
  3. Paradise West – Delete
  4. Fridays Angels – Keeper
  5. King Rocker – Keeper
  6. Valley of the Dolls – Keeper
  7. English Dream – Delete
  8. Love Like Fire – Delete
  9. The Prime of Kenny Silvers (Part One) – Delete
  10. The Prime of Kenny Silvers (Part Two) – Delete

The album for me was a big disappointment coming off the impressive debut.  The Track Score is 5 out 10 tracks for a 50% score which isn’t that great.  I thought the production of the album wasn’t impressive as it seemed there was no clear direction and the songs didn’t feel like they were a cohesive package.  It felt like the band didn’t know what they wanted to sound like and were still finding themselves.  Maybe Billy was too busy looking to go solo, who knows, but this was not a good effort.  Overall ranking is a 2.0 out 5.0 Stars.  I did like a handful of songs and they will go nicely in my Billy Idol playlist, but other than that you can skip this album.

If you want to check out the other reviews I have done so far, click the link below:

Generation X – ‘Generation X’

Up next will be the review of the Gen X album ‘Kiss Me Deadly’.

10 thoughts on “Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

  1. Interesting point about the band finding themselves – it’s tricky, as when a band starts to sound formulaic, that’s an issue, but also I agree, if they sound sort of lost, that’s not ideal either. Perhaps they’ll hit a happy medium in between on the next album!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Never a good sign for an album if the members aren’t on the same page, which seemed to be showing on this one, eh? Definitely not helped if the producer decides the drummer is replaceable.

        Liked by 1 person

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