Billy Idol

  • Punk rocker born William Broad in 1955, from Stanmore, Middlesex England.
  • He picked his “Idol” stage name because a school teacher described him as “Idle.” He thought of going by Billy Idle, but he didn’t want the same name as the Monty Python star Eric Idle, so he chose Idol instead.
  • Idol joined the punk rock band Chelsea in 1975, playing guitar and singing. The following year, he and 2 others from the band left to form a new band, Generation X. Their brand of punk was inspired by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, so they had a bit more ‘pop’ sound to them compared to other punk bands of the day. Idol developed his glam rock look during this period. Generation X made 3 albums and performed in the punk rock documentary film D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage. The group split up in 1981.
  • After the end of Generation X, Idol moved to New York and started his solo career. He released an EP, Don’t Stop, in 1981. It contained a cover of Tommy James’ Mony Mony as well as a cover of Generation X’s Dancing With Myself. These songs did not initially chart, but as Idol gained popularity, they became signature songs for him.
  • His first studio album, the self titled Billy Idol, was released in 1982. It included the singles Hot in the City and White Wedding – they reached #23 and #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with White Wedding reaching #4 on the Mainstream Rock chart. As MTV gained popularity, Billy Idol was heavily featured on the channel, with heavy rotation of Dancing With Myself and White Wedding. 
  • His best selling album was his next record – Rebel Yell, released in 1983. The title track is one of my favorites – love the video (see below), during my peak MTV watching period. Another single, Eyes Without a Face, peaked at #4 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • His next 2 studio albums, Whiplash Smile in 1986 and Charmed Life in 1990, were both platinum sellers. The single To Be A Lover reached #6 on the Hot 100 chart, and Cradle of Love peaked at #2. In 1987, a Greatest Hits compilation was released, which included a live version of Mony, Mony. This version topped the Hot 100 chart.
  • He released one studio album in the 90s, one in the 00s, and one in the 10s. These records have less of a punk rocker feel to them – particularly his most recent work, Kings & Queens of the Underground. Still, they are unmistakingly Billy Idol, with a great rock sound.
  • Idol made a cameo appearance in the 1998 Adam Sandler cult classic film The Wedding Singer. 
  • This year, Pete Townshend developed a new version of the classic Who album Quadrophenia (see my October 22 post). The new version, called Classic Quadrophenia, takes the original album and adds orchestral arrangements to it. The album features Billy Idol as a vocalist, and he was a featured performer in the 5 concerts in the U.S. in September.
  • Watch the classic Rebel Yell, this is what 80s MTV was all about! How does he do that lip sneer thing? Kick ass guitar by Steve Stevens, who also played lead guitar on the Grammy award winning Top Gun Theme from the film of the same name.

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