Billy Idol

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Billy Idol
Billy IDOL 2012.JPG
Idol performing in June 2012
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Michael Albert Broad
Born (1955-11-30) 30 November 1955 (age 65)
Stanmore, London, England
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • actor
Instruments
  • Vocals, guitar
Years active1973–present
Labels
Associated acts
Website billyidol.net

William Michael Albert Broad (born 30 November 1955), known professionally as Billy Idol, is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and actor who holds dual British and American citizenship. [1] He first achieved fame in the 1970s emerging from the London punk rock scene as the lead singer of the group Generation X. Subsequently, he embarked on a solo career which led to international recognition and made Idol a lead artist during the MTV-driven "Second British Invasion" in the United States. The name "Billy Idol" was inspired by a schoolteacher's description of him as "idle". [2]

Contents

Idol began his music career in late 1976 as a guitarist in the punk rock band Chelsea. However, he soon left the group. With his former bandmate Tony James, Idol formed Generation X. With Idol as lead singer, the band achieved success in the United Kingdom and released three albums on Chrysalis Records, then disbanded. In 1981, Idol moved to New York City to pursue his solo career in collaboration with guitarist Steve Stevens. His debut studio album, Billy Idol (1982), was a commercial success. With music videos for singles "Dancing with Myself" and "White Wedding" Idol soon became a staple of then-newly established MTV.

Idol's second studio album, Rebel Yell (1983), was a major commercial success, featuring hit singles "Rebel Yell" and "Eyes Without a Face". The album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of two million copies in the US. In 1986, he released Whiplash Smile . Having accumulated three UK top 10 singles ("Rebel Yell", "White Wedding" and "Mony Mony") Idol released a 1988 greatest hits album titled Idol Songs: 11 of the Best ; the album went platinum in the United Kingdom. Idol then released Charmed Life (1990) and the concept album Cyberpunk (1993).

Idol spent the second half of the 1990s out of the public eye focusing on his personal life. He made a musical comeback with the release of Devil's Playground (2005) and again with Kings & Queens of the Underground (2014).

Life and career

1955–1975: Early life

Idol was born William Michael Albert Broad on 30 November 1955 in Stanmore, Middlesex. [3] His parents were devout Anglicans and attended church regularly. In 1958, when he was two years old, he moved with his parents to Patchogue, New York. They also lived in Rockville Centre, New York. His younger sister, Jane, was born during this time. The family returned to England four years later and settled in Dorking, Surrey. [4] In 1971, the family moved to Bromley in southeastern London, where Idol attended Ravensbourne School for Boys. His family later moved to the Worthing suburb of Goring-by-Sea in West Sussex, where he attended Worthing High School for Boys. [5] In October 1975, he attended the University of Sussex to pursue an English degree and lived on-campus (East Slope) but left after year one in 1976. He then went on to join the Bromley Contingent of Sex Pistols fans, a loose gang that traveled into town when the band played. [6] [7]

1976–1981: Generation X

The name "Billy Idol" was coined due to a schoolteacher's description of Idol as "idle". [8] In an interview on 21 November 1983, Idol said the name "Billy Idol" "was a bit of a goof, but part of the old English school of rock. It was a 'double thing' not just a poke at the superstar-like people ... It was fun, you know?" [9] In another interview for BBC Breakfast in October 2014, he said that he wanted to use the name "Billy Idle", but thought the name would be unavailable due to its similarity to the name of Monty Python star Eric Idle and chose Billy Idol instead. [10] Idol has claimed in interviews that the name was an inspired response to being described on his school report card as "idle" by his Chemistry teacher, a subject which he admits he hated and in which he underachieved. [2]

In late 1976, he joined the newly formed West London 1960s retro-rock band Chelsea as a guitarist. [11] The act's singer/frontman Gene October styled Idol's image, advising him to change his short sighted eye-glasses for contact lenses, and dye his hair blonde with a crew cut for a retro-1950s rocker look. After a few weeks performing with Chelsea, Idol and Tony James, the band's bass guitarist, quit the act and co-founded Generation X, with Idol switching from guitarist to the role of singer/frontman. Generation X was one of the first punk bands to appear on the BBC Television music programme Top of the Pops . [12] Although a punk rock band, they were inspired by mid-1960s British pop, in sharp contrast to their more militant peers, with Idol stating; "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. The truth was we were all building our music on the Beatles and the Stones". [6] Generation X signed with Chrysalis Records, released three albums, performed in the 1980 film D.O.A. , and then disbanded.[ citation needed ]

1981–1985: Solo career and breakthrough

"MTV has paved the way for a host of invaders from abroad: Def Leppard, Adam Ant, Madness, Eurythmics, the Fixx and Billy Idol, to name a few. In return, grateful Brits, even superstars like Pete Townshend and the Police, have mugged for MTV promo spots and made the phrase ”I want my MTV" a household commonplace."

—Anglomania: The Second British Invasion, by Parke Puterbaugh for Rolling Stone , November 1983. [13]

Idol moved to New York City in 1981 and became a solo artist, working with former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin. Idol's punk-like image worked well with the glam rock style of his new partner on guitar, Steve Stevens. [14] Together they worked with bassist Phil Feit and drummer Gregg Gerson. Idol's solo career began with the Chrysalis Records EP titled Don't Stop in 1981, which included the Generation X song "Dancing with Myself", originally recorded for their last album Kiss Me Deadly , and a cover of Tommy James & the Shondells' song "Mony Mony". Idol's debut solo album Billy Idol was released in July 1982. [15]

Part of the MTV-driven "Second British Invasion" of the US in 1982, Idol became an MTV staple with "White Wedding" and "Dancing with Myself". The music video for "White Wedding" was filmed by the British director David Mallet, and played frequently on MTV. The motorcyle smashing through the church window stunt was carried out by John Wilson, a London motorcycle courier. In 1983, Idol's label released "Dancing with Myself" in the US in conjunction with a music video directed by Tobe Hooper, which played on MTV for six months.[ citation needed ]

Rebel Yell (1983), Idol's second LP, was a major success [16] and established Idol in the United States with hits such as "Rebel Yell," "Eyes Without a Face," and "Flesh for Fantasy". "Eyes Without a Face" peaked at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100, and "Rebel Yell" reached number six in the UK Singles Chart. [17] [18] This album and its singles saw Idol become popular in other countries such as Germany, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand.

1986–1992: Whiplash Smile and Charmed Life

Idol performing during the Cradle of Love Tour, 1990 Billy-idol-cradle-of-love-tour.jpg
Idol performing during the Cradle of Love Tour, 1990

Idol released Whiplash Smile in 1986, which sold well. [16] The album included the hits "To Be a Lover", "Don't Need a Gun" and "Sweet Sixteen". Idol filmed a video for the song "Sweet Sixteen" in Florida's Coral Castle.[ citation needed ]

In 1986, Stevens appeared with Harold Faltermeyer on the Top Gun soundtrack. Their contribution was the Grammy-winning instrumental "Top Gun Anthem". Stevens was working on Whiplash Smile, and Faltermeyer supplied the keyboards which led to both of them playing on the Top Gun score.[ citation needed ]

After Stevens' success, the partnership between Idol and Stevens fell apart. Besides playing an acoustic show for KROQ in 1993, Stevens and Idol did not tour again until early 1999. Stevens and Idol did collaborate in the mid-1990s, playing with Guns N' Roses members Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum in 1995. Idol, Stevens, McKagan, and Sorum performed "Christmas in the USA" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1995.[ citation needed ]

A remix album was released in 1987, titled Vital Idol . The album featured a live rendition of his cover of Tommy James' "Mony Mony". In 1987 the single topped the United States chart and reached number 7 in the UK. [16] [18] The album had already been available in the UK for two years.

Idol and his girlfriend Perri Lister moved from New York to Los Angeles. Lister became pregnant with Idol's son, born on 15 June 1988. Idol did not stay loyal to Lister and started seeing Linda Mathis, who was 13 years younger than Idol. At the age of 19, Mathis became pregnant and chose to move in with her mother to have her child, a girl, born on 21 August 1989.[ citation needed ]

Idol was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, which nearly cost him a leg, on 6 February 1990 in Hollywood. [19] He was hit by a car when he ran a stop sign while riding home from the studio one night, requiring a steel rod to be placed in his leg. [20] Shortly prior to this, film director Oliver Stone had chosen Idol for a role in his film The Doors , but the accident prevented him from participating in a major way and Idol's role was reduced to a small part. Idol played Jim Morrison's drinking pal, Cat. [21] He had been James Cameron's first choice for the role of the villainous T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day ; the role was recast entirely as a result of the accident. [22] He was considered for the role of the villain Jacob Kell in Highlander: Endgame , but Bruce Payne was cast.

Charmed Life was released in 1990, and a video for the single "Cradle of Love" had to be shot. The song had been featured in the Andrew Dice Clay film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane . Because Idol was unable to walk, he was shot from the waist up. The video featured video footage of him singing in large frames throughout an apartment while Betsy Lynn George was trying to seduce a businessman. The video was placed in rotation on MTV. "Cradle of Love" earned Idol a third Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. [23] Against his doctors' advice, he managed to make appearances to promote Charmed Life.

1993–2004: Cyberpunk, decline, and resurgence

Idol performing at the Milton Keynes Bowl in Buckinghamshire, 1993 Billy Idol 1993.JPG
Idol performing at the Milton Keynes Bowl in Buckinghamshire, 1993

In 1993, Idol released Cyberpunk . [24] Regarded as experimental, it was recorded in a home studio using a Macintosh computer. Idol used Studiovision and Pro-Tools to record the album. The album took ten months to make. Idol recorded the album with guitarist Mark Younger-Smith and producer Robin Hancock. Special editions of the album were issued with a floppy disk which contained a screensaver. It was one of the first albums which listed the e-mail address of the artist (idol@well.sf.ca.us, now inactive) in its booklet. The album was successful in UK and Europe, but it did not perform well in the United States despite the commercial success of "Shock to the System". Idol toured in Europe and played a Generation X reunion show in 1993. [25]

In 1994, Idol collapsed outside a Los Angeles nightclub due to an overdose [26] of the drug GHB. [27] After the incident, Idol decided that his children would never forgive him for dying of a drug overdose, and he ceased his drug use. [28] Idol and Steve Stevens contributed a song titled "Speed" to the soundtrack of the hit film Speed , starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

In 1996, Idol appeared in a live version of the Who's Quadrophenia . [29] Idol made a cameo appearance as himself in the 1998 film The Wedding Singer with Adam Sandler, in which Idol played a pivotal role in the plot. The film featured "White Wedding" on its soundtrack.[ citation needed ]

In 2000, Idol was invited to be a guest vocalist on Tony Iommi's album. His contribution was on the song "Into the Night", which he co-wrote. That year, he voice acted the role of Odin, a mysterious alien character, in the animated fantasy film Heavy Metal 2000 , also providing a song for the soundtrack.[ citation needed ]

VH1 aired Billy Idol – Behind the Music on 16 April 2001. Idol and Stevens took part in a VH1 Storytellers show three days later. The reunited duo set out to play a series of acoustic/storytellers shows before recording the VH1 special. Another Greatest Hits CD was issued in 2001, with Keith Forsey and Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" appearing on the compilation. The LP includes a live acoustic version of "Rebel Yell", taken from a performance at Los Angeles station KROQ's 1993 Acoustic Christmas concert. The Greatest Hits album sold 1 million copies in the United States alone, providing Idol with a big comeback.[ citation needed ]

In the 2002 NRL Grand Final in Sydney, Idol entered the playing field for the half-time entertainment on a hovercraft to the intro of "White Wedding", of which he managed to sing only two words before a power failure ended the performance. [30]

2005–2009: Devil's Playground

Idol performing on stage at the Brixton Academy in London, 2005 Billy Idol Brixton Academy London 11.11.2005 (5).JPG
Idol performing on stage at the Brixton Academy in London, 2005

Devil's Playground , which came out in March 2005, was Idol's first new studio album in nearly 12 years. Idol reunited with guitarist Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey to record the album. It was after a concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom that Sanctuary Records approached Idol about making new music in his older style.[ citation needed ]

The album was recorded with the entire band playing in one room, rather than each person recording their part separately. Idol's drummer, Brian Tichy, collaborated with Idol and Stevens and co-wrote some of the tracks on the album. The first single and video to be released was "Scream".[ citation needed ]

The album reached No. 46 on the Billboard 200. The album included a cover of "Plastic Jesus." Idol played a handful of dates on the 2005 Vans Warped Tour and appeared at the Download Festival at Donington Park, the Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans, and Rock am Ring. [31] Guitarist Steve Stevens broke his ulna while taking a few bags into his hotel in New Orleans. The guitarist had to perform most of the tour in a two-piece removable cast.

In 2006, as his only UK live date, he appeared headlining the Sunday night of GuilFest. That same year he made an appearance on Viva La Bam where he helped Bam Margera succeed in "creating" a sunroof for his Lamborghini Gallardo and performed live for April Margera for her birthday. In 2006, Idol guested on his keyboardist Derek Sherinian's solo album Blood of the Snake , covering the 1970 Mungo Jerry hit "In the Summertime". A video was made featuring Idol and guitarist Slash. In November 2006, Idol released a Christmas album titled Happy Holidays .[ citation needed ]

In 2008, "Rebel Yell" appeared as a playable track on the video game Guitar Hero World Tour and "White Wedding" on Rock Band 2 . The Rock Band 2 platform later gained "Mony Mony" and "Rebel Yell" as downloadable tracks. On 24 June 2008, Idol released the greatest hits album The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself . The compilation featured two previously unreleased tracks, "John Wayne" and "New Future Weapon." A third track, "Fractured," was available for download on iTunes. He embarked on a worldwide tour, co-headlining with Def Leppard.[ citation needed ]

In July 2009, Idol performed at the Congress Theater, Chicago for the United States television series Soundstage . This performance was recorded and then released on DVD/Blu-ray as In Super Overdrive Live, on 17 November 2009. [32]

2010–present: Kings & Queens of the Underground

Idol performing at Bonnaroo, 2013 Billy Idol 20130616.jpg
Idol performing at Bonnaroo, 2013

On 16 February 2010, Idol was announced as one of the acts to play the Download Festival in Donington Park, England. He stated "With all of these great heavyweight and cool bands playing Download this year, I'm going to have to come armed with my punk rock attitude, Steve Stevens, and all of my classic songs plus a couple of way out covers. Should be fun!" [33] In March 2010, Idol added Camp Freddy guitarist Billy Morrison [34] and drummer Jeremy Colson to his touring line-up.

Idol performing at the 2015 NHL Winter Classic Billy Idol 2015 Winter Classic (16170009902).jpg
Idol performing at the 2015 NHL Winter Classic

In 2012, Idol appeared on the third episode of the BBC Four series How the Brits Rocked America. [35]

Idol released his 8th studio album Kings & Queens of the Underground in October 2014. While recording the album between 2010 and 2014, he worked with producer Trevor Horn, Horn's former Buggles and Yes bandmate Geoff Downes [36] and Greg Kurstin. Idol's autobiography, titled Dancing with Myself, was published on 7 October 2014 and became a New York Times best seller. [37]

On 30 October 2018, former Generation X members Idol and Tony James joined with Steve Jones and Paul Cook, former members of another first wave English punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, to perform a free gig at the Roxy in Hollywood, Los Angeles, under the name Generation Sex, playing a combined set of the two former bands' material. [38]

In late February 2020, Idol starred in a public service campaign titled "Billy Never Idles," intended to fight the unnecessary idling of automobile engines in New York City, to reduce air pollution. Idol teamed with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to open the campaign, which features Idol saying "If you're not driving, shut your damn engine off!" and other strong advice. [39]

Idol was featured as a guest vocalist on the song "Night Crawling" from Miley Cyrus' album Plastic Hearts released in November 2020. [40]

Live band

Idol's live band[ citation needed ] consists of:

Former members

Timeline

Billy Idol

Personal life

Idol has never married but had a long-term relationship with English singer, dancer and former Hot Gossip member Perri Lister. They have a son, Willem Wolf Broad, who was born in Los Angeles in 1988. [41] Willem has been a member of the rock band FIM. [42] Lister and Idol separated in 1989. [43] Idol also has a daughter, Bonnie Blue, from another relationship with Linda Mathis. [44] [45] [46]

In 2018, Idol became a US citizen during a ceremony in Los Angeles while retaining his British citizenship. [47]

In 2020, Idol's daughter Bonnie gave birth to his first grandchild, a daughter named Poppy Rebel. [48]

Discography

Studio albums

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1985 "Rebel Yell" Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Nominated [49] [50]
1987 "To Be a Lover"Best Male Rock Vocal PerformanceNominated [51] [52]
1991 "Cradle of Love"Best Male Rock Vocal PerformanceNominated [53]

MTV Video Music Awards

The MTV Video Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony established in 1984 by MTV.

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1984 "Dancing with Myself"Best DirectionNominated
1984 "Dancing with Myself"Best Art DirectionNominated
1984 "Dancing with Myself"Best Special EffectsNominated
1984 "Eyes Without a Face"Best CinematographyNominated
1984 "Eyes Without a Face"Best EditingNominated
1990 "Cradle of Love"Best Video from a FilmWon [54]
1990 "Cradle of Love"Best Male VideoNominated
1990 "Cradle of Love"Best Special EffectsNominated
1993 "Shock to the System"Best Special EffectsNominated
1993 "Shock to the System"Best EditingNominated

Brit Awards

The Brit Awards are the British Phonographic Industry's annual pop music awards. [55]

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1991 Billy Idol – "Cradle of Love"Best British VideoNominated

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Rebel Yell</i> (album) 1983 studio album by Billy Idol

Rebel Yell is the second studio album by English rock singer Billy Idol, released on 10 November 1983 by Chrysalis Records. After the release of his 1982 eponymous debut album, Idol continued his collaboration with producer Keith Forsey and multi-instrumentalist Steve Stevens. The album was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York. Initially recording without a drummer, utilizing only the electronic drum machine LinnDrum, Forsey and Stevens later decided to hire Thommy Price to play drums on some of the songs. Musically, Rebel Yell is a rock album with a strong influence of new wave music. The cover sleeve and images were shot by Brian Griffin. Idol got the idea of the album's title after attending a party with The Rolling Stones and drinking the Rebel Yell whiskey.

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Steve Stevens American musician

Steve Stevens is an American guitarist and songwriter. He is best known as Billy Idol's guitarist and songwriting collaborator, and for his lead guitar work on the theme to Top Gun – "Top Gun Anthem" – for which he won a Grammy in 1987: Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Stevens has played for Michael Jackson, Ric Ocasek, Robert Palmer and many others. Stevens was in Vince Neil's band in 1993, touring and recording on Neil's album Exposed. In 1995, Stevens and Idol were briefly members of the group Neurotic Outsiders. Stevens was a founding member of the supergroup Bozzio Levin Stevens, which released Black Light Syndrome in 1997 and Situation Dangerous in 2000. He brought Spanish flamenco guitar stylings to the song "Pistolero" (1999) for the trance group Juno Reactor. During 2012–2016, Stevens appeared with Kings of Chaos. His "Steve Stevens" group headlined the closing performance at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt, Germany, in April 2016. He is also a television personality on the E! show Married to Rock, alongside his wife, Josie Stevens.

Generation X (band)

Generation X were an English punk rock band from London in the late 1970s, primarily remembered today for being the musical starting point of the career of its frontman Billy Idol.

<i>Idol Songs: 11 of the Best</i> 1988 compilation album by Billy Idol

Idol Songs: 11 of the Best is a compilation album by English rock vocalist Billy Idol, released in 1988. It comprises all the singles released from his first three albums—Billy Idol, Rebel Yell and Whiplash Smile—plus the live version of "Mony Mony" and re-recorded Generation X song "Dancing with Myself", both of which appeared on Idol's debut EP Don't Stop. A limited edition version of the album contains two extra remixes, and another limited edition contains four extra remixes. The album reached number 2 in the UK Albums Chart and was certified Platinum by the BPI. The album was reissued with a different title and cover artwork in 2003 as The Essential.

<i>Dont Stop</i> (Billy Idol EP) 1981 EP by Billy Idol

Don't Stop is the first solo release by rock singer Billy Idol. Released in the US in 1981, it contains a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells' UK #1 "Mony Mony," that would become a later hit for him as a live version in 1987.

<i>Kiss Me Deadly</i> (album) 1981 studio album by Gen X

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Mark Laff is a retired English rock drummer, and former member of several rock bands, including Generation X.

Eyes Without a Face (song) 1984 single by Billy Idol

"Eyes Without a Face" is a song by English rock musician Billy Idol, from his second album Rebel Yell (1983). It was released in 1984 as the second single from the album. The song is softer and more ballad-like than most of the album's other singles. It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Idol's first Top 10 hit in the USA. The song is notable for the female voice of Perri Lister—she appeared in the banned video for "Hot in the City"—who sings "Les yeux sans visage" as a background chorus. The title of the song refers to the English title of French director Georges Franju's 1960 film Les yeux sans visage.

Rebel Yell (song) 1983 song by Billy Idol

"Rebel Yell" is a song by English rock musician Billy Idol. The title track of his 1983 album of the same name, it was first released as the album's lead single on 24 October 1983. It charted outside the UK Top 40, but a re-issue of the single in 1985 reached No. 6. In the US, it peaked at No. 46. The song was named the 79th best hard rock song of all time by VH1 based on a public voting in 2009, although the song did not show up in a revised list from 2013.

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<i>Comin Out Fighting</i> 1986 studio album by Sinner

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<i>Kings & Queens of the Underground</i> 2014 studio album by Billy Idol

Kings & Queens of the Underground is the eighth studio album by English rock vocalist Billy Idol, released on 17 October 2014 and produced mainly by Trevor Horn. It was the first album of new original material from Billy Idol since the 2005 release of Devil’s Playground and only his third album in over twenty years. The album debuted at #34 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, which was Billy Idol’s highest debuting album ever. The album also peaked at #9 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart for the week of 8 November 2014. Videos were released for the songs "Can't Break Me Down" and "Save Me Now".

Sweet Sixteen (song) 1986 single by Billy Idol

"Sweet Sixteen" is a song by British singer-songwriter Billy Idol, released in 1987 as the third single from his third studio album Whiplash Smile (1986). The song written by Idol and produced by Keith Forsey. "Sweet Sixteen" peaked at No. 20 in the US and No. 17 in the UK. It was also a hit across Europe and beyond. The song appeared in the Miami Vice episode "Honor Among Thieves?" (1988).

Speed (Billy Idol song) 1994 single by Billy Idol

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Reference bibliography

Further reading