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William Michael Albert Broad (30 November 1955), better known as Billy Idol, is an English rock musician. He first achieved fame in the punk rock era as a member of the band Generation X. He then embarked on a successful solo career, aided by a series of stylish music videos, making him one of the first MTV stars. Idol continues to tour with guitarist Steve Stevens and has a worldwide fan base.


Early life and career

Idol was born in Stanmoremarker, Middlesexmarker, the son of a salesman. He attended Tideway School in Newhaven, East Sussex. The name Billy Idol was inspired by a schoolteacher's description of Broad as "idle". His family emigrated to the United States in 1958, but returned to the U.K. in 1962. Idol lived in Worthingmarker before attending Sussex Universitymarker for only one year before joining the Bromley Contingent of Sex Pistols fans. Idol first joined the punk rock band Siouxsie & the Banshees (before the band had decided on that name) in 1976, but soon quit and joined Chelsea in 1977 as a guitarist. However, he and Chelsea bandmate Tony James soon quit that group and co-founded Generation X, with Idol switching from guitarist to lead singer.

Generation X signed to Chrysalis Records and released three albums and performed in the 1980 film, D.O.A., before disbanding. Idol moved to New York and began working as a solo artist and working with Steve Stevens, soon becoming an MTV staple with "White Wedding" and "Dancing with Myself". The latter had originally been recorded with Generation X.

In 1983, in an effort to introduce Idol to American audiences not yet as familiar with him as those in England, Idol's label released "Dancing With Myself" in the U.S. in conjunction with a music video (directed by Tobe Hooper, produced by Jeffrey Abelson, and conceptualised by Keith Williams) that played in heavy rotation on MTV for six months. That video, in fact, sparked a new era of feature film directors trying their hand at music videos. Along with "White Wedding," the "Dancing With Myself" and "Eyes Without A Face" videos helped make Idol a household name in America.

In the 2001 recording of VH1 Storytellers, Idol rejects the rumour that "White Wedding" was a "nasty put down" directed at his sister for thinking that getting married was the answer to getting pregnant. He said her 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.

Steve Stevens and Billy Idol
Idol's second LP, Rebel Yell (1983) was a major success and established Idol's superstar status in the United States 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 released Whiplash Smile in 1986, which sold very well. The album included the hits "To Be a Lover," "Don't Need a Gun" and the country-flavoured "Sweet Sixteen." Idol filmed a video featuring "Sweet Sixteen" (which he also wrote) in Florida's Coral Castlemarker. The song was inspired by the story of Edward Leedskalnin's former love, Agnes Scuffs, who was the main reason Leedskalnin built the structure over a period of decades, starting years after she jilted him the day before their scheduled wedding in their native Latvia.

A remix album was released in 1987 called, "Vital Idol." The album featured a live cover of Tommy James' "Mony Mony." The single topped the US charts in 1987.

Stevens parted ways with Idol after Whiplash Smile. In 1986, Stevens appeared with Harold Faltermeyer on the Top Gun soundtrack. Their contribution was the instrumental, "Top Gun Anthem." Stevens decided to go solo, creating his own band, Steve Stevens and the Atomic Playboys.

Idol was involved in a serious motorcycle accident which nearly cost him a leg in February 1990 in Hollywood, California; he was hit by a car while driving home from the studio one night when he ran a stop sign, requiring a steel rod to be placed in his leg.. Shortly prior to this, film director James Cameron had chosen Idol to play the T-1000 character in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and had drawn storyboards to resemble him, but the accident prevented Idol from accepting. However, against his doctors' advice, Idol managed to promote his latest album.

The new release, 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. Since Idol was unable to walk, he was shot from the waist up. The video would feature video footage of him singing in large frames throughout an apartment while the very young and beautiful Betsy Lynn George was trying to seduce a modest and mild mannered business man. The video was a huge hit and was placed in heavy rotation on MTV. Idol and Betsy Lynn 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. Billy Idol, though recovering from a motorcycle accident, threw himself into the role of Jim Morrison's drinking buddy, Cat.

Against his doctor's orders, Idol decided to tour behind the Charmed Life album. Idol could be seen walking with a cane onstage. He also had a special gauntlet made for his hand. This tour would be the first without Stevens. Mark Younger-Smith had become Idol's new guitarist.

Idol's stage show was quite elaborate. 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".

Crisis and resurgence

In 1993, Idol released Cyberpunk, which was largely ignored. Music had changed and many of the bands that were popular in the '80s were being pushed aside. Many considered the album to be ahead of its time. Regarded as experimental, it was recorded in a home studio using a Macintosh computer, which was a fairly new concept at the time. Idol recorded the album with Younger-Smith and producer Robin Hancock. Special editions of the album were issued with a floppy disc which contained a screensaver. The album has somewhat become a cult favourite today.

In 1994, Idol suffered two drug overdoses but recovered from each. Since then, he started to rehab and successfully overcame his addiction in the following years.

In 1996, Idol appeared in a live version of The Who's Quadrophenia.

He returned to the public eye in 1998, when he played himself in The Wedding Singer, in which "White Wedding" was also the title track. The movie was a smash hit worldwide. Idol also released three new tracks on Internet - a move which created much concern from RIAA.He also shared the stage with popular band Third Eye Blind.

VH1 aired, Billy Idol - Behind the Music on April 16, 2001. The Behind the Music series was very popular at the time, and each band or artist that was featured on that program usually gained a resurgence of interest after the show had aired. Idol and Stevens were no exceptions, taking 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. The acoustic tour was a big success, and Idol eventually started adding new material into the show.

Another Greatest Hits CD was issued in 2001, with Keith Forsey's "Don't You " appearing on the compilation. Forsey had originally written it with Idol in mind, but the singer turned it down and eventually the song was given to Simple Minds, who made it a worldwide hit in 1985. The album also includes a live acoustic version of "Rebel Yell" taken from a performance at Los Angeles station KROQ's 1993 Acoustic Christmas concert. The compilation sold about 4 millions of copies worldwide.

Idol was also referenced in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which the character Spike claims Idol's look is based on himself.

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 his voice also starred as Odin, a mysterious alien character, in the animated fantasy film Heavy Metal 2000. In Sydneymarker, Idol was somewhat embarrassed in front of 80,000+ people at the 2002 National Rugby League Grand final. Entering the playing field on a hovercraft-type stage to the intro of White Wedding, he managed to sing only two words before a power failure ended the performance.

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

Devil's Playground and beyond

Devil's Playground, which came out in March 2005, was Idol's first new studio album in nearly 12 years. It reached a respectable #46 on Billboard's album chart. This album was heavily promoted with use of the Devil's Playground album website in early 2005. The album includes a cover of "Plastic Jesus".

Idol played a handful of dates on the 2005 Vans Warped Tour and also appeared at the UK's Download Festival at Donington Parkmarker and the Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleansmarker. In 2006, as his only UK live date, he appeared headlining the Sunday night of GuilFestmarker. That same year he made an appearance on Viva La Bam where he helped Bam Margera succeed in "creating" a sunroof for his $250,000 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 Billy Idol: Happy Holidays. It includes classic Christmas songs like "Frosty the Snowman", "Jingle Bell Rock", and "Silent Night" plus some originals.

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 platform later gaining "Mony Mony" and "Rebel Yell" as downloadable tracks. On June 24 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 successful tour across the world, co-headlining with Def Leppard.

In July 2009, Idol performed at the Congress Theater, Chicago for the U.S. TV series Soundstage. This performance was recorded and has been scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, entitled In Super Overdrive Live, on November 17, 2009.



Year Title U.S. UK GER NED SWI RIAA Certification BPI Certification
1982 Billy Idol 45 - - - - Gold -
1984 Rebel Yell 6 36 2 40 16 2x Multi-Platinum Silver
1986 Whiplash Smile 6 8 9 19 4 Platinum Gold
1990 Charmed Life 11 15 5 51 4 Platinum Silver
1993 Cyberpunk 48 20 13 50 15 - -
2005 Devil's Playground 46 - 15 - 32 - -
2006 Happy Holidays - - - - - - -
Live Albums
2002 VH1 Storytellers: Billy Idol - - 14 - 76 - -
1985 Vital Idol 10 7 8 - 24 Platinum Platinum
1988 Idol Songs: 11 of the Best - 2 14 - 6 - Platinum
2001 Greatest Hits 74 - 12 - 30 Platinum -
2008 The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself 37 - - - - -
Extended Plays
1981 Don't Stop (EP) 71 - - - - - -


Starting with the 1983 re-release of "White Wedding", Chrysalis issued Idol's singles with an IDOL vanity catalogue numbering system. This lasted for roughly seven years and sixteen singles (including various re-issues) until the release of "Prodigal Blues" in 1990.

Year Song UK Singles Chart U.S. Hot 100 U.S. Mainstream Rock U.S. Modern Rock U.S. Hot Dance Club Play Germany Top 75 Italy Top 50 Switzerland Top 50 Independent Chart

1981 "Dancing with Myself" - 102 - - - - - - - Don't Stop
"Mony Mony" (Tommy James and the Shondells cover) - 107 - - - - - - -
1982 "Hot in the City" 58(1) 23(2) 31 - - - - 19(3) 4 Billy Idol
"White Wedding" 6(4) 36 4 - - - - - 2
1984 "Rebel Yell" 62(5) 46 9 - 50 - - - 3 Rebel Yell
"Eyes Without a Face" 18 4 5 - - 10 14 21 4
"Flesh for Fantasy" 54 29 8 - 21 11 30 20 1
1985 "Catch My Fall" 63(6) 50 24 11 - - - - -
1986 "To Be a Lover" 22 6 2 - - 28 16 7 - Whiplash Smile
1987 "Don't Need a Gun" 26 37 10 - 33 36 - 29 16
"Sweet Sixteen" 17 20 26 - - 2 30 12 28
"Mony Mony (Live)" 7 1 27 - - 38 - 13 - Vital Idol
1990 "Cradle of Love" 34 2 1 7 - 38 8 11 10 Charmed Life
"L.A. Woman" 70 52 18 12 - - 28 - 12
"Prodigal Blues" 47 - 35 - - - 31 - -
1993 "Heroin" - - - - 16 - - - - Cyberpunk
"Shock to the System" 30 105 7 23 - - 17 37 -
"Adam in Chains" - - - - - - - - -
"Wasteland" - - - - - - - - -
1994 "Speed" 47 - 38 - - - - - - Speed Soundtrack
2005 "Scream" - - 26 - - 54 - - 20 Devil's Playground
2005 "Cherie" - - - - - - - - 15
  • 1 Re-released in the UK in 1988, charted at #13 in the Top 75.
  • 2 Re-released in the U.S. in 1988, charted at #48 in the Hot 100.
  • 3 Swiss release in 1988.
  • 4 UK release in 1985.
  • 5 Re-released in the UK in 1985, charted at #6 in the Top 75.
  • 6 UK release in 1988.

Awards nominations


"Rebel Yell" Best Male Rock Vocal Performance
"Whiplash Smile" Best Male Rock Vocal Performance

See also


  2. Edmunds, Ben, untitled essay in Greatest Hits (2001)
  4. Cameos in "The Doors" Published in issue #56 March 08, 1991 [1]Retrieved 20 October 2009
  5. Steve Mascord, Idol idle: rebel's yell silenced, The Age, 7 October 2002, retrieved 17 March 2009.
  6. Album booklet material from The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself by Billy Idol, Capital Records, 2008.
  7. Album booklet material from The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself by Billy Idol, Capital Records, 2008.
  8. Album booklet material from The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself by Billy Idol, Capital Records, 2008.

External links

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