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Artist Profile: Billy Idol

Billy Idol

Billy Idol was one of the first pop/rock artists that gained massive success from the 80s music scene. He started his career in the 1970s in the London punk rock scene as a member of the band Generation X.  He eventually started his solo career and along with his bad boy good looks, punk attitude, pop hooks, and dance beats, Billy Idol’s fame quickly skyrocketed and he gained international recognition. He was even the lead artist on MTV’s “Second British Invasion” in the United States. In this article, we are going to find out more about this iconic artist and how he changed the music scene. 

Early Life

Billy Idol was born as William Michael Albert Broad in Stanmore, Middlesex on November 30, 1955. Billy Idol attended the University of Sussex to pursue an English degree but he left after a year. He then joined the Bromley Contingent or the followers of the band Sex Pistols and traveled into town whenever the band played 


William Michael Albert Broad got the name Billi Idol from a schoolteacher’s description of him being “idle.” In one interview, Billy Idol said he really wanted to use the name Billy Idle but he thought that the name would be unavailable because it has a similarity with the name of the Monty Python star Eric Idle. That’s why he chose the name Billy Idol instead. 

He started his musical career when he joined the band called Chelsea in 1976 as their guitarist. After several years being with the band, he and his bandmate Tony James left the group and formed their own band named Generation X on which Billy Idol became the lead singer. Generation X was one of the first punk rock bands to appear on the BBC TV music program called Top of the Pops. Billy Idol said that even if Generation X was a punk rock band, it was inspired by mid-1960’s British pop and that they were the complete opposite of the bands The Pistols and The Clash. Generation X eventually signed a record deal with Chrysalis Records and released three albums before disbanding. 

After the disbandment of his band, Billy Idol moved to New York City in 1981 and decided to pursue his solo career. He worked with the former manager of the band Kiss named Bill Aucoin. Idol’s punk image perfectly complemented with the glam-rock style of his new guitarist, Steve Stevens. Both of them worked with Greg Gerson on drums and Phil Feit on drums. Billy Idol released his EP called “Don’t Stop” in 1981 under Chrysalis Records. The album featured a Generation X song “Dancing with Myself” and a cover of a Tommy James & the Shondell’s song called “Mony Mony”. When his EP became successful, Billy Idol released his first self-titled album in July 1982. 

Billy Idol became a part of the MTV-driven “Second British Invasion of the United States. In 1982, his songs “White Wedding” and “Dancing with Myself” was frequently aired on MTV. That following year, Billy Idol released his second LP called “Rebel Yell” which became a major success and helped him establish his career in the United States. The album scored hit songs such as “Flesh for Fantasy”, “Rebel Yell”, and “Eyes Without a Face.” In 1986, Billy Idol released his third album “Whiplash” which produced the hit songs “Don’t Need a Gun” and “Sweet Sixteen.”

Around the time of Billy Idol’s fourth album release called “Charmed Life”, Idol got involved in a serious motorcycle incident which almost cost him his leg. The singer had to walk with a crane for a period of time which affected the promotion of this fourth album. That’s why in order to shoot the music video for the album’s lead single “Cradle of Love”, Billy Idol was only filmed from the waist up. Fortunately, the tactics worked and the single became another smash hit. Making “Charmed Life” his fourth album in a row to achieve platinum sales. 

In 1993, Billy Idol released his fifth album Cyberpunk which experimented with techno beats. But it proved to be a bad move because the album only reached the bottom of the charts Along with this, Billy Idol’s drug addiction took a toll on him which resulted to another close encounter with death when he overdosed. Idol had to be treaded in a Los Angeles hospital in 1994 and for several years, nothing was heard from idol aside from the cameo that he did in the hit movie “The Wedding Singer” which renewed the audience’s interests.

In 2005, Billy Idol released his album since Cyberpunk and called it “Devil’s Playground.” This was followed by a holiday album called “Happy Holidays.” In 2008, he released a greatest hits album called “The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself” which featured two unreleased tracks namely “New Future Weapon” and “John Wayne.” The album was followed by a worldwide tour with Def Leppard. 

In 2014, Billy Idol released his 8th studio album called “Kings and Queens of the Underground.” And on October of the same year, his autobiography entitled “Dancing with Myself” was published and became a New York Times bestseller.

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