Chelsea in session for John Peel tonight. Together since 1976, with a lot of changes in personnel, but still gigging and recording some 42 years later.
Chelea got started in 1976. Three of the four original band members went on to found Generation X.
More than two decades after its release, the band’s debut single, “Right to Work”, was included in the Mojo list of the best punk rock singles of all time.
The original line-up of the band was assembled in late 1976 by John Krivine, the owner of Acme Attractions, a fashion boutique shop in King’s Road in Chelsea, London, comprising vocalist Gene October, guitarist William Broad (later and better known as Billy Idol), bassist Tony James and drummer John Towe; James and Towe had previously been in London SS. After three support gigs playing cover versions of other bands’ songs, Idol and James departed in November 1976, taking Towe with them, to form Generation X. The rest is history.
October then recruited Carey Fortune (drums), Martin Stacy (guitar) and Bob Jessie (bass), with the last two soon replaced by Henry Daze (Henry Badowski) and James Stevenson.
Chelsea’s first single, “Right to Work”, was released in June 1977 by Step-Forward Records. Recorded by the October/Fortune/Daze/Stevenson line-up of the band, it was their most popular song, and also appeared on the soundtrack album (issued in 1978 by Polydor) to the 1977 Derek Jarman film Jubilee (which October had appeared in).
Simon Cade Williams, aka Simon Vitesse, joined the band as bassist in 1977 for a UK tour and the band’s second single, “High Rise Living”. This rapid turnover of band members was characteristic throughout Chelsea’s existence, with October the only constant presence.
On August 25, 1978 the band released another single, “Urban Kids”, which was co-written by October and Alternative TV and produced by ex-Who manager Kit Lambert.
After spending 1977–78 touring in the UK and overseas, they released their first album, Chelsea, in 1979.
A singles compilation, Alternative Hits, was released in 1980; it was also issued in the U.S. by I.R.S. Records, retitled No Escape.
In the early 1990s, a line-up featuring the returning Austin and new bassist Mat Sargent released The Alternative (1993) and Traitors Gate (1994) albums. In 1999, the line-up from the first album, including Stevenson, reformed for the Social Chaos Tour across North America. A live album, Metallic F.O.: Live at CBGB’s (released 2002), was recorded at CBGB in New York City during this tour.
Augmented by Buzzcocks bassist Tony Barber, the band released Faster, Cheaper and Better Looking in 2005. Austin and Sargent returned in 2011, and this line-up released the album Saturday Night Sunday Morning in 2015. The Mission Impossible album followed in 2017.
And there you have it. If you missed them the first time around, crank up this session for Peel, their first of two (the other one is from 1978) and punch a hole in the sound barrier.