Billy Idol – ‘Billy Idol’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

Billy Idol was loving his time in New York and it showed in his writing as the album seemed to be inspired by what he was doing in the city.  After the mild success of his 1981 E.P., Don’t Stop, he and the band went to work on the debut album simply titled ‘Billy Idol’.  It is his album and he is the main focal point so why not call it ‘Billy Idol’.

Released in 1982, Billy was discovering who he was as an artist and what it was like to now be the main focal point.  His meeting of Steve Stevens seemed to be a match made in Heaven…well rock & roll heaven anyway.  Steven even contributed a couple writing credits on this release.  The two together would become one of the great teams in music.  You have McCartney & Lennon, Elton John & Bernie Taupin and now you have Idol & Stevens…okay, that is stretching it too far, but you know what I mean.

When the album was originally released in 1982, the album cover looked like this…

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I don’t have this cover, yet, but I will find it one day and get a hold of it.  I don’t like this one as much as the alternate cover I have.  It is a little too feminine compared to the toughness of the one I have with the black leather jacket (not that there is anything wrong with that).  The new cover fits the attitude and the snarl so much better.

What I love about my copy is mine is still in the original shrink wrap and still has all the stickers including the sticker from the old record store Turtles which is where I used to buy my music back in the 80’s.  And it was only $8.66.  Oh memories…

There is another difference between the two albums.  The original has song #10 as “Congo Man” and the alternate version, my version from 1983, has the Gen X song “Dancing with Myself”…the reason for the change was the success of the song “White Wedding” they thought they would capitalize on it and reissue the album with the old song added.  It worked as I bought it since I love “Dancing With Myself”.

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The album was moderately successful reaching #45 on the Billboard Charts and #3 on the Mainstream Rock Chart.  It sold over 500,000 copies and did go Gold thanks in part to the fact that MTV was starting to catch on and Billy was perfect for the station with his tough guy attitude and that bleached blonde spiked hair and that Elvis snarl I mentioned earlier.  They were made for each other.

I still have the album sleeve and it is just basic red on one side and the other side has a strange picture that I don’t know what the heck it means.  It is just a picture of people on the street and I will assume it is New York City, but don’t know the meaning behind it.  I also think this was the cover of the first single “Hot in the City”.

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I guess it is time to take on the music now so we will begin with Side One as it would be strange to start from the back to front.

SIDE ONE

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The album kicks off with the first Idol & Stevens collaboration, “Come On, Come On”.  This would be the start of a beautiful relationship.  The song is a danceable pop/rock song with a nice thumping bass and a very catchy chorus.  Billy proved his Generation X critics right when they used to complain that Generation X just wanted to be a pop rock band…well that is what Billy became…and thank goodness!!

One of the most recognizable Billy Idol songs ever is up next.  “White Wedding (part 1)” became a massive hit for Billy thanks to MTV.  With few videos to play in the early days, this one got on heavy rotation.  A song that is not about a happy wedding.  I have read different stories about what the song means.  One, it is not about his actual sister.  It is either about a “shotgun” wedding or about a woman he is in love with then marries someone else.  Either way it is great with that now classic Steve Stevens guitar riff.

The video was cool depicting a wedding with a normal looking bride (who was Perri Lester, Billy’s girlfriend at the time) and a goth rocker (Billy) as the groom.  The famous barbed wire wedding ring making her finger bleed as he put it on her finger and the scene of the motorcycle crashing through the church window all stand out as memorable.

“White Wedding (part 1)” is called part 1 because there is a part 2 which is a more synthesized version of the song.  It was released as a 7″ dance version.  Both versions can be heard together on his future release of ‘Vital Idol’.

“Hot in the City” comes next and keeps the run of great tracks going.  The song is about Billy’s time in New York and his love for the city.  It is a slower dance track with some lovely ladies assisting with background vocals.  He uses some synthesizers on top of the fantastic bass and drum rhythm section.  It is really a stellar track and his scream of “New York” towards the end is epic.

“Dead on Arrival” is more of the same great danceable rock tracks.  Billy’s vocals were a little more gritty and overall a fun track.  The song also has some great guitar work from Steve and a nice little solo break for him.

The first side ends with “Nobody’s Business” and is not the best track on the album.  It has a familiar feel to it when comparing to the other songs we have heard so far.  It isn’t a bad track, just a little dull for me.  If it wasn’t for the Steve Steven guitar solo, the song would be a total loss.  It is amazing what a decent guitar solo will do.

SIDE TWO

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This side opens with a personal favorite of mine, “Love Calling”.  The song has some great drumming and tribal drum beat thanks to Steve Missal.  Along with the tribal sound was some tribal chanting as well.  The highlight for me is the “rub a dub, rub a dub” phrasing during the chorus.  It is one of his most unusual pieces, but for me works on every level.

“Hole in the Wall” is up next and is another solid danceable rock track.  It reminds of some previous songs, but stands out as closer to “Dead on Arrival” rather than “Nobody’s Business”.  The song is layered with guitars and Phil Keit’s bass is really thumping throughout.

With more of the same, “Shooting Stars” gives me a slightly different version of the previous song.  There is a great break in the song where Steve Steven is creating new sounds with his guitar that are pretty cool.  After that break, I really started enjoying the song a little more. The guitar part is probably because Steve Stevens assisted in writing this one as well along with Billy.

My least favorite track is now up called “It’s So Cruel”.  Billy changes up the tempo on this one and slows it down to start.  It meanders along and I found it slightly boring. If I was to delete a song, this would be it.  It sounded too much like he was trying to do an Elvis song, but wasn’t a good idea.

The version of the album I have ends with “Dancing with Myself”.  The song had been released twice before, once with Gen X and the next on Billy’s debut E.P. ‘Don’t Stop’. The third time was the charm as the video was put in heavy rotation after the success of “White Wedding” and now became a Billy Idol classic.  It is pure dance and rock fun. This version had something different than the prior two…pure timing.  Billy was hot now so this was a great song thrown back out and it now took.  Love it.

On the original version of the album, Track 10 was a little drum bit called “Congo Man” which was really a “Love Calling reprise”.  It is only a little over a minute and is only tribal drum sounds like from the song with a little vocal chant.  It is completely unnecessary and I see why the took it off.

Track Listing:

  1. Come On, Come On – Keeper
  2. White Wedding (part 1) – Keeper
  3. Hot in the City – Keeper
  4. Dead on Arrival – Keeper
  5. Nobody’s Business – Keeper/Delete (1/2 credit)
  6. Love Calling – Keeper
  7. Hole in the Wall – Keeper
  8. Shooting Stars – Keeper/Delete (1/2 Credit)
  9. It’s so Cruel – Delete
  10. Dancing with Myself – Keeper
  11. “Congo Man” on original version of album – Delete

There are really only 10 tracks on each version, but we will make it 11 to include all tracks available.  The track score would be 8 out of 11 or 73% with Nobody’s Business and Shooting Stars getting 1/2 point each as some times I want to hear them and sometimes I don’t.  That makes it a pretty good score.

Overall rating of the album based on song quality and production is sitting at 3.25 out of 5.0 Stars.  It isn’t my favorite Billy Idol album, but it is still a great debut.  With some classic songs and great deep cuts, you have a solid release that is a pre-cursor to what is to come.  I think Billy was finding himself on this one and turned his punk past into a danceable pop and rock combination that was full of the punk attitude.  He was breaking free at just the right time.  Oh yeah, and now that Steve Stevens was on board, the two together were going on to some great things.

If you want to check out the other reviews I have done so far for the Billy Idol Series, click the links below:

Billy Idol – Don’t Stop E.P.

Generation X – ‘The BBC Transcription Disc Series No. 126 1978’

Gen X – ‘Kiss Me Deadly’

Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’

Generation X – ‘Generation X’

Up next will be Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’.

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14 thoughts on “Billy Idol – ‘Billy Idol’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

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