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The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
A Decade in the Life
of
Billy Idol

Born in England on 30 November 1955, William Michael Albert Broad came to the United States at age four, only to return to his land of birth in 1962, where he lived with his family above a pub called The Running Horses in Dorking, Surrey. A diehard fan of the Sex Pistols, he teamed up with another devotee of punk rock, bassist Tony James (who would go on to play in Sigue Sigue Sputnik.) The two joined the hardcore punk group Chelsea, and Idol made his first live appearance at a London gig in 1976. Later that year, Idol and James left Chelsea along with drummer John Towe, recruited guitarist Bob Andrews, and formed their own band, Generation X, giving their debut performance in London in December. By summer of the following year, Generation X was signed with Chrysalis Records, and their first single, "Your Generation," reached UK#36. In two years the band would have four more UK chart singles -- "Ready Steady Go" (#47), "King Rocker" (#11), "Valley Of The Dolls" (#23) and "Friday's Angels" (#62).

In 1981, Gen X released their last album, Kiss Me Deadly; the line-up now consisted of Idol and James with ex-Clash drummer Terry Chimes and former Chelsea guitarist James Stephenson. The single "Dancing With Myself" stalled at UK#60 and the album did not do well. Idol was ready to go his own way. He was destined for superstardom in the 1980s, even though his spiked, platinum-blond hair, black leather attire and snarling punk rocker demeanor blinded some  to the fact that this was a substantial talent who would craft a distinctive sound by cleverly blending punk, metal and new wave sounds.


February 1981
 Idol quits Gen X. In New York, he begins an association with producer/drummer Keith Forsey and Kiss manager Bill Aucoin, and embarks on a solo career as Aucoin secures him a contract with Chrysalis Records.
November 1981
Idol's debut solo album, the EP Don't Stop, is released. It will remain on the charts for a year, reaching as high as #71 on the US chart.
September 1982
"Hot In The City" climbs to US#23 and propels its parent album, Billy Idol, to US#45. The album will remain charted for two years. Idol's band includes Steve Stevens (guitar), Judi Dosier (keyboards), Phil Feit (bass) and Gregg Gerson (drums).
July 1983
"White Wedding" peaks at US#36.
December 1983
Rebel Yell soars to the #6 spot on the US album chart, with eight of its tracks penned by Idol and guitarist Steve Stevens. The album will sell two million units in the US alone.
March 1984
"Rebel Yell" reaches US#46.
July 1984
Idol finally has his breakthrough hit in the UK with "Eyes Without A Face," which peaks at UK#18. In the US the single climbs to #4, Idol's first Top Ten hit.
June 1985
Chrysalis releases the compilation album, Vital Idol, in the UK. It climbs to the #7 spot and remains charted for six months. The following month, "White Wedding" is released in Britain and makes UK#6.
October 1985
"Rebel Yell" is reissued in the UK and climbs to UK#6 while its parent album scores on the UK album chart (#36), more than two years after its initial release in the US.
November 1986
Produced by Forsey, and with most of the songs written by Idol or Idol/Stevens, Whiplash Smile hits UK#8. The lead-off single, "To Be A Lover," climbs to UK#22 and US#6, while the album, Idol's fourth solo effort, will climb to US#6 in December.
February 1987
Nominated for Best Male Rock Vocalist, Idol performs "To Be A Lover" at the 29th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
June 1987
"Sweet Sixteen" makes it to US#20. In July it will peak at UK#17.
November 1987
Idol's remake of Tommy James & the Shondells' "Mony Mony" becomes his first #1 single in the US. It will climb to #7 on the UK chart, while Vital Idol achieves the #10 spot on the US album chart.
June 1988
Idol and girlfriend Perri Lister have a son, whom they name Willem Wolf Broad.
July 1988
Another compilation album, Idol Songs-11 Of The Best, reaches UK#2. Idol begins a long hiatus from recording.
August 1989
Idol appears with Patti Labelle, Phil Collins, Elton John and Steve Winwood in a benefit production of Pete Townshend's Tommy in Universal City, CA.


Don't Stop (EP, Chrysalis, 1981)

Mony Mony.....Baby Talk.....Untouchables.....Dancing With Myself.....(interview)

"Idol emerges as a flexible, semi-competent vocalist with a grasp of numerous idioms and a real flair for writing and styling newly-Gothamized songs." -- Trouser Press

"With this short record, which stayed in the album charts over a year, Idol was established as a post-punk hard rock singer of considerable promise." -- William Ruhlmann, AMG

Billy Idol (Chrysalis, 1982)
Come On, Come On
White Wedding
Hot In The City
Dead On Arrival
Nobody's Business
Love Calling
Hole In The Wall
Shooting Star
It's So Cruel
Congo Man
(or Dancing With Myself, as this album was released with two covers and two different track lists.)

"The record -- a marriage of [Giorgio] Moroder's trademark Midnight Express sequencer sound and a throbbing rock beat -- proved to be a lode of memorable hits.....Steve Stevens' caricatured Ronson/Thunders guitar wildness noisily matches Idol's macho postures and sneering vocals; the powerfully-built modern rock band has subtlety and near-metal strength."
Trouser Press

Rebel Yell (Chrysalis, 1983)
Rebel Yell
Daytime Drama
Eyes Without A Face
Blue Highway
Flesh For Fantasy
Catch My Fall
Crank Call
(Do Not) Stand In The Shadows
Dead Next Door

"Rebel Yell is a ferocious record, sharp as a saber, hard as a diamond, as beautiful and seductive as the darker side of life with which it flirts."
Parke Puterbaugh, Rolling Stone

Whiplash Smile (Chrysalis, 1986)
World's Forgotten Boy
To Be A Lover
Soul Standing By
Sweet Sixteen
Man For All Seasons
Don't Need A Gun
Beyond Belief
Fatal Charm
All Summer Single
One Night, One Chance

"This absorption with his own stardom is a strange fate for Idol, who chose his surname in '76 when he was just another London punk spitting at established rock stars. Now that he's a media idol himself, his moniker has ironic repercussions that invite accusations of hypocrisy and compromise. Idol is smart enough to recognize this quandary, and he's sincere enough about rock music to want to produce more than just a smattering of great singles. But even though Whiplash Smile is as forceful and dynamic as any album made this year, its trite lyrics prevent it from being the breakthrough he so clearly hoped for."
Rob Tannenbaum, Rolling Stone

Vital Idol (Chrysalis 1985, 1987)
White Wedding (Pts I & II)
Mony Mony
Hot In The City
Dancing With Myself
Flesh For Fantasy
To Be A Lover
Love Calling
Catch My Fall

"Makes Frankie's Pleasuredome sound like a Nick Lowe slapdown -- it's dead made live, old made new, mouldy made modern."
Melody Maker

"One day he'll be properly appreciated as a talent."
Sounds


During a grueling 30-hour shoot for the "Eyes Without A Face" video in June 1984, Idol was temporarily blinded when the heat from studio lights fused contact lenses to his eyes.

In early 1990, Idol was hospitalized in Los Angeles after fracturing his right leg in a motorcycle accident. A steel rod had to be inserted into the injured leg.

"Cradle Of Love" from the Charmed Life album (1990), was featured in the film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. It reached US#2 and won Best Video From A Film at the 7th Annual MTV Awards in September, 1990.

In 1992, Idol pled guilty to assault and battery charges after punching companion Amber Nevel in the face outside a West Hollywood restaurant. He paid $2,700 in fines and was required to appear in a series of anti-drug commercials.

Idol's 1993 album Cyberpunk contained the first interactive computer biography in a limited edition digipak format.

In 1994, Idol entered a Los Angeles hospital in critical condition after an apparent drug overdose in his Hollywood Hills home.