Craig Allen says: ‘Meet Billy Idol’
Billy Idol was born William Michael Albert Broad, November 30th, 1955, in Stanmore, Miiddlesex, England. Where did Billy’s stage name come from? He says it was inspired by a schoolteacher calling him “idle.”
When Billy was 3, his parents moved to Patchogue, Long Island…returning to England 4 years later.
The eventual Billy Idol attended a Boy’s School, and high school near London. He then went to Sussex University, planning to earn an English degree. That ended after a year, when Billy joined the “Bromley Contingent” of Sex Pistols fans in 1976. This was a fan group that traveled into town when the band played.
Billy Idol joined the punk band “Siouxsie And The Banshees” (before they had decided on that name) in 1976 (you might remember the band for their post-Idol hit “Kiss Them For Me,” in 1991). But Billy soon quit, and joined the band “Chelsea” in 1977. In this band, Idol was a guitarist.
Soon, Idol and “Chelsea” band mate Tony James left that group, and co-founded “Generation X.” In his own band, Idol switched from guitarist to lead singer.
Although “Generation X” was a punk rock band, they were inspired by mid-1960’s British pop, in sharp contrast to their punk rock peers. At the time, Billy Idol was quoted in the British press: “We were saying the opposite to the Clash and the Pistols. They were singing ‘No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones’, but we were honest about what we liked…building our music on the Beatles and the Stones.”
“Generation X” was signed to Chrysalis Records, and released three albums. They also performed in the 1980 film, “D.O.A” before calling it quits in 1981.
Now, it was time for Billy Idol to concentrate on a solo career…
Idol moved to New York City in 1981. Here, his ‘bad boy’ image was recognized as a plus: it worked well with the flashy glam-rock style of his new partner on guitar, Steve Stevens.
Idol’s solo career began with the 1981 Chrysalis Records EP “Don’t Stop.” It included the Generation X song “Dancing With Myself,” and a cover of “Mony Mony” (originally done by Tommy James And The Shondells).
Billy Idol’s debut solo album, “Billy Idol” was released in July 1982.
“Hot In The City,” one of Jersey’s Favorite Hits, was Billy Idol’s first U.S. chart hit, alanding at #23 in the fall of 1982. Enjoy the special “Trenton” version of this Idol HIT (on-air only), that I brought to the New Jersey 101.5 music library!
Idol became an MTV staple with “White Wedding” (#36/1983)
…and the video release (and radio re-release) of “Dancing with Myself.”
Billy’s 1984 album, “Rebel Yell” was a big seller, and helped to further establish Billy Idol in America.
“Rebel Yell” went to #46 on the charts in the U.S…#6 in Idol’s native England!
“Eyes Without A Face” was a #4 U.S. smash in the summer of 1984…
Followed by “Flash For Fantasy” (#29/1984),
and “Catch My Fall” (#50/1984).
The Rebel Yell album and it’s singles also helped Idol to become very popular in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand!
The album “Whiplash Smile” spawned the single “To Be A Lover” (#6/1986)…
…plus “Don’t Need A Gun” (#37/1987)
…and “Sweet Sixteen” (#20/1987).
At about this time, Idol’s music partner Steve Stevens worked on the “Top Gun” soundtrack, and he and Billy stopped working together (until 1999).
And now (1987), Idol’s personal life started to take center stage, and not in a good way. Billy was walking in a park in New York City with Grace Hattersley, when they were stopped by police. The police found cocaine on Hattersley. Billy said the drugs were not his, and he was released.
Hattersley held a press conference saying that she was Billy Idol’s girlfriend. Billy’s longtime girlfriend, Perri Lister decided to hold a press conference of her own, saying that she was, and had always been. Idol’s girlfriend! They would have a son together, Willem.
Ultimately, Billy Idol would not remain with Lister…having a daughter, Bonnie Blue Broad, with Linda Mathis (13 years his junior) in 1989.
Back to 1987: A live album “Vital Idol” featured a live version of “Mony Mony,” which would go to #1 (and #7 in England).
In 1989, Billy Idol had to be forcibly removed from Thailand! Hence, his long-lasting room-trashing reputation.
Idol had been in Bangkok for several weeks, and was staying at different hotels, while causing a lot of damage. Just one example: a three-week drug-and-sex spree had racked up a bill of about $250,000 in a single penthouse! Further, it was reported that a dignitary wanted the penthouse. But, Idol refused to give it up! Billy was then strapped to a gurney, and was escorted by soldiers to the airport. Bad-boy Billy was given the choice of either going to jail, or leaving the country! Crazy, huh?!
At the dawn of the new decade, Idol was involved in a serious motorbike accident which nearly cost him a leg! In February 1990, at the corner of Gordon Avenue and Fountain Avenue in Hollywood, Idol was hit by a car!
Idol was in Hollywood because he head been cast to play the “T-1000″ character in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” However, the bike accident resulted in a steel rod being paced in one of Idol’s legs…and the accident prevented Idol from playing the part!
The album “Charmed Life” came out in 1990, and a video for the single “Cradle Of Love” had to be shot. Since Idol was unable to walk, he was shot from the waist up, and shown on large TV screens. The video (below) got heavy play on MTV.
“Cradle of Love” (#2/1990) earned Idol a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.”
In 1993, Billy Idol released the album “Cyberpunk.”
Regarded as experimental, it was recorded in a home studio using a computer, a new concept at that time. The album took ten months to make. No chart hits came from this effort.
In 1994 Idol collapsed outside an Los Angeles nightclub due to an overdose on the drug GHB. Billy has never admitted that he is totally off drugs, just that he now has his habit under control.
Billy Idol returned to the public eye in 1998, when he played himself in “The Wedding Singer.” The film also featured “White Wedding” on its soundtrack.
Billy Idol made a “Storytellers” appearance in 2002.
Billy Idol’s first studio album in 12 years, “Devil’s Playground” was released in 2005. It marked a reunion with guitarist Steve Stevens.
In 2006, Idol played in concert in England.
2008 brought “White Wedding,” “Rebel Yell” and “Mony Mony” to video gamers!
A new greatest Hits package “The Very Best Of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself” was released in June 2008.
In the last few years, Billy Idol and a “live band” have made a few public appearances, including, most recently, a Google 2013 “after party” for 6,000 lucky attendees!
Billy Idol is the original punk rocker who was somehow able to take that sneering punk attitude into the pop and rock mainstream…
… belting out songs (above) that have lasted a lifetime!
What is Billy Idol up to now? Click here for his official website!