Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Billy Idol

Hot In The City

Rebel Yell

White Wedding

Time for an Icon, Time for A Hard Rocker. Time for us here at the Totally Awesome Big 80s Music videos to salute Billy Idol.

Billy Idol (born William Michael Albert Broad) is a British hard rock singer-songwriter and musician. With his spiked blonde hair, sneering visage and a voice capable of singing growling rock and roll and crooning ballads, Idol became a cultural icon during the 1980's. He first achieved fame as the lead singer of the first-wave UK punk band Generation X. When that band broke up, Idol moved to New York where he met guitarist Steve Stevens. The two of them set out to make punk music "sexier", recording a series of hit singles. A series of stylish music videos made him one of the first stars of MTV.

Early life and career
William was the first child born to Bill and Joan Broad, shortly after the family moved to Long Island, New York. Two years later, Billy's sister Jane was born. The Broads returned to England after four years of living in the United States. They moved to Mickleham, Surrey before moving to Goring, Sussex. Broad progressed well with his studies and his family moved to Bromley, Kent. His father was working as a salesman, and William worked for him as he was growing up.
In 1971, Broad transferred to Ravensbourne Grammar School. He failed to achieve the necessary requirements for a place at University. His parents were upset over his grades and eventually enrolled him in a school that was more relaxed. Broad was allowed to re-take his placement exams at the Orpington College of Further Education. He could grow his hair out, and wouldn't have to wear a school uniform. He soon secured a place for himself at Sussex University and took classes in English and Philosophy in September 1975.

Punk rock erupted in England in the mid-1970s, and Broad immersed himself in the scene. He became part of a Sex Pistols fan club called the Bromley Contingent. The club had a lot of admiration for the shocking and boundary breaking band, and wherever the Pistols went, so too did the Contingents.

In 1975, Broad decided to start his own band called The Rockettes. He met another person that shared his musical dreams when he met Tony James. James was interested in starting a band too. Much to the dismay of his parents, Broad decided to drop out of school to focus on music.
In the summer of 1976, singer Gene October put an ad in the Melody Maker searching for "guys who liked the bands, Television and the Ramones." Broad joined Gene October, John Towe (drums) and Tony James (bass) forming the band Chelsea. Broad changed his name to "Billy Idol" and became the band's guitar player.

Broad chose the stage name "Billy Idol" after remembering a comment a teacher had written on a report card. The teacher wrote "William is idle.” It was a comment which would stay in Broad's mind for a long time. Broad decided to change the spelling to "Idol" due to the fame of actor and comedian Eric Idle of Monty Python. Broad admired performers like David Bowie (born David Robert Jones), Iggy Pop (born James Newell Osterberg, Jr), Marc Bolan (born Mark Feld), Johnny Rotten (born John Lydon) and Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie) and since his heroes had all changed their names, it seemed like the logical thing to do when he started playing music of his own.

In 1976, Idol and Tony James formed a band with John Towe and started playing shows. The band was named after the 1965 book Generation X, which contained a series of interviews with teens in the Mod subculture.

Idol decided the band needed to find a guitarist so he could concentrate on being the group's lead singer. Idol spotted a young guitarist named Bob "Derwood" Andrews from Fulham at a local youth club one night and asked him to join the group. John Towe was eventually kicked out of the band and the group replaced him with Mark Laff, who was playing with minimalist group Subway Sect.

The band became a big deal throughout London and eventually record companies started showing up at shows. Generation X was an image-conscious band. They were more about the image than they were about the music. Tony James stated in an interview that he would never allow a fat person in the group.

Generation X signed to Chrysalis Records in 1977, and were rising to success when they crashed under the weight of it all. Punk music no longer stood for the things it once had, and even though Generation X took a lot of punk elements and added them into their sound and image, they were often seen as being too "commercial." Generation X was the first punk band to appear on the BBC's "Top of the Pops" program. The band was on the rise, touring in countries like Japan.
The band was going through many changes in personnel, and Idol and James realized that their manager Stewart Joseph was mishandling their money. They tried to find new management and Bill Aucoin's name kept popping up. Aucoin was working out of New York, and was also managing the rock band Kiss at the time.

Idol, James and new member Terry Chimes decided to carry on as a trio even though they needed a guitar player. Keith Forsey was brought in to help record and produce their third and final album. Steve Jones of Sex Pistols fame was brought in to play guitar on a few tracks. John McGeoch, guitarist from Magazine and Siouxie & The Banshees was also brought in to help finish the album.

In 1981, the band shortened their name to simply "Gen X" and released the single "Dancing With Myself" in the UK. It failed to become the big hit the band was waiting for. The band found new guitarist Steve Andrews and asked him to join the band. The new album was called Kiss Me Deadly. In 1980, the band embarked on a short but successful tour.
At this time, Idol was dating a dancer by the name of "Perri Lister" who became a major influence on his music. Perri was one of the original, "Blitz Kids" along with Steve Strange. She had also been a dancer with "Hot Gossip" on the Kenny Everett television program during the late 1970s in England. She had starred in several music videos with Duran Duran and Def Leppard, and even started her own girl group, called "Boomerang." Even though Idol was never totally loyal to Perri, she would remain his girlfriend for close to nine years.

New York
Generation X couldn't hold itself together and the members soon parted ways. Producer Keith Forsey and Bill Aucoin took hold of Billy Idol's career and quickly moved him to New York in hopes of capturing an American audience.

The punk era had come and gone, and "New Wave" was taking over. Radio stations wouldn't play a punk album, let alone an album with a guy with white spiked hair on the cover. Record companies found a way around this by re-marketing their artists. Most music, even older punk acts were now marketed as "New Wave" so they would receive fair radio play.
A few of Idol's songs could be heard playing in the New York dance clubs. "Dancing With Myself" had been remixed, and Idol heard the song being played at a club one night. The idea was to capitalize on the song's popularity by re-releasing it on his own.

Keith Forsey and Billy Idol produced the Don't Stop EP in 1980. The EP was re-released in 1983 containing an interview with MTV VJ Martha Quinn. Billy became quite popular in the New York area and was building a name for himself. Since radio wouldn't play a "punk" record, Idol's single "Mony Mony" was shipped to stations without his picture attached.

Idol was introduced to Steve Stevens by manager Bill Aucoin. Stevens was an up and coming guitarist who had been playing for a band called "The Fine Malibus" who were also being managed by Aucoin. Stevens had recorded an album with the band, and the album was due for release by Island Records, but the deal fell through and the album was shelved. Feeling that his career was going nowhere, Stevens told Aucoin that he was quitting the band. Aucoin talked Stevens into putting together a new band, and one name that kept popping up was "Billy Idol." Aucoin gave Stevens some of Idol's music and set up a meeting between the two. The pair hit it off, and started writing material for a full length album.

Idol's self titled LP was released in 1982. He was having a hard time getting played on the radio, and knew he needed another outlet. That outlet would be the recently created MTV network. Idol became a household name when his videos for "White Wedding" and "Dancing with Myself" made their debut.

"White Wedding" sparked a bit of controversy over the wedding ring Idol places on Perri Lister's finger. The ring was intended to look sharp and cut Perri's finger as Idol slid it on. MTV edited that portion of the video out.

In 1983, "Dancing With Myself" was released in the U.S. in an effort to introduce Idol to American audiences not yet as familiar with him. The music video was directed by Tobe Hooper, produced by Jeffrey Abelson, and conceptualized by Keith Williams. It was played in heavy rotation on MTV for six months. The "Dancing With Myself" video sparked a whole new era of feature film directors that would try their hand at directing music videos.

Billy was featured in several MTV commercials saying, "I Want My MTV" which was MTV's main slogan in the early eighties. Most cable stations didn't include MTV when the network first got its start. People in rural parts of America didn't have the network available to them. These people were told to call to their cable providers telling them, "I Want My MTV."

"White Wedding" was rumored to be a "nasty put down" by Idol and then-girlfriend Perri Lister, directed at Idol's sister for thinking that getting married was the answer to getting pregnant. In the 2001 recording of VH1 Storytellers Idol refutes that, saying his sister's wedding was simply inspiration for the song, which quickly took on its own form. Years after the video, Idol's sister is still married with three children.

Rebel Yell
Idol's second LP, Rebel Yell (1984) was a blockbuster success, and established his superstar status in the United States and in Canada with hits like "Eyes Without a Face", "Flesh For Fantasy", and the title cut; Idol also became very popular in Europe thanks to this album and its singles, particularly in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and later in his native UK.
Idol got the idea for "Rebel Yell" while he was at a party with the Rolling Stones. He saw one of the guys drinking some Kentucky straight burboun whisky called "Rebel Yell" and thought it would be a great title for an album.

The band recorded the album at the Record Plant in New York City. Idol, along with Stevens, bassist Steve Webster and producer Keith Forsey started laying down tracks but realized they needed to bring in a drummer. Thommy Price of the group "Scandal" was playing in an adjacent studio. Forsey had Price drum on the "Rebel Yell" album. Perri Lister sings backup on "Eyes Without a Face."

Steve Stevens also credits himself for coming up with the title and lyrics to "Blue Highway."
Perri can be also be seen in the video for "Rebel Yell." The song "Rebel Yell" has been used in several movies and TV shows. The song appears in an episode of Knight Rider called "Dead of Knight" (1984). The song was also used in Sixteen Candles (1984), The Wraith (1986), and Big (1988).

It was also during this period that Idol met Robin David Ludwig (The Hammer), the designer and creator of the famous Billy Idol jewelery collection. Most of the crucifixes Idol wears were designed by "Robin the Hammer." The two of them are still close friends to this day.
Sesame Street parodied "Rebel Yell" with a punk Muppet singing "Rebel L."
David Lee Roth has a Billy Idol lookalike in his video for "Just a Gigolo." In the video Roth parodies the "Dancing With Myself" video and pushes Idol into the reactors.
Idol appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine issue number 440 in January 1985.

Whiplash Smile
Idol released Whiplash Smile in 1986, which put him back on the charts. The album included the hits "Don't Need A Gun" the country-flavored "Sweet Sixteen" and the William Bell and Booker T. Jones's Stax-era cover of "To Be a Lover."

A remix album was released in 1987 called Vital Idol. The album had already been available in the UK two years prior to the US release. The album featured a live cover of Tommy James' "Mony Mony". The single did well topping the US charts in 1987.

Idol has said in many interviews that "Mony Mony" was the song he lost his virginity to. During Idol's live shows the crowd will usually chant "Hey mother fucker, get laid get fucked" between each verse. Idol can be seen mouthing these words in the live video for "Mony Mony".

Steve Stevens parted ways with Idol after Whiplash Smile. He claims that Idol's music was getting too synthesized and sequenced. Stevens also thought that Idol was getting tense about all of the attention he was getting as a guitar player. Stevens was offered a record deal through Warner Brothers that he couldn't refuse, so he decided it was time to split up with Idol.
Idol ran into trouble when he was busted by undercover police in New York City for carrying crack cocaine. A model by the name of Grace Hattersley had been with him, and this created a bit of turmoil in Idol's life. Hattersley held a press conference saying that she was involved with Billy Idol. Lister took the news quite badly, and decided to hold a press conference of her own, telling the world that she was, and had always been Idol's girlfriend.

Lister and Idol wanted to get "clean" and start a new life. Idol had been addicted to heroin and cocaine, and the two decided it would be best to move from New York to LA. Idol got involved in the Hollywood nightlife, and Lister realized that Idol would never remain loyal.
Idol was involved in a relationship with Linda Mathis (born and raised in Pasadena, CA). Though there was a thirteen-year age difference, and they began seeing each other regularly. At the age of 19, Mathis became pregnant and chose to move in with her mother to have her child. It was a girl named Bonnie Blue Broad, born August 21 1989.

Charmed Life
When Idol and Lister moved to LA to start life over, Lister gave birth to their son, "Willem Wolfe Broad." Idol was still seeing other women, and even obtained a second house for his affairs. Lister eventually left Idol in favor of a normal life.

In 1989, following his breakup with Lister, Idol found his way to Thailand. Idol claimed that he could get any drug he wanted over there, and had many women at his disposal. Newspapers said that Idol left his suites at three deluxe hotels in Thailand in shambles during his visit, with damage estimated at more than $20,000. Idol first checked in at the Oriental Hotel in central Bangkok, where carpets and a television set were among the ruined items. He paid $3,200 in damages before moving on to another hotel. Idol was eventually ejected from Bangkok with the help of the army after refusing to vacate a hotel penthouse where a three-week drug-and-sex spree had racked up a bill of about $250,000. It was reported that an important dignitary wanted the room and Idol refused to give it up.

Idol had been working on a new album for close to two years. In February of 1990, Idol was driving back to the studio to hear the final album, and was involved is a serious motorcycle accident. He had run a stop sign and collided with an oncoming vehicle. The accident almost cost Idol his leg. The doctor that first saw Idol was upset that someone had brought him down to look at a "bum". It was explained to the doctor that the patient was Billy Idol. Idol's leg was cracked in three places and he was suffering from a few broken ribs. His doctors managed to pull him through and save his leg through a lengthy operation and skin grafting.

The new album, Charmed Life was due for release 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 and, "Cradle of Love" was set to be the title song for the movie.

Since Billy was unable to walk, director David Fincher decided to film Idol from the waist up. The video would feature footage of Idol singing in large frames throughout an apartment while the very young and beautiful model Betsy Lynn George was trying to seduce a modest and mild mannered businessman. The video was a huge hit and was placed in heavy rotation on MTV. Idol and George recreated the opening of the video for the 1991 American Music Awards.
Idol had always been a huge Doors fan, and he was asked to take part in the new movie, The Doors, directed by Oliver Stone. Idol was barely able to walk, therefore his part in the movie was trimmed down to a mere cameo, playing the role of "Cat", a friend of Jim Morrison's.
Against his doctors' orders, Idol decided to tour behind the Charmed Life album. Billy could be seen walking with a cane onstage. He got his personal jewellery maker, "Robin the Hammer" to customize a silver gauntlet for him. The gauntlet has "La Vie Enchantee" etched in the wrist. Robin also designed a large cross/knife necklace that can be seen in the "Cradle of Love" video.
Idol's stage show was quite elaborate, there was a new band featuring, Mark Younger-Smith as the new guitarist. A massive fist was designed to hang over the crowd. The words "Rude Dude" were written across the fingers. During the show the fist would rotate and flip off the audience. The hand can be seen in the video for "Prodigal Blues."

Former Police frontman Sting parodied Billy during a skit on Saturday Night Live which aired in January of 1991. The skit featured Sting playing "Billy Idol" in the "Sinatra Group." Phil Hartman was playing Sinatra.

In 1993, Idol released Cyberpunk, which fell on deaf ears. Music had changed in 1993, and a lot of the bands that were popular in the eighties were now being pushed to the wayside in favor of the new "Seattle" movement. Cyberpunk is considered to be ahead of its time by many people, and very experimental for that period. The album reportedly took 10 months to record.
The album was recorded in a home studio using a Macintosh computer, which was a fairly new concept for the time. Idol recorded the album with Mark Younger-Smith and producer Robin Hancock. Special editions of the album were issued with a floppy disc, which contained a screen saver.

The Late 90s/Early 2000s
Idol didn't want to release an album during this period because he was having a lot of problems with his record label. It was decided that he would wind up owing the record company money if he produced anything. EMI hired producer, Glenn Ballard to work with him on a new project, but Idol battled the label over creative differences and the album was put on hold.
In 1994 Idol and Steve Stevens contributed a song called "Speed" to the soundtrack of the hit movie Speed starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Even though Idol and Stevens worked together on this track, a reunion was not in the works.

In 1996 Idol appeared in a live version of the Who's Quadrophenia, playing the part of "The Ace Face/Cousin Kevin." Idol also started getting involved in cross country motorcycle rides, some of which involved riding for charity.

In 2001 Idol reunited with guitarist Steve Stevens to write and record a new album. Idol and Stevens started touring, which generated a lot of attention. It wasn't long until VH1 got involved.

On August 1st, 2001 Idol and Stevens were asked to take part in MTV's twentieth birthday bash. They played "Rebel Yell."

"White Wedding" appeared on popular videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on fictional Classic Rock radio station, K-DST.

"White Wedding" is also a nickname for cocaine.

The video for "Hot in the City" was banned by MTV for its use of imagery. The video featured Lister tied to a cross.

Idol appeared on MTV's New Years Eve special in 1983. He played "Dancing With Myself." It was about this time that Idol got his famous "Octobarina" tattoo on his left arm. Octobriana is a Russian heroine, "The spirit of the October Revolution." Octobriana's mission was to fight for the Russian People, against the oppressive Soviet Government and all sorts of outlandish threats. The tattoo can be seen throughout the "Dancing With Myself" video.

Girl group The Donnas covered "Dancing With Myself" for the Mean Girls soundtrack (2004).
Todd McFarlane had a Billy Idol action figure listed on his website for release, but the figure never materialized. Todd is famous for creating the comic book character "Spawn." He also has a successful toy company.

Idol appeared on an episode of Viva La Bam, Bam Margera's MTV show. In the episode, Bam's mom is taken to Atlantic City to see Idol perform. Idol and Bam are seen riding around in Bam's Lamborghini. On a stop, Margera asks Billy Idol to convert his Lamborghini to a targa using an angle grinder, which Idol consequently does. Bam Margera appears in the video for "Plastic Jesus."

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans a television special was aired to raise money for the vicitms. Randy Newman had written a song called "Louisiana." Idol covered the song sometime later during a show in Baltimore, Maryland. The song was released as a free download on his website.

Idol was recorded by a fan singing the Gnarls Barkley song "Crazy" acapella in concert. Idol added the song as a free download on his official website, and later added it to his official MySpace page.

Don't Stop (EP) - 1981 #71 US
Billy Idol - 1982 #45 US
Rebel Yell - 1983 #36 UK / #6 US / #2 Germany / #40 Netherlands / #16 Switzerland
Vital Idol - 1985 #7 UK / #10 US (1987 release) / #8 Germany / #24 Switzerland
Whiplash Smile - 1986 #8 UK / #6 US / #9 Germany / #19 Netherlands / #4 Switzerland
Idol Songs: 11 of the Best - 1988 #2 UK / #14 Germany / #6 Switzerland
Charmed Life - 1990 #15 UK / #11 US / #5 Germany / #51 Netherlands / #4 Switzerland
Cyberpunk - 1993 #20 UK / #48 US / #13 Germany / #50 Netherlands / #15 Switzerland
Greatest Hits - 2001 #74 US / #12 Germany / #30 Switzerland
VH1's Storytellers: Billy Idol - 2002 #14 Germany / #76 Switzerland
Essential Billy Idol - 2003
Devil's Playground - 2005 #78 UK / #46 US / #15 Germany / #32 Switzerland
Happy Holidays - 2006

Year / Song

"Dancing With Myself"
"Mony Mony" (Tommy James and the Shondells cover)
"Hot in the City"
"White Wedding"
"Rebel Yell"
"Eyes Without a Face"
"Flesh for Fantasy"
"Catch My Fall"
"To Be a Lover"
"Don't Need a Gun"
"Sweet Sixteen"
"Mony Mony (Live)"
"Cradle of Love"
"L.A. Woman"
"Prodigal Blues"
"Shock to the System"
"Mother Dawn (Hold Me)"

External links
Official Site
Official Site Fan Page

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