For the past 8 to 9 months, I have been reviewing the entire Billy Idol catalog from Generation X back in 1978 through his solo years and even a Generation X single released in 2019 on Record Store Day. It has been such a fun journey and I hate it has come to an end. To wrap it up, we are going to rank all the studio albums from his very worst (and it is bad) to his very best (which is sensational).
THE WORST – HAPPY HOLIDAYS (2006):
I am not sure what Billy was thinking, but this should have never been released and probably never recorded. Hell, it is so bad that even Steve Stevens wasn’t involved with recording it. That should tell you something right there!! It is a rehash of classic Christmas songs that we are better off listening to the originals as these do not spark any Christmas cheer.
The original songs Billy wrote throw every cliche in the book out as lyrics and they are sappy, crappy songs. The best thing about “Happy Holidays” is that it is only 2 minutes. The only good thing about “Christmas Love” is that it does eventually end. My Christmas gift to you is to avoid this at any cost.
#14 – GENERATION X – VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1979):
I thought the production of the album wasn’t good at all as it seemed there was no clear direction and the songs didn’t feel like they were a cohesive package. It felt like the band didn’t know what they wanted to sound like and were still finding themselves. Maybe Billy was too busy looking to go solo, who knows, but this was not a good effort.
I did like a handful of songs and they will go nicely in my Billy Idol playlist, but other than that you can skip this album. The songs I did like were “King Rocker”and “Valley of the Dolls” as those were the best. “Night of the Cadillac”, “Running with The Boss Sound” along with “Fridays Angels” were decent enough tracks, but nothing else. I haven’t revisited this one in awhile.
#13 – WHIPLASH SMILE (1986):
The album lacks the amount of solid songs as ‘Rebel Yell’ and is not one I actually go back to listen. For me, it is a disappointing album and now knowing about all the drug use, I can feel the lack of clarity and cohesiveness in the album. I hate Billy and Steve had this as their last album together (at the time)…at least they make up for it years later.
Being his heyday, I expected more from this release and it does have some good songs such as “To Be A Lover”, “Sweet Sixteen” and “Don’t Need a Gun”. You might also enjoy “World’s Forgotten Boy” and “Soul Standing By” but avoid Side B at all cost. That side is almost unlistenable.
#12 – REVITALIZED (2018):
Not all the songs are perfect, but the album is interesting and at times fun. It isn’t as good as the original ‘Vital Idol’, but has elements that make it worth having. Billy’s songs are brought into the 21st century with remixes coming from some of the best EDM artist of 2018 including Paul Oakenfold, Moby, The Crystal Method, CRAY and many more.
The remix of “Mony Mony” by Billy Idol & Steve Steven is fun with the “Get Laid, Get Fucked” thrown in. Any of the mixes that keep the Steve Steven’s guitar are worth listening to as well and I even liked the complete reimagining of “Don’t Need a Gun” and the all instrumental of “Save Me Now”. Like I said, it is in the ver least, interesting and a fun and a nice change of pace.
#11 – GENERATION X – K.M.D. SWEET REVENGE (1998):
The album is really good and a surprise as it is a release of demos and released in 1998 when former Generation X guitarist Derwood Andrews released it due to some contract obligations without the consent of Billy Idol and Tony James. Billy & Tony were able to block the release in the U.S., but not anywhere else. The songs were in demo form and not fully realized tracks.
There are some great tracks and some little gems that would go on to be very successful songs for Billy Idol. I love the name of the album and the resentment behind this release for Derwood and with some great tunes I enjoyed this release a lot more than I thought. I liked “Modern Boys”, “Triumph”, “Girls Girls Girls”, “Anna Smiles” and “Flash as Hell” along with the demo of “Dancing With Myself (always a great song). I think this is worth a listen.
#10 – BILLY IDOL (1982):
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.
And album that has “White Wedding” and “Hot in the City” must be great. To be at #10 on his list just tells you how good the rest must be. I also dug this version of “Dancing With Myself” along with “Come On, Come On” and you can’t forget “Love Calling”. Really a great set and why is it so low now?
#9 – GENERATION X – KISS ME DEADLY (1981):
Overall I liked this a lot more than ‘Valley of the Dolls’, but not quite as much as the debut album. It is a tale of two halves with the album. The first half is more danceable and a precursor to what Billy Idol was to become. The second half was more a reminder of the punk days of Generation X. The two together meld nicely for me. I am not sure why this album gets such a bad rap, because I actually enjoyed it. Maybe I have no taste or critics don’t know shit. I am going with the second one. And no, I am not a critic, I am blogger, critics get paid and I do not. I am a fan first and foremost.
This is the album with the original release of “Dancing With Myself” and it is fantastic. You should also check out “Untouchables”, “Heavens Inside”, “Triumph” and don’t forget “What Do You Want”, “Poison” and “oh Mother”. It has a lot on here for you to enjoy.
#8 – DON’T STOP E.P. (1981):
The Billy Idol debut and if this was your first introduction to Billy, I think you would be excited as these 4 songs are all great. It is an exciting introduction and would definitely leave me wanting to hear more. As I think all songs are all good despite the fact 3 songs are covers (2 Gen X covers at that so are they really covers?).
You get “Dancing With Myself” and “Untouchables” from Gen X and then you get “Mony Mony” which Billy made his own song even though it is a cover. The last song is “Baby Talk” and though not his strongest still great. A nice start to his career!
#7 – CYBERPUNK (1993):
A very underrated album for Billy. The 90’s were tough as 80’s acts were being killed off in droves thanks to Grunge. Billy went full on experimental mode and dived down the rabbit hole of the Cyberpunk movement and the use of technology to make music. He was actually ahead of the times with this and eventually everyone else would catch up.
The songs on here are that are good are great and that is why I like this so much. I really loved “Wasteland”, “Shock to the System” and “Tomorrow People”. When you get to “Neuromancer” and “Power Junkie” you are completely bought in to his new sound. Despite a lackluster back half of of the album, that first half saves the day and I like it each more with every listen.
#6 – GENERATION X – GENERATION X (1978):
I really dug this album. I love to see the beginnings of Billy Idol and knowing where he ends up is great. I agree that Generation X aren’t as punk as a lot of bands of the time, but I think this album holds up really well and there are some great tracks. They have attitude and the songs are punk, but it is also a little more danceable and less punk preaching which is fine with me.
You get the classic songs of “Ready Steady Go” which he still plays today along with “One Hundred Punks” and “Kleenex”. Other great tracks include “Promises Promises”, “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Youth Youth Youth”. If you get any Generation X album, this should be the one, hands down!
#5 – VITAL IDOL (1985/1987):
Billy set the bar pretty high for Remix albums after this beauty was released. The remixes were complete re-imagining of the songs, but they were done in a way to enhance and even improve on the original songs. It was bloody brilliant. It actually made me want to dance…and I don’t dance.
The remixes that stood out to me were “Flesh For Fantasy”, which might be favorite version of this song, as well as “Mony Mony”. And of course “White Wedding” (both Part 1 and 2), “Hot In the City” and “Catch My Fall” are all fantastic. “Love Calling” stood out to with the woman making all the orgasmic sounds throughout the mix and when you were a teenager listening to this that was quite memorable.
#4 – CHARMED LIFE (1990):
Production was fantastic, the songs were top notch and the guitar sound was way more than I expected. After the disappointing, ‘Whiplash Smile’…well disappointing to me, this album came out with a bang and stayed in heavy rotation for a long time when I originally picked this up back in the day. And I spun it a ton for this review. Billy proved that he could do this without Steve Stevens on guitar.
With songs like the cheesy “Cradle of Love” and “Pumping on Steel”, I was hooked from the get go. The Door’s cover of “LA Woman” was so different and a real rocker as well as songs like “The Loveless” and “Endless Sleep” I couldn’t get enough of this one. In fact, only one song I didn’t like and that is pretty good.
#3 – DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND (2005):
And yes, the album is a little all over the board with styles, but for me it worked. It was a solid album. It rocked out at times more so than he has ever done. It checked so many boxes for me on what I want from a Billy Idol album. This was the first album with Steve Stevens back at guitar and to have the whole gang back together, damn it was awesome. He kept it old and yet modern sounding as well. Just a fantastic album.
The standout tracks for me were “Super Overdrive”, “World Comin’ Down”, “Rat Race”, “Scream”, “Plastic Jesus”, “Body Snatcher” and “Evil Eye”…I almost named every song so that should tell you something. Even the Christmas song “Yellin’ at the Xmas Tree” was awesome. Easily a Top 3 and could be #2, just depends my mood.
#2 – KINGS & QUEENS OF THE UNDERGROUND (2014):
I found this to be one of his best albums and at this late in his career it is amazing. I love the retrospective feel to the album, I loved the sonics, I loved almost everything about it. It is a modern album, that feels like classic Billy Idol. There is a lot of soul-searching going and it feels like a cathartic exercise in releasing his demons. It was the perfect companion piece for his book that came out at the same time.
The title should have been based on the song “Postcards from the Past” as it felt like little snapshots of his life. My all time favorite Billy song is on here with “Save Me Now”…simply the best song. You also get “Bitter Pill”, “One Breath Away”, “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Whiskey & Pills”. Just a stellar album from beginning to end.
#1 – REBEL YELL (1983):
The album brings New Wave and Rock together and captures that energy and magic in a way that few albums ever would. Billy Idol set himself apart from the other artists at the time and became a bonafide rock star and a huge Video star. There are so many iconic, classic Billy Idol tracks on here that this is easily one of his best.
The title track alone is reason enough. “Rebel Yell” is an instant rocker and perfect when he plays it live. Throw in “Eyes Without a Face”, “Blue Highway” and “Flesh for Fantasy” and most artist would kill to have one of these songs on their album…he has all of them. With “Catch My Fall” and another personal favorite “(Do Not) Stand in the Shadows”, this one is hard to beat.
And there you have it, the Billy Idol studio albums in order of how I rank them from the worst to the best. Let me know what you think. Where did we differ and where did we agree. What is fun about these list is how differently each album impacts people. What I like, you might not, but we like the same artist and that is all that matters really. And if as a result, you find something new, then my job is done!!!
Now, if you want to check out the full reviews and the entire Billy Idol Series, click on any and all of the links below…
- Generation X – ‘Generation X’
- Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’
- Gen X – ‘Kiss Me Deadly’
- Generation X – ‘The BBC Transcription Disc Series No. 126 1978’
- Billy Idol – Don’t Stop E.P.
- Billy Idol – Billy Idol
- Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
- Billy Idol – Whiplash Smile
- Billy Idol – Vital Idol
- Billy Idol – Charmed Life
- Billy Idol – Cyberpunk
- Billy Idol – “Speed” (song from the Speed Soundtrack)
- Generation X – K.M.D. Sweet Revenge
- Billy Idol – VH1 Storytellers (Live)
- Billy Idol – Devil’s Playground
- Billy Idol – Happy Holidays
- Billy Idol – The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself
- Billy Idol – Kings & Queens of the Underground
- Billy Idol – BFI Live (#RSD 2019)
- Billy Idol – Revitalized
- Generation X – Your Generation (7″ Record Store Day Release)