(Read all about Billy Idol after the video)
William Michael Albert Broad (born 30 November 1955), known professionally as Billy Idol, is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and actor. He first achieved fame in the 1970s as a member of the punk rock band Generation X. Subsequently, he embarked on a solo career which led to international recognition and made Idol one of the lead artists during the MTV-driven "Second British Invasion" in the United States.
Idol began his career in late 1975 as a guitarist in the punk rock band Chelsea. However, he soon left the group and along with his bandmate Tony James formed Generation X with Idol being the lead singer. The band achieved success in the United Kingdom and released three albums on Chrysalis Records before disbanding. 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 and with music videos for singles "Dancing with Myself" and "White Wedding" Idol soon became a staple of then newly established MTV.
His second studio album Rebel Yell (1983) was a major commercial success with 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 across the United States. He followed with a number of successful albums, including Whiplash Smile (1986), Charmed Life (1990) and 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 in Stanmore, Middlesex. The name "Billy Idol" was inspired by a school teacher's description of him as "idle". In an interview on 21 November 1983, Idol said the name "was a bit of a goof, but also part of the old English school of rock. Billy Fury and all that. It was a 'double thing' not just a poke at the superstar-like people ... It was fun, you know?" In another interview for BBC Breakfast in October 2014, he said that he wanted to be "Billy Idle" but thought he could not because of Monty Python star Eric Idle, and so chose Idol instead.
In 1958, when Idol was two years old, his parents moved to Patchogue, New York. The family returned to England four years later with Idol and his younger sister, Jane (who had been born in the U.S.), settling in Dorking, Surrey. In 1971, the family moved to Bromley, London, where Idol attended Ravensbourne School for Boys. Idol also attended Worthing High School for Boys in Worthing, West Sussex. In October 1975, Idol went to Sussex University 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 travelled into town when the band played.
1975–1980: Generation X
Idol first joined Chelsea in 1975 as a guitarist. However, he and Chelsea bandmate Tony James soon left that group and co-founded Generation X, with Idol switching from guitarist to lead singer. Generation X was one of the first punk bands to appear on the BBC Television music programme Top of the Pops. 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". Generation X signed with Chrysalis Records and released three albums and performed in the 1980 film, D.O.A., before disbanding.
1981–1985: Solo career, Rebel Yell and breakthrough
Idol moved to New York City in 1981 and became a solo artist, working with former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin. Idol's punk-ish image worked well with the glam rock style of his new partner on guitar, Steve Stevens. 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.
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 it received heavy rotation on MTV. 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.
Idol's second LP, Rebel Yell (1983) was a major success 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. 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 released Whiplash Smile in 1986, which sold well. The album included the hits "To Be a Lover", "Don't Need a Gun" and "Sweet Sixteen". Idol filmed a video featuring "Sweet Sixteen" in Florida's Coral Castle.
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.
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 collaborated 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.
A remix album was released in 1987 called, 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. The album had already been available in the UK for two years.
Idol and his partner Perri Lister moved from New York to Los Angeles. Lister became pregnant with Idol's son Willem Wolfe Broad, 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 named Bonnie Blue Broad, born on 21 August 1989.
Idol was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, which nearly cost him a leg, on 6 February 1990 in Hollywood. 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. 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. He had also 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.
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. Since 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. Against his doctors' advice, he also managed to make appearances to promote Charmed Life.
1993–2004: Cyberpunk, career decline and resurgence
In 1993, Idol released Cyberpunk. Regarded as experimental, it was recorded in a home studio using a Macintosh computer, which was a new concept at the time. 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 Hanflop.
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 (email@example.com, now inactive) in its booklet. In 1996, Idol appeared in a live version of The Who's Quadrophenia.
He played a Generation X reunion show in 1993.
Idol shot a concept video for "Shock to the System". The video featured Idol being attacked by several police officers after trying to videotape them beating up someone on the street. It resembled the Rodney King beating that prompted the LA riots. Idol then turned into a cyborg that scared away the police.
In 1994, Idol collapsed outside a Los Angeles nightclub due to an overdose on a drug called GHB. GHB was a legal drug at the time, and mainly used by weight-lifters.
After the incident, Idol decided that his children would never forgive him for dying of a drug overdose, and he began to focus more on fatherhood. He has never admitted that he is totally off drugs, just that he has his habit under control. He claims to have first smoked marijuana at the age of 12, and also says he took acid at the age of thirteen. Cyberpunk pays tribute to Lou Reed with Idol's cover of "Heroin".
Idol did not 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.
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 also featured "White Wedding" on its soundtrack.
Idol also had a small part in the film The Doors, directed by Oliver Stone. Idol played Jim Morrison's drinking pal, Cat. He was also considered for the role of the villain, Jacob Kell, in Highlander: Endgame, although ultimately Bruce Payne was cast.
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 also co-wrote. That year he voice acted the role of Odin, a mysterious alien character, in the animated fantasy film Heavy Metal 2000.
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 also 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 one million of copies in the States alone, as well as being a success around the world, providing Idol with a big comeback.
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", where he managed to sing only two words before a power failure ended the performance.
2005–2009: Devil's Playground
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.
The album was recorded with the entire band playing in one room, rather that 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." Idol had been playing a batch of new songs in concert that never made the final release of the album. These songs include 'Monster,' 'Stranger in My Skin,' 'Walk the Line,' 'Man in the Killbox,' 'Beautiful Life' and 'Big World' (written for his daughter).
It 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 also appeared at the Download Festival at Donington Park, the Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans and Rock am Ring. 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 called Happy Holidays.
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 gaining "Mony Mony" and "Rebel Yell" as downloadable tracks. On 24 June 2008, Idol released a new 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.
In July 2009, Idol performed at the Congress Theater, Chicago for the United States television series Soundstage. This performance was recorded and was released on DVD/Blu-ray as In Super Overdrive Live, on 17 November 2009.
2010–present: Kings & Queens of the Underground
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!" In March 2010, Idol added Camp Freddy guitarist Billy Morrison and drummer Jeremy Colson to his touring line-up.
In 2012, Idol appeared on the third episode of the BBC Four series, How the Brits Rocked America.
Idol released his 8th studio album Kings & Queens of the Underground in October 2014. Whilst recording the album between 2010 and 2014, he worked with producer Trevor Horn, Horn's former Buggles and Yes bandmate Geoff Downes and Greg Kurstin, who has previously produced records for Beyoncé, Pink, Sia, Tegan and Sara, and Lily Allen. Idol was scheduled to go on tour in November 2014 through April 2015 to support the album.[needs update]
Idol's autobiography, entitled Dancing With Myself, was published on 7 October 2014.