It was in August 1976 that the nigh on twenty year career of Chelsea began.
An advert placed in 'Melody Maker' by vocalist Gene October led to replies
from drummer John Towe, guitarist William Broad AKA Billy Idol and bassist
Tony James and two months later, on October 18th and under the moniker LSD,
they made their live debut supporting Throbbing Gristle at London's ICA.
Early November saw the band, now called Chelsea, supporting The Buzzcocks
at Manchester's Electric Circus but their final gig in this incarnation came
on November 21st when they supported The Stranglers at The Nashville, West
Kensington. The main reason given for the split was that the band were
playing too many Idol / James compositions for Gene's liking so whilst he
set about finding new members Idol, James and Towe took off to form Generation
X, Towe also later turning up in The Adverts, and the UK Subs. When Gene
was asked about his former members his reply was "Generation X? Oh yeah,
they used to be Chelsea!"
In February 1977 Gene had recruited bassist Bob Jessie, guitarist Marty
Stacey and drummer Carey Fortune and debuted with a support slot to The
Clash at The Roxy but again the line up proved less than stable and by
April of the same year James Stevenson (who'd previously been in Inner
City) had taken over from Stacey and Henry Daze (Henry Badowski) had come
in for Jessie. It was this line up that recorded the "Right To Work" / "Loner"
45 (Step Forward SF 2) which was released on June 1st and was followed by
gigs with the likes of The Boys (London Music Machine), The Cortinas, Sham
69 and The Lurkers (London Acklam Hall) as well as dates in Birmingham and
Glasgow. They also recorded the first of Chelsea's three Radio 1 sessions
for which they taped "No Admission", "High Rise Living", "Right To Work",
"Pretty Vacant" and "Blind Date". However not long after the session the
band actually played a 'Farewell' gig at London's Roxy (on October 6th to
By December '77 Chelsea had reformed as a five piece with guitarist Dave
Martin (ex-Peroxide Romance and briefly with the Rich Kids), drummer Steve
J. Jones (who'd been with Stevenson in Inner City) and bassist Geoff Myles
(former of Stormtrooper who'd released a single called "I'm A Mess" on
Solent Records SS 047) joining Gene and James though they didn't play on
the band's second 45 "High Rise Living" / "No Admission" (Step Forward SF 5)
which had been recorded with the previous line up of October / Stevenson /
Daze and Fortune. Early '78 saw a serious bout of gigging at London venues
like The Marquee, Roundhouse, Music Machine, 100 Club, Speakeasy and Rochester
Castle as well as Gene landing a role in the Punk film "Jubilee". The summer
of '78 saw this line up playing UK dates with The Clash and The Specials,
recording a second John Peel BBC session (featuring "No Flowers", "Urban Kids",
"Come On" and "I'm On Fire") and then issuing the Kit Lambert produced "Urban
Kids" / "No Flowers" single (Step Forward SF 8). Dates with the likes of The
Fall, Prag Vec, The Decorators and the UK Subs were under-taken before drummer
Chris Bashford (ex-Swank and Bazoomis) took over from Jones and, in many
people's opinion, the definitive Chelsea line up of October / Stevenson /
Martin / Myles / Bashford was formed.
June 26th 1979, nearly three years after first forming, Chelsea's debut
self-titled LP was released (Step Forward SFLP 2). Featuring ten new songs
including a version of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross", the album
strangely didn't include any of their single releases. However, the sleeve
did include a tyre mark right across Dave Martin's face courtesy of a courier
who ran over the original artwork but failed to tell the printer in case he
Chelsea played constantly for the remainder of 1979, including a UK tour
with The Dickies and a major London show with Slaughter & The Dogs, an
appearance on BBC's "Old Grey Whistle Test" programme and also recorded a
third Radio 1 session, this time for Mike Read and featuring "Fools & Soldiers",
"Don't Get Me Wrong", "Look At The Outside" and "Trouble Is The Day".
Blackpool Wintergarden, 2006
Following the July 1980 departure of guitarist James Stevenson to
Generation X and the formation of The Smart by bassist Geoff
Myles and six stringer Dave Martin, Chelsea vocalist Gene October
and drummer Chris Bashford, along with a couple of temporary
replacements, fulfilled the bands commitments - such as gigs at
London's Lyceum with Infa Riot and at the Acklam Hall with The
Dark plus a short US tour during which their appearance in the
film "Urgh! A Music War" was shot - and then split in December
leaving Gene, once again, to rebuild and relaunch Chelsea.
Having produced some of the Punk world's finest moments, like the
singles "Right To Work", "High Rise Living" and "Urban Kids" plus
the superb self titled debut LP, it seemed to many as though
Chelsea's finest days had gone. Gene, however, had other ideas
and over the next three years came up with some of the bands
strongest and most enduring material.
The 'new' Chelsea line up of Gene, guitarist Nic Austin and
Stephen Corfield, bassist Tim Griffin and drummer Sal Mintz
(Malcolm Asling) debuted at London's Gossips on January 7th 1981
and then played numerous gigs around the capital over the
following couple of months including a mega Punk bash at The
Lyceum with the UK Subs, Anti Pasti and The Stiffs. Their vinyl
debut came courtesy of April's "Rocking Horse" 45 (B/W "Years
Away" Step Forward SF 17) which spent a month in the (then)
important Independent Chart, peaking at No. 30. This was followed
in the September by "Freemans" (B/W "I.D. Parade" and "How Do You
Know" SF 18), on Indie No. 27 that was backed by a series of UK
dates with Chron Gen. It was also Griffith's last recording with
the band - he left on September 18th 1981, the day Chelsea were
due to play the Fulham Greyhound and so with less than 24 hours
to learn the songs the show went ahead with The Police's Sting
filling in! Griffin's permanent replacement was Paul 'Linc'.
Lincoln who debuted on November 1981's "Evacuate" / "New Era"
single (SF 20), a brilliant 45 that spent 11 weeks in the Indie
Top 30 and which also saw the band reverting to a four piece with
the departure of Corfield. Dates with the likes of Black Flag and
Southern Death Cult followed and the year was seen out with a
Christmas show at Leeds Queen Hall that also featured the likes
of The Damned, Exploited, G.B.H., Bow Wow Wow, UK Subs, etc....
Early 1982 saw numerous London shows with the likes of Anti Pasti
and the Adicts plus the recording of new songs, the first fruits
of which were March's release of the classic "War Across The
Nation" 45 (SF 21) which reached No. 10 in the Indie Charts
during a two month run. The following month the brilliant
"Evacuate" album was released (SFLP 7) and it promptly shot to
No. 3 in the Indie Chart, helped no doubt by Chelsea's slot on
the UK "So What" tour with the Anti Nowhere League, Defects and
Chron Gen by which time Geoff Sewell had taken over from Asling
who'd joined the UK Subs. The band played loads of British dates
as well as undertaking a full American tour but, following the
October release of "Stand Out" (SF 22) and two sold out shows at
The Marquee (one with Action Pact supporting and the other with
the Defects) this particular period of Chelsea's illustrious
career came to a close.
Blackpool Wintergardens, 2006
Nic Austin went on to form Bandits At 4 o'Clock (which also
featured ex-Business guitarist Steve kent) and then took a break
from music. Linc joined Beki bondage in Ligotage. Gene,
meanwhile, issued a couple of solo singles - "Suffering In The
Land" and "Don't Quit" - before putting together yet more
versions of Chelsea though LPs like "Original Sinners", "Rocks
Off" and "Underwraps" failed to live up to the standards set by
the band's recordings between 1977-1983. 1993's "The Alternative"
and 1994's "Traitors Gate" albums again saw Gene working with Nic
Austin and bloody good albums they are though they remain the
last new material issued under the Chelsea banner.
In 1999 Chelsea reformed the 1979 classic line up for the Social Chaos Tour
of the USA alongside UK Subs, Vibrators, TSOL, DOA and many others. From
this tour they recorded the absolutely live Metallic F.O. album.
Ever since they have been an ever present at festival events such as Punk
Aid, Wasted, Punk and Disorderly and Anti Fest in Czech Republic. Finally
a new album "Faster Cheaper and Better Looking" has arrived on Captain Oi!
And is as good as anything they've done.
Last update: 25 April 2007