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Billy Idol

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Along with Duran Duran, Billy Idol was one the first pop/rock artists to achieve massive success in the early '80s due to a then brand-new U.S. television network, MTV. Mixing his bad-boy good looks with an appealing blend of pop hooks, punk attitude, and a dance beats, Idol quickly rocketed to stardom, before hard living derailed his career and almost proved fatal. Born William Michael Albert Broad on November 30, 1955, in Middlesex, England, the youngster relocated with his family for a brief spell to New York, before returning back to England. After a stint at Sussex University only last a year, Broad found himself as part of a group of teen punk rockers who befriended and followed the Sex Pistols, known as "the Bromley Contingent" (a member of this colorful group of characters was Siouxsie Sioux, eventual leader of Siouxsie & the Banshees). It wasn't long before Broad realized that he too could be the frontman of a punk band, and assumed the name Billy Idol shortly thereafter. After a stint playing guitar in a group called Chelsea didn't pan out (interestingly, the group featured future Clash guitarist Mick Jones and future Damned guitarist Brian James), Idol put down the guitar and picked up the mic, and recruited bassist Tony James, drummer John Towe, and guitarist Bob Andrews, forming Generation X in 1976. Named after a 1960s paperback book, the band signed a recording contract with Chrysalis shortly thereafter (Towe was replaced with new skinsman Mark Laff) -- resulting in such releases as 1978's self-titled debut, 1979's Valley of the Dolls, and 1981's Kiss Me Deadly -- before splitting up. Disappointed with Generation X's demise, Idol relocated to New York City, where he pursued a career as a solo artist. Hooking up with Kiss manager Bill Aucoin, Idol issued the 1981 EP Don't Stop (comprised of a cover of Tommy James' '60s hit "Mony Mony" and a pair of remixed Generation X tracks), which helped the singer score another record deal with his former band's label, Chrysalis. Idol found the perfect collaborator and partner in guitarist/Johnny Thunders look-alike Steve Stevens, and issued a self-titled debut in July of 1982. A pair of eye-catching videos for the tracks "White Wedding" and "Dancing With Myself" (the latter a remake of a Generation X composition) scored major air time on MTV, with both clips focusing in on Idol's spiky, peroxide blonde hair, and Elvis-like sneer. The debut eventually obtained gold certification, and set the stage perfectly for Idol's big commercial breakthrough, 1984's Rebel Yell. Rebel Yell became the singer's best-selling album of his career (eventually going double platinum), spawning such big-time MTV/radio hits as the album's anthemic title track, "Eyes Without a Face," and "Flesh for Fantasy," establishing Idol as an arena headliner stateside. But with massive success came its many distractions, which prevented Idol from issuing a new studio album until three years after Rebel Yell. 1987's Whiplash Smile was another sizeable hit on the strength of such hits as "To Be a Lover" and "Sweet Sixteen," but failed to live up to the lofty expectations set by his previous releases. Stevens jumped ship shortly thereafter to launch his own band, Steve Stevens' Atomic Playboys (and eventually was a member of Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil's solo band), leaving Idol to fend for himself. An eight-track best-of set, Vital Idol, was issued later the same year, spawning one of the year's most heavily played MTV videos -- a live version of the previously recorded cover of "Mony Mony" -- which helped keep Idol in the spotlight. Idol spent the next few years working on his fourth studio release, but reappeared in the summer of 1989 as part of an all-star rendition of the Who's Tommy, with Idol playing the role of the sadistic character Cousin Kevin. Around the time of Idol's next release, 1990's Charmed Life, the singer was involved in a serious motorcycle accident (in which he almost lost his leg), forcing the singer to walk with a cane for a period of time; the video for the album's lead-off single, "Cradle of Love," featured the singer filmed from the waist up. The ploy worked, as the single (which was also used as the theme song in the failed Andrew "Dice" Clay movie Ford Fairlane) was another smash hit, making Charmed Life the fourth Idol album in a row to achieve at least reach platinum sales. Expectedly, several years passed before the release of Idol's next album, during which time he tried his hand at acting with a bit part in Oliver Stone's motion picture The Doors. By the time 1993's Cyberpunk surfaced, Idol had dropped his spiky peroxide hairstyle in place of dreadlocks, and experimented with techno beats. The move proved to be an unwise one, as the album tanked and sank from the charts. At the same time, Idol was knee deep in drug addiction, resulting in another close brush with death when he overdosed and had to be treated in a Los Angeles hospital in 1994. Not much was heard from Idol until 1998, when he made a cameo appearance (as himself) in the hit Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore comedy The Wedding Singer, which resulted in renewed interest. Idol teamed up once again with Stevens, was the subject of a VH1: Behind the Music special (as well as a VH1 Storytellers episode for the channel, which was ultimately issued as a CD), and issued a more extensive Greatest Hits set in 2001; the latter of which sold 500,000 copies in the U.S. alone. Next up was his first studio album since Cyberpunk, Devil's Playground, released on Sanctuary in 2005 and this was swiftly followed by the seasonal Happy Holidays for which he retained Brian Tichy and Derek Sherinian from the previous album's sessions. 2008 brought The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself, which was notable for including two previously unreleased tracks: "John Wayne" and "New Future Weapon." A worldwide tour on the same bill as Def Leppard ensued, before 2009 brought In Super Overdrive Live, a video release of a performance in Chicago; Idol appeared at Donnington Park's Download Festival in 2010. A relatively quiet spell in his career was followed by a period of songwriting with Stevens and Circus Diablo frontman Billy Morrison. In time, recording sessions took place which led to the announcement of a seventh studio album of original material. Produced by Trevor Horn and preceded by Idol's memoir Dancing with Myself, Kings & Queens of the Underground appeared in October 2014. ~ Greg Prato
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Albums by
Billy Idol

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    11 songs

    On Air

    Kings and Queens of the Underground

    20 songs

    On Air

    Best Of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself

    14 songs

    On Air

    Devil's Playground

    14 songs

    On Air

    Rebel Yell

    11 songs

    On Air

    Charmed Life

    10 songs

    On Air

    Whiplash Smile

    20 songs

    On Air

    Cyberpunk

    4 songs

    On Air

    Deep Cuts

    8 songs

    On Air

    Club Wedding

    1 song

    On Air

    Good to Go

    18 songs

    On Air

    The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself

    16 songs

    On Air

    Greatest Hits

    8 songs

    On Air

    Vital Idol

    5 songs

    On Air

    Don't Stop

    14 songs

    On Air

    VH1 Storytellers

    10 songs

    On Air

    Billy Idol

    9 songs

    On Air

    Rebel Yell

    2 songs

    On Air

    Mony Mony

    2 songs

    On Air

    Hot in the City

    11 songs

    On Air

    The Essential

    14 songs

    On Air

    VH1 Storytellers

    2 songs

    On Air

    White Wedding

    11 songs

    On Air

    Kings & Queens of the Underground [LP]

    17 songs

    On Air

    Happy Holidays (A Very Special Christmas Album)

See All Albums

Top Songs by
Billy Idol

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Rebel Yell
  3.   White Wedding
  4.   Mony Mony
  5.   Eyes Without a Face
  6.   Dancing with Myself
  7.   Hot in the City
  8.   Cradle of Love
  9.   Yellin' At The Xmas Tree
  10.   Catch My Fall
  11.   Flesh for Fantasy
  12.   Sweet Sixteen
  13.   Blue Highway
  14.   (Do Not) Stand in the Shadows
  15.   To Be a Lover
  16.   Don't Need a Gun
  17.   Christmas Love
  18.   Nobody's Business
  19.   L.A. Woman
  20.   Don't You (Forget About Me)
  21.   Prodigal Blues
  22.   John Wayne
  23.   Eyes Wide Shut
  24.   Man For All Seasons
  25.   Nothing to Fear
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Billy Idol

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