The Story of Billy Idol: Biography of a Rock Musician
Along with British new wave band Duran Duran, Billy Idol owes his colossal career success at the height of the 80s to MTV. However, the daring image of a bad guy, punk preferences, frantic dance rhythms and catchy melodies became the hallmark of the singer and also contributed to the formation of a superstar!
Yes, this white-haired ex-leader of GENERATION X brilliantly managed to merge into American pop standards without losing his punk drive and crazy delivery.
It is worth, for example, to first listen to his composition “Flesh For Fantasy”, and then watch the video clip. It's amazing how aggressively Idol sings this rather pop single: a twisted mouth, a sizzling tenacious look, a game of facial muscles ...
Billy Idol: "My passion for romantic songwriting is as hot as the '(colloquially fuck off)' line, which I love. I think this is what helps me do what I do. This is a very useful ability - you can easily move from one stage to another. That's what I do with music, even though my starting point was punk rock. But, even with all the success, I can’t stop thinking of myself as a snotty boy who doesn’t want to grow up in any way ... "
The beginning of the creative path
It should be noted right away that our star is not any "Idol". The real name of the artist is William Mark Albert Broad. And "Billy Idol" is just a beautiful pseudonym, the reason for the birth of which was a school remark. Yes, yes, our young hero has never been distinguished by exemplary behavior, and once the teacher wrote in the young man's diary "idle", which means "idle". William thought it was a good punk name, but later thought "Idol" would be cooler, and started calling himself Billy Idol.
Billy just trudged from the creativity of the Sex Pistols, and soon he wanted to play in a group. This desire led him to the punk band Chelsea, in which he became the guitarist. Due to internal tension, three of the team left to create GENERATION X. Meanwhile, Idol's leadership ambitions took over, the guy threw away the guitar with pleasure and took up the microphone. In the early 80s, Idol got tired of playing tricks with GENERATION X. He disbanded the group and went to conquer the musical expanses of America as a soloist. New York introduced the aspiring punk star to Bill Aucoin, then the manager of Kiss. With his help, the blond singer released the disc "Don't Stop", which included Tommy James' hit "Mony Mony" and a couple of remixed songs from the Generation X repertoire. But a really valuable contribution to the promotion of the singer was made by the guitarist, the first producer Keith Forsey - Steve Stevens. It was this person who played a key role in the formation of Billy Idol. Stevens became a personal guitarist, close friend and co-writer of most of the punk lead singer's hits.
Popularity and first super hits
The real sensation occurred in the heyday of the 80s, after the release of the Rebel Yell disc. The ballad "Eyes Without A Face" and the single "Flesh For Fantasy" held tenaciously in the American top charts, television and radio airs. They made Idol something of a headliner when he toured the country. But the more fame, the more temptations, because of which the work on the new album dragged on for as much as three years.
And so, in 1986, Whiplash Smile was released, with loud hits "To Be A Lover" and "Sweet Sixteen". The disc was in high consumer demand, and the hits recorded on it reached the leading chart positions. But despite this, Whiplash Smile did not live up to the expectations of many fans who were expecting something closer in spirit with the first work.
The first major victory was the single “Dancing with Myself” (“Dancing with myself”), born by Idol since GENERATION X. Interestingly, the message of the song seems vulgar to many, but the author himself always claimed that it was really about dancing. The composition "Hot In The City" went even steeper, reaching the 23 position of the American top chart. But America was not very fond of punks, so there was no photo of the artist with tousled bleached hair on the cover of this hit.
It appeared only on the next song with the romantic title "White Wedding" ("White Wedding"). However, despite the cute name, the sound can be called sinister, and the video only confirms this. In it, Billy sings on behalf of the bride's brother, who wants reprisals against her and her "fiance", who disgraced her sister before the wedding. The most interesting thing is that the basis for the concept of the song was a real story related to his sister Jane. The latter married her boyfriend only because of pregnancy. Idol, of course, was not going to kill his sister, he just thought: “It would be interesting if this situation happened 30 years ago. After all, then such behavior was strictly condemned. By the way, the singer did not get to the wedding of his sister. He had to make do with a festive telegram with warm wishes.
Rise of MTV
The star decided to use MTV to promote his hit. The result was a very effective provocative video clip, from which you can’t say that the money for its shooting was just barely enough. Here you have a wedding in the Gothic style, and luxurious landscapes, and beauties dressed in leather, beating the musical rhythm on ... Well, you can, however, see for yourself. Many were impressed by the crowd's cheer, very reminiscent of "Sieg Heil!". The director justified himself for a long time, because he planned this gesture purely intuitively, without a second thought, so to speak, to match the overall composition of the clip. Interestingly, the role of the bride was played by the real girlfriend of the singer - Perry Lister. As a result, the single became No. 36 in the United States, and Idol's self-titled debut album - No. 45.
But the work "Rebel Yell" is considered to be the real gold, which soared to the sixth position in the US TOP 10 super hits chart. The song of the same name is on Idol's favorite list. Repeatedly, the singer spoke of her as a "mega-knockout" of his concert performances. The basis for writing it was one bohemian party, where the singer sipped whiskey "Rebel Yell" ("Rebel cry") with the members of the ROLLING STONES.
But the more melodic ballad "Eyes Without A Face" ("Eyes without a face") won more success. The original title was borrowed from the French thriller of the same name, filmed by Georges Franju. The plot in the picture is as follows: the daughter of a plastic surgeon got into a car accident, and now, while the daughter wears a terrible mask, the distraught father is looking for material to restore her face - living women.
There are moments in the song where Idol's girlfriend Lister says "Les yeux sans visage" ("Eyes without a face") in French. But despite the fact that the song is a lyrical story with melodic accompaniment, the video turned out to be dark and aggressive, which, in general, is characteristic of the spirit of Idol. There was a real sea of light and smoke on the set. Ironically, after the filming was completed, it turned out that his lenses were firmly stuck to the cornea of the musician. As a result, there was no need for surgical intervention. After that, the singer was forced to walk with a blindfold on his eyes for some time, turning into a “face without eyes” ...
Soon, because of the eternal parties of the eminent blond, Perry leaves him. Their parting is very felt in the next work "Whiplash Smile".
Billy Idol: “Every song on this album is infused with my longing for Perry's departure. Even today, listening to the record, I involuntarily plunge into that time and feel with every cell of the body what I have been trying to kill in myself for a long time ... ".
A vivid confirmation of the above is the beautiful romantic ballad "Sweet Sixteen" ("Sweet Sixteen"). It is very interesting that the composition is based on one seemingly unreal and very romantic story…
At the beginning of the video for "Sweet Sixteen" we see an old black and white photo of a man standing in front of stone sculptures. The inscription reads: "Love turned to stone." This enigmatic character is Edward Leedskalnin, who was forced to leave his native Latvia because of an unhappy love. His 16-year-old fiancee Agnes ran straight from the crown into the arms of a successful doctor. Then Leedskalnin went on a trip around the world. In 1920, the man chose the small Florida town of Homestead for life, where he acquired a land plot, and set to work ... From day to day, from marine limestone, he gradually erected amazing buildings and sculptures. Among the locals, they received the name "Coral Castle". It is amazing that all the work was done by Edward alone and with little or no special equipment! As they say, with bare hands... When asked why he does all this, Edward only answered sadly: "For my sweet sixteen-year-old." Unfortunately, the architectural beauties did not return to the man his lost love. However, the beautiful Coral Castle still stands in Florida today.
Billy Idol: “This amazing story is so romantic that it inspired me to write an equally beautiful song. During my life I have lost many times people loved and dear to my heart. And I thought that this story would be a good foundation for a song plot in which I could reflect my own feelings.”
In the 1990s, the singer was involved in a motorcycle accident that nearly took his leg off. But, without waiting for a full recovery, Idol returns to the stage. During that period, he released a couple of amazing albums, in particular, the loud super-hit “Speed”, which was included in the film “Speed” of the same name with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in the lead roles.
The situation was complicated by the sudden departure of Stevens, who decided to organize his own group Atomic Playboys. The situation was saved by the remixed compilation "Vital Idol", which includes the best compositions of the musician, in particular, the live version of "Mony Mony". It was the last thing that firmly stuck in the MTV airs and kept Idol afloat during the work on the new album.
The new work "Charmed Life", filled with such hit singles as "Cradle Of Love", "LA Woman" and "Prodigal Blues", brought the musician another platinum. Until 1993, Idol remained in the shadows, not declaring himself with new works. And now, the singer returns to the stage with a new image - instead of a bleached hedgehog, dreadlocks appeared on the musician's head. His experimental program "Cyberpunk", built on a computer techno-beat, did not make a splash, which soon forced it out of the top charts. At this time, the singer began to have serious problems with drugs, which almost sent him to the next world. For a long time, he was not heard of, and by the end of the last millennium, Idol appeared in the film "The Wedding Singer".
At the beginning of the 2000s, Idol and Stevens reunited again. Their new collaboration, Devil's Playground, was released in 2005. The disc turned out to be ambiguous: the first part of it charged with reckless punk energy, and the second one plunged into the world of romantic ballads. As a result, the scales were outweighed by the last musical mood, and the year 2006 showed the fans the record "Happy Holidays". The next period, the singer actively worked live, giving a huge number of concerts. But his fans have been waiting for a new studio album for about ten more years. "Kings & Queens Of The Underground" was indisputable proof that Billy still knows how to rock as hot as he did at the beginning of his career. But sometimes age, which has accumulated life experience in the soul, takes over, offering to save strength and relax on melodic ballads about love ...
Billy Idol was originally cast as the Liquid Terminator T1000, but a limp after an accident prevented him from participating in the scene where you have to run. As a result, the role went to Robert Patrick.
The video for the song "Cradle of Love" was filmed by David Fincher just in the year of the singer's motorcycle accident. Due to problems with his legs, Idol was unable to show his trademark dance rhythms on camera, and he had to be filmed only up to half of his torso. To dilute the video with colors, an erotic plot was invented with a half-naked girl who is trying with all her might to seduce a slightly shy businessman. This video was played repeatedly on MTV and was considered by many to be one of the sexiest and most beautiful videos of the time.
The reason for writing the song "Dancing with Myself" was a Tokyo club. It's just that one day, when he came to a nightclub in Tokyo, Billy was impressed by local teenagers, each of whom lit up all alone with himself, in a dark hall, completely hung with mirrors.