Billy Idol

Billy Idol

With a knack for setting trends and scoring hits, Billy Idol made his mark in the 80s by blurring the boundaries between punk, hard rock and pop. Coupled with his bad boy image and trademark sneer, his music videos quickly became part of the regular rotation of an emerging presence called MTV and, in the process, made him one of the decade’s biggest stars.

Idol caught the music bug in his youth, eventually dropping out of college to become a member of the ‘Bromley Contingent,’ the original group of Sex Pistols fans. He soon progressed to singing lead for Generation X, one of the most successful English punk bands, before embarking on a solo career that would pay many future dividends.

In 1982, Billy Idol released a successful self-titled solo album that stayed on the charts for two years. Songs like “White Wedding” and “Hot In The City” mixed metal guitar riffs and new-wave synthesizers with Idol’s punkish vocals to become endearing Top-40 hits.

Idol was also a big success on MTV, where his spiked hair and distinctive sneer added to his bad-boy appeal. “Dancing With Myself” in particular became an MTV hit, thanks to a darkly comic video that depicted Idol making his way through a broken-down apartment building full of creepy tenants.

The singer scored his big breakthrough in 1984 with the Grammy-nominated Rebel Yell album. It gave Idol his first Top-5 hit with a moody, sinister ballad called “Eyes Without A Face.” He scored more hits with “Flesh For Fantasy” and the title track, a fist-pumping rocker that would become his signature song.

Whiplash Smile was released in 1986. “To Be A Lover” was the big hit from the record and went to #6 on the charts. Soon after, Idol scored another hit from this album with “Sweet Sixteen,” an acoustic ballad that offered a compelling glimpse of his surprising versatility.

The next year, Idol decided to release a hits collection with a unique twist – Vital Idol was a dance-remix album of his songs that helped bridge the gap between hard-rock and dance music to become a Top-10 hit. A remixed version of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Mony Mony,” also included on the album, gave Idol his first #1 single, knocking teen queen Tiffany‘s version of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now” out of the top spot.

Idol released his next studio album, Charmed Life, in 1990. “Cradle Of Love,” a rocker infused with the trademark Idol sneer, was released as a single and became the singer’s biggest hit. The song’s video, which featured a surprisingly friendly female neighbor visiting a pent-up geek, soon became a much-requested MTV favorite and won an award at the MTV Video Awards. After a successful tour for Charmed Life, Idol decided to take a hiatus from recording.

He didn’t return to the studio until 1993, releasing Cyberpunk, an album whose sci-fi-themed lyrics and techno beats added a new edge to his already high-tech sound. Idol used the internet to promote the album to his fans, making him one of the first rock stars to utilize this online technology. He also did several interesting videos for the album that presented the latest in computer animation technology. The following year, he wrote and recorded the theme song for the blockbuster film Speed with his longtime collaborator, guitar virtuoso Steve Stevens.

Toward the end of the 90s, Idol began delving into film, first with cameos in the 1998 comedy, The Wedding Singer and Oliver Stone’s biopic The Doors. He also lent his voice to one of the characters in the animated film, Heavy Metal 2000.

Into the new millennium, Billy Idol has remained relevant. He released Devil’s Playground in 2005 and three years later, lent an assortment of hits to the successful Guitar Hero video game series, as well as releasing another Greatest Hits compilation. His most recent offering, Kings and Queens of the Underground was released in 2014, along with an autobiography titled Dancing With Myself.

With a thirty year career under his belt, it comes as no surprise that Billy Idol is still out there rocking with the best of them, and still turning heads decades after inviting the world to join him for a White Wedding. And the honeymoon, as his many fans will attest, has yet to come to an end.

If Billy Idol’s music served as a soundtrack for your youth, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to share your favorite memories of this sneering and significant rocker with all of us in our comments section below.

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