21st Century Boy will not be heard today

While nobody said it publicly, I’m sure after reading last Monday’s post, you were all thinking, “But t, what about Tony?”

Yes, what about Tony? Tony James, the Yin to Billy Idol’s Yang (or vice versa. I’ve hardly the desire to put forth the effort figuring out which is supposed to be which in this instance) during his Generation X days. Well we all know that when Gen X went bust, and Billy stole “Dancing…” Tony was pretty much left without a pot to piss in, creatively speaking. So he decided to form a new band, with a new sound.

Now, Idol must have been a very taxing musician to work with, because when Tony started up his next venture, he hand-picked a band with very little prior musicianship, opting instead to choose individuals who “looked like rock stars” rather than actually being so. He went about it this way, because the whole idea to this new group was to be a total and one hundred percent sell-out, from top to bottom. The songs were constructed in such a fashion as to maximize their chart-ability, the wardrobes and hairstyles were created to garner attention – good or bad, it mattered not. The press – well, the press was almost ridiculous. I recall way back when listening to CFNY (the coolest New Wave radio station ever. Out of Canada, of course. The coolest New Wave nation ever) on my little radio; hearing that they even gone so far as to create a billboard wherein the lead singer was hanging from a cross, touting themselves as the “Second Coming of Rock & Roll” – pretty damned crass, right? But that was the whole point. Long before the world ever knew of Marilyn Manson, Tony James presumably tried to highlight mankind’s sheep like tendencies and gullibility in the knee-jerk reaction department, all while making a boatload of cash at the same time.

Quick side note – how is it, that every time we speak ill of our species, it’s OK to say “mankind,” but when we’re speaking highly of ourselves, we have to use the genderless “humankind?”

Anywho, where was I again? Oh yeah, Tony and the boys were attempting to show us all what sell-outs we were, by being sell-outs themselves (they even went so far as to sell commercial space in between the tracks on their debut album). The problem was, their plan didn’t work. Turns out, merely putting out lots of flash and thunder wasn’t enough to secure you a career. Turns out, we felt you needed some sort of talent as well (odd we felt that way then, when you consider all the talent-less and void “celebrities” we blatantly lust after today).

So in the final analysis, I feel that while Tony may have had a good idea, he applied a little bit too much shtick. The real DJ’s rebelled as a result (God bless you, Chris Sheppard!), and the resulting lack of airplay was deafening. Their second album was merely a plink in a pool already overflowing with 80’s style creativity. And while I believe Sigue Sigue Sputnik (did I even mention the band name yet?)  just recently got back together, the fact that I can’t even find the energy to verify that last tidbit of info, is telling as to how much long-term interest they’ve maintained.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Mr. Idol faired much better. Why it was only a couple of years ago that he went so far as to release a Christmas album. CHRISTMAS! My brother burned me a copy, but I’ve yet worked up the courage to give it a listen. Hey, I need my ears for the rest of my life, I can’t risk them becoming damaged.

So, why won’t we be listening to “21st Century Boy” today? Well, for two reasons. First off, I can’t find the version I like on Youtube (did I forget to mention? They made – on average – seventeen hundred different mixes of each and every song they recorded). Secondly, as I’m assuming most-to all of you at one point in time have seen “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the song I chose may be the only one you’ve ever heard from Tony and the boys.

Similar to “Dancing With Myself,” it’s still good for steering wheel beat-downs, just not nearly as heartfelt.

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Now, for a much more informed take on both the band and their first album, I would invite you to jump over to superstition is all we have left‘s bloggie (where I “fleeced” today’s picture from) – in the words of the best Doctor Who ever, Mr. David Tennant, their post on the subject is simply “Brilliant!”

Dancing With Myself

I’ve no explanation as to why, but on a recent trip home from school, I found myself slamming down the 290 while Generation X’s version of “Dancing With Myself” came blasting – yes, turned all the way up to 11 – through my tinny car speakers. Speakers that are surprisingly resilient, considering how tinny in nature they are.

I had started the trip feeling rather overwhelmed – in addition to everything else, I am foolishly taking statistics this semester – and was in search of some sort of inspiration for my next post. The disc being played (A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box Set, disc 3) was supposed to help, and considering that both mood and weather were rather dreary, I would’ve thought that it would have. But I was coming up blank. The disc that was supposed to inspire ended, and in went the next one in the queue, Generation X’s final effort, “Kiss Me Deadly.”

I’ve heard this album a million times before. I knew what song would be coming on first. And still, when the beginning “ba da da da dum de dum dum de dum” lofted through the small interior of my automotive cacoon, I found myself quickly turning up the volume while beating along on my steering wheel. Madly drumming, like some sort of mid-life crisised 43 year old caucasion suburbanite without a care in the world.

Without a care in the world…

That’s it. That’s why it hit me so forcefully. It was a song from back then. From the “not a care in the world days” of my youth. A time that, oddly, seemed simply chock full of cares right then and there. Cares, and drama, worries, strife and, well, “Life!” It wasn’t until years later that I could look back and see that most of the stress and concern from those days really could have been avoided or ignored, had I only the mental capacity and experience I have now. Obviously I realize that had I already possessed the knowledge obtained through my experiences back then, then I wouldn’t actually have said knowledge, as a result of simply not having the experience in the first. What? Oh, never mind, the Whovians who read this will get me. Everyone else can just skip that last bit.

Anwho, back to the song. That glorious, upbeat, in-your-face song. It’s important that you keep in mind that it was the Generation X version, or as they were called by then, “Gen X.” Yes, I fully realize that Billy Idol wrote the song. And I fully realize that he is the singer in both versions as well. But the Gen X version is stronger. More real. The Gen X version was performed by a bunch of kids trying to make something of themselves, vs. a kid recently signed to a somewhat major label that was controlling the strings. The Gen X version is drummed out forcefully by Terry Chimes. Yeah, the same Terry Chimes who had left The Clash to find a better gig. Think he was a touch pissed about his decision? Sure sounds like it here.

Now don’t worry, as I’ll end the post with the song any way, I won’t bore you with too many more of the musical details. But there is one more interesting point to the comparison of the two, especially for those of you who don’t listen through till the end. In Idol’s version, the song fades out. In the Gen X version, it ends. Just ends, plain and simple. A very punk rock idea. Songs end, they don’t fade out. Only record labels would think of that. Only record labels would be concerned with how their product could slide effortlessly into their next product, for the purpose of endless consumption. For the artist however (punk or otherwise), it’s more an idea of “finish the song, frame that bitch and slap it up on a wall for all the world to see – err – hear.” For the artist, it doesn’t need to “slide” into the next work of art, any more than The Mona Lisa slides into whatever painting has the dubious honor of being her next door neighbor. It can stand exactly where it is, survive and thrive on it’s own merit. The Generation X version has that attitude throughout. In it’s pace, it’s energy, it’s spirit and it’s ending. It says “hey, this isn’t a career,” (even though it was always Billy’s intent to make it so), “but rather this is everything. All we got. Our very spirit.”

“You’re reading too much into it, t.” Possibly. But for whatever reason, the last time I heard that song while in search of inspiration I realized that sometimes you don’t need to search. Sometimes you don’t need to think. Sometimes, all that’s required is that you turn it “up to 11,” beat the loving rubber out of your steering wheel and unleash. I can’t go back to those “without a care in the world” days (nor do I want to), but I can rest easy in the knowledge that these current times too, will someday be fondly remembered as relatively carefree and easy. And even then – in that not-so distant future – I’ll still be able to rock it out with Billy and the boys. I’ll just bruise a hell of a lot easier when I do.

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See? I told ya that the post that replaced this one on Friday was way better.