It was in August 1976 that Gene October placed an advert in Melody Maker which led to replies from guitarist William Broad, bassist Tony James and drummer John Towe. On October 18th they made their live debut as Chelsea supporting Throbbing Gristle at London's ICA. It was at this time that Gene convinced the manager of gay London nightclub in Covent Garden called Shageramas, to convert the club into London's first live punk rock venue called The Roxy - a fact for which he is given little credit. The band split in November 1976 where Gene briefly recruited guitarist Marty Stacey & bassist Bob Jessie. The other three former members formed Generation X. When Gene was asked about his former band colleagues he said "Generation X? Oh yeah they used to be in Chelsea."
In early 1977 Jessie and Stacey left and Gene put together a new line up consisting of guitarist James Stevenson, bassist Henry Daze and drummer Carey Fortune. This line up was slightly more permanent and soon the band's first single, the punk classic Right To Work, was released. However, not long after the release of the second single High Rise Living, Chelsea played their "farewell" gig on October 6th 1977 at The Roxy.
Gene appeared in Henry Rollins tour memoir book and spoken word CD; Get In The Van. In the book, Rollins encountered October twice, the first time on an early Black Flag tour of the UK, when October kept kicking Rollins to wake him up. The second encounter occurred during a later Black Flag tour.
Gene appeared in two films by Derek Jarman; 'Jubilee', in which he played the character 'Happy Days' and in 'Caravaggio' he appeared as a fruit-eating model. Gene can also be seen in a blue suit at the rugby match scene in the horror film The Omen. Gene appeared on the T.V series Minder and is also the scroll reading monk in the Black Sabbath video for 'Headless Cross'.
As we all know "farewell" gigs are not to be taken seriously and in December Chelsea reformed as a five piece with rhythm guitarist Dave Martin, bassist Geoff Myles and drummer Steve J Jones joining October and Stevenson. Extensive gigging and the third single Urban Kids was released before drummer Chris Bashford replaced Steve J Jones. The first album was released in early 1979 and the band continued to tour extensively including UK dates supporting The Clash and another tour, with The Police supporting them ! They also made their first foray into the U.S with an East Coast tour. As the first album contained none of the band's singles, a compilation of them was released as the second album; 'Alternative Hits' which also featured a couple of new tracks. The album sleeve designed by drummer Chris Bashford was banned in the U.S and so renamed 'No Escape' for that territory.
This line-ups final show was at London's Notre Dame Hall on May 2nd 1980. They'd actually been together for two years! Sting got up and guested on a few numbers. James Stevenson, after playing on Charlie Harper's debut solo single Barmy London Army, went on to join the final incarnation of Generation X before spending a year in Kim Wilde's band. Stevenson formed Hot Club with former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and in 1985 he joined Gene Loves Jezebel. Dave Martin and Geoff Myles formed The Smart and as for Gene he did what he'd done before - recruited a new Chelsea line up and took it back out on the road.
A temporary line up still featuring drummer Chris Bashford toured America later in 1980 during which their appearance in "Urgh! A Music War" was shot. Then in December 1980 the band split leaving Gene, once again, to rebuild and relaunch Chelsea. Having produced some of Punk's finest moments such as the single Right To Work and the self titled debut LP it seemed to many as though Chelsea's finest days had gone. But Gene had other ideas and over the next three years came up with some of the band's strongest and most enduring material.
A new Chelsea line up featuring drummer Sol Mintz, bassist Tim Griffin and guitarists Stephen Corfield and Nic Austin debuted in January 1981. Austin became a strong song writing partner for Gene as aired on Rocking Horse the line up's first single and Chelsea's first for over a year. The band was reduced to a four piece following the departure of Corfield and a gig at London's Fulham Greyhound once again featured Sting guesting on bass as Griffin left the day before, later replaced in September 1981 by Paul "Linc. 1982 saw continuous gigging and the infamous 'So What Tour' with Anti Nowhere League, also the release of the third Chelsea album 'Evacuate' which gained substantial critical acclaim, hailed as "Chelsea's finest hour" in the music press.
After1984 this version of Chelsea came to a close. Gene issued a couple of solo singles 'Suffering In The Land' and 'Don't Quit' (the latter featuring James Stevenson and Glen Matlock). Chelsea took a hiatus for a few years before Gene put together various line ups, releasing the albums Original Sinners, Rocks Off and Underwraps which never really lived up to the recordings the band made between 1977 -1984. Underwraps is notable for featuring The Clash's Topper Headon on drums. German punk supergroup; Die Toten Hosen, covered Chelsea's electrifying debut 45 The Right To Work which went platinum. Gene commented (The Loner) "Collectors items... I don't give a damn".
1992 saw Nic Austin's return to Chelsea with new recruits Mat Sargent on bass and Stuart Soulsby on drums. After touring Europe 'The Alternative' album was recorded and released in April 1993 on Miles Copelands I.R.S label 'Alto Ego'. Rob Miller was recruited as 2nd guitarist for 2 extensive Chelsea tours of the UK & Europe also recording the 'Traitors Gate' album which was released in August 1994 on the Wesser Label. Both 'The Alternative' and 'Traitors Gate' albums were produced by Dave Goodman who was known as the Phil Spector of punk and renouned for his work with The Sex Pistols. 1994 also saw the release of the first Gene October solo album; Life And Struggle, which was co-produced by James Stevenson. Mat Sargent went on to join Sham 69, also becoming veteran bass player for Splodgenessabounds.
The classic Chelsea line up featuring Gene October, James Stevenson, Dave Martin, Geoff Myles and Chris Bashford reformed for the Social Chaos tour across America in 1999. These were their first shows together since 1980.
The line-up of October/Stevenson/Bashford/Myles did sporadic gigs including; Holidays In The Sun festival 2001, Punk Aid at The Garage in London in September 2000 and the 100 Club in London in September 2001. Bassist Tony Barber, borrowed from the Buzzcocks, stood in as bass player for tours of Germany, France, Czech republic and UK appearances. Stevenson joined Mike Peter's revamped 'The Alarm' although he continued playing in Chelsea.
2005 saw the release of a new Chelsea album; ' Faster, Cheaper And Better Looking'. The Chelsea Anthology; 'Urban Kids' was also released in January 2005 on Sanctuary, containing a wide cross section of the band's essential recordings made between 1977 and 1983 as well as some bonus Gene October solo tracks including his never before released version of The Stooges 'Raw Power'.
October 2011 saw the return of Mat Sargent & Nic Austin to the Chelsea fold after 18 years, joining Gene October & James Stevenson. The release of the 10th Chelsea studio album 'Saturday Night Sunday Morning' in April 2015 brought writing collaborations spanning musicians throughout Chelsea's 40-year history. The 2015 'Urban UK tour' followed promoting the new album also 'The singles album' which was released on collectors white vinyl on the bands new label - Westworld recordings.
2016 - Saw the Chelsea 40th anniversary tour and the release of the entire back catalog of albums in the 'Chelsea definitive anthology' volumes 1,2 & 3. Each volume includes 3 albums chronologically with a history of the band through the years. The album re-releases include lyrics, bonus tracks, demos and unreleased tracks never heard before. 'Traitors Gate' was finally released on collectors' clear vinyl, 'The Alternative' on red vinyl and 'Faster Cheaper Better Looking' on white vinyl.
2017 - In June the new album 'Mission Impossible' was recorded and released on 20th October selling out within 3 days. Press reviews raved that Mission Impossible is the bands best work to date. The infamous Mission Impossible tour 2017 / 18 saw Chelsea play; France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland. Plagued with tour bus trouble, the band went through 10 busses on the tour but made it to every show. Stevenson and Morall left after the Mission Impossible tour, Steve Grainger took over on drums. James still occasionally guests with Chelsea.
2019 - Starting the year with Undercover Festival the band did a handful of UK shows and a European tour in September. Writing is underway for a new album due to be recorded early next year.
2020 - 'Meanwhile Gardens' the new album released on the bands 45th anniversary is Chelsea's 12th studio album and includes ex-Chelsea members from throughout the years as guest musicians. Martin Stacey & Bob Jesse from the 1977 line up, James Stevenson from the debut album, Rob Miller from the Traitors Gate album and Mike Spenser from The Cannibals guests on harmonica. The album cover was designed and drawn by the band in the back of the tour bus. Many of the tracks for the album were written on the road during the 2019 European tour and the album was recorded in-between lockdowns in 2020.