Generation X – “Valley of the Dolls” (1979)

I haven’t been a good blogger this week.  In fact if there’s one word that would describe my blogging this week it would be “absent”.  Truth be told I was in Los Angeles “enjoying” my 21st business trip of 2016 (with at least two more scheduled…) and by time I wrapped up yet another seemingly endless day’s worth of meetings all I wanted to do was stuff my face, drink some beers, and go to bed.  So that’s what I did.  Now it’s Friday night and I’m feeling parts guilty for not having blogged and relieved for finally being home with Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane, our dog, Pleepleeus (♠), a moderately well-stocked bar, and my turntable.  And since my glass is full of Jack, why not spin some vinyl, right?

In the early 1980s we lived in Columbia, South Carolina.  I was in junior high and had just discovered music and MTV and had a Walkman, but did not yet have a mullet.  My mom was a hairdresser at a salon inside of a Sears store back when department stores were a real thing that actually existed and that people actually shopped at, bizarre stores where you could buy clothes and jewelry, but also power tools, appliances, electronics, records, and get your hair done.  The Sears was one of the anchor stores in the mall, and the mall also had one of those tacky chain mall music stores in which I bought some of my very first albums and became terrified by the cover art of Dio’s Holy Diver.

During summer vacation I’d go to work with my mom and spend all day at the mall.  Sometimes the other hairdressers would send me out on errands, or to pick up lunch, and kick me a buck or two, and that money either went to the arcade (♣) or the music store.  Toni worked with my mom, and she had what to my pre-teen eyes was an impossibly hot teenage daughter who dressed very early 1980s punk-wave, and I remember the day after Billy Idol had come to town hearing Toni tell my mom that her daughter had been in the front row, scratched Billy’s chest, and dug the skin flakes out from under her nails to save.  That’s devotion.

genxvalleydolls

Generation X was Billy Idol’s band before there was truly a Billy Idol and “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell” and “Flesh For Fantasy”.  They were part of the LA scene, sort of a cross-over between punk and new wave and sounding a lot like photo-sleaze metal at times.  For as much as I’ve read about how Gen X was an important part of the scene, 1978s Valley of the Dolls feels a bit dated.  I would, of course, never say such a thing to my friend Patrick who is a Billy Idol mega-super-fan, because I’d be in store for a lecture about the awesomeness that is Billy Idol.

Look, I’m a big fan of early-MTV in the midnight hour I want more more more Billy Idol.  The mixes of his hits on Vital Idol are classics.  But it’s hard to pair Generation X Valley of the Dolls Billy Idol with the early 1980s new-punk-wave icon.  That’s not to say this is a bad album, because it most certainly is not.  But it feels very “proto,” something that’s before it’s time, a like the mid career paintings of a later master artist.  The elements are here, but the personality is missing.  It’s close.  You can hear hints of what is to come if you pay attention.  It’s a nice day for a… white wedding…

(♠)  Pleepleeus is a small stuffed monkey we bought at the airport in Lisbon, Portugal.  He is now our de-facto mascot and traveling companion.

(♣)  I was pretty good at Track & Field, but even better at Hyper Sports, being downright deadly in archery and skeet shooting. (♥)

(♥)  Did I mention that right across from the arcade in the mall was a totally legit NY style pizza joint that sold pizza by the slice?  The kind that are bigger than your head but as thin as a piece of cardboard.  So good.