Billy Idol – The Albums Ranked Worst to First (The Billy Idol Series)

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…

  1. Generation X – ‘Generation X’
  2. Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’
  3. Gen X – ‘Kiss Me Deadly’
  4. Generation X – ‘The BBC Transcription Disc Series No. 126 1978’
  5. Billy Idol – Don’t Stop E.P.
  6. Billy Idol – Billy Idol
  7. Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
  8. Billy Idol – Whiplash Smile
  9. Billy Idol – Vital Idol
  10. Billy Idol – Charmed Life
  11. Billy Idol – Cyberpunk
  12. Billy Idol – “Speed” (song from the Speed Soundtrack)
  13. Generation X – K.M.D. Sweet Revenge
  14. Billy Idol – VH1 Storytellers (Live)
  15. Billy Idol – Devil’s Playground
  16. Billy Idol – Happy Holidays
  17. Billy Idol – The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself
  18. Billy Idol – Kings & Queens of the Underground
  19. Billy Idol – BFI Live (#RSD 2019)
  20. Billy Idol – Revitalized
  21. Generation X – Your Generation (7″ Record Store Day Release)
  22. Billy Idol – The Albums Ranked From Worst to First

 

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Generation X – “Your Generation” 7″ Record Store Day Release – Single Review (The Billy Idol Series)

This is the last in the Billy Idol Series.  I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have in writing it.  There could be one more in the series if I get the Generation X Deluxe Set that was just released, but I have not grabbed a hold of yet.  When I get it, I will do a review of it, but for now, we will end the series with this beauty right here.  I started with a Generation X release and I will end with one as well.

For Record Store Day 2019, Generation X released a special 7″ Single of the band’s debut song “Your Generation”.  The song is not the original version, but the Winstanley Mix which is done in conjunction with the release of a Deluxe Edition of the band’s debut album.  This remix is not on the box set, but in addition to and a must grab for Generation X fans.

The original song was released as a single in 1977, however, it did not show up on the debut album.  It wasn’t until the 2002 re-issue of the debut that this song saw new light.  The B-Side of this single  is “Trying for Kicks” which was also on the 2002 re-issue and not used for the original album.

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The 7″ Single release was on red vinyl and is absolutely beautiful and a nice add to the collection.

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Generation X – ‘K.M.D. Sweet Revenge’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

After the release of Generation X’s second album, “Valley of the Dolls”, the band started recording the follow-up release.  However, during the recording the band started having some creative issues with each other. The album was demoed, but never finished before the band broke-up.  Billy Idol and Tony James decided to continue on and they rebranded themselves as Gen X.  They released ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ in 1980 to little or moderate success.  So, the 3rd Generation X album never saw the light of day.

Well, it never saw the light of day until 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.

Now in 2003, Billy finally did release the songs (from a different audio source) on a Generation X Anthology that he did approve.  The songs I have that I will discuss are for the Anthology and not the actual Sweet Revenge release as I am still trying to get my hands on it.  When I do, I will update the post.

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Generation X – The BBC Transcription Disc Series No. 126 1978 – (The Billy Idol Series – Bonus Edition)

Before I get to the next studio album in the Billy Idol series, I thought I would throw in a bonus Generation X Bootleg album out of Italy.  This 2LP Set is called the BBC Transcription Disc Series No. 126 – 1978.  It is live show from December 8th, 1978 out of Sheffield, England.  It is an unofficial release so therefore, a bootleg.  And it is fantastic.

I was in New York at this great little record store in Greenwich Village and came across this disc.  I was talking with the clerk asking about any Generation X on vinyl and he told me I needed this one and man he was right.

Generation X was criticized on their studio albums for trying to be more commercial than Punk.  Well, the live album shows they were a real Punk band.  I find this live show to really show off what this band was all about.  You can hear the attitude in the guitar playing and the drumming.  And of course, Billy’s snarling and attitude is pure punk with a big FU to everyone.

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Gen X – ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

After touring the band’s second album, ‘Valley of the Dolls’, the band was in shambles.  During the recording of their third album, Derwood Andrews decided to leave the band.  And shortly thereafter, Billy asked drummer, Mark Laff, to leave…well, he fired him as he didn’t feel his style was appropriate for the new sound.  Generation X was done.  That third album would not be released for another 20 years.

Remaining players, Billy Idol and Tony James, decided to keep going, but now they were called Gen X.  First the band needed a new manager,  Tony found a guy by the name of Bill Aucoin.  If you are a Kiss fan, that name should ring some bells pretty loudly.  The band then got drummer Terry Chimes and they auditioned several guitarists while recording the new album.

The band’s style was no longer punk.  They were going to ride the New Wave sound that was starting to sweep across England.  That sound would be what carried Billy into his solo career.  Speaking of solo career, Bill Aucoin wasn’t overly impressed with Gen X.  His real interest was Billy Idol and what he could with him in America, but that would come just a little later down the line.

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Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

After the moderate success of their debut album, the band went in to record their sophomore album with famed musician and producer, Ian Hunter.  Yes, the Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople.  The album would come out just a few months later in January 1979.  Before the album was released, the record company, Chrysalis, came to the band and basically told them, the album better succeed or they were to be dropped from the label…no pressure.

The album was quite different than the first album.  It had some of the punk sound from the first album, but there were elements of some glam (thanks to Ian) and even more of an American sound ala Springsteen (or at least what they felt was like Springsteen). The songs were a little more complex than the first album and the writing was more mature, but I am not sure it was good yet.

The two writing contributors were Billy Idol and Tony James so everything was based around what they wanted.  Heck, in fact when promoting the debut album, it was only Billy sent to America to promote it.  That started putting thoughts in Billy’s head about what he could do on his own. However, on this album, most of the influence on the album seem to be coming from Tony (he even picked the producer).  It was the start of things to come.

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

Welcome to first review in the Billy Idol Series.  I am going to do album reviews for all albums by the 80’s icon, Billy Idol.  We will start with his stint in the band Generation X from 1978 all the way up to his 2018 release ‘Vital Idol: Revitalized’ (assuming that is the latest release by the time I get to it).

I was going to wait until I got the debut album on vinyl to start the series, but I am not the most patient person and since I have the next 7 or so on vinyl already, I will go ahead and start now.  So, without further adieu, here is the first of many reviews…

Generation X

Back in 1976 at the tender age of 21, guitarist William Broad joined the band Chelsea after answering an ad for musicians.  Also answering that add were bass player Tony James and drummer John Towe.  They would join up with singer John O’Hara to form the band.  The band would tour and do mostly covers, but William and Tony became fast friends and felt they could do better so they grabbed John Towe and all left the band.

They would be the founding members of the band that would become known as Generation X.  Now, where did the name come from.  It wasn’t based on the fact that people born in this time were known as Gen Xers.  The name actually came from a book William’s mom was reading called Generation X which was book on popular youth culture from 1965 by British journalists Jane Deverson and Charles Hamblett.

This new band needed a guitarists so they hired 17 year old guitarist Bob “Derwood” Andrews from a band called Paradox.  That wasn’t the only change.  They needed a guitarist because William decided to drop the guitar and become the lead singer.

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Turntables & Vinyl #13 – The New York Adventure

The family and I took a wonderful Spring Break vacation to the bustling city of New York.  What an amazing city.  There are so many things to see and so little time to see it all, but we crammed in as much as we could.  I was even able to take a few hours and visit some record stores while we were down in Greenwich Village. Lucky Me!!

Before we get to that, let’s talk a little about the trip.  We arrived on Sunday afternoon and had a little time to run down to Time Square to check things out.  The kids were stunned by the huge, bright, flashing billboards and all the people…all the interesting and very strange people.

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We saw where the film the Late Show with Steven Colbert, where the Broadway Show Rocktopia was playing which was starring Pat Monahan from Train while we were there (didn’t see it though), we of course saw Time Square and even went and snapped a picture at Radio City Music Hall.

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Billy Idol – “Dancing With Myself” – Book Review

I have been a fan of Billy Idol since the day I heard (and saw) “White Wedding” on MTV back in the very early years of the station.  The music and his image with that Elvis curling of his lip had me from day one.  So, when Amazon had the book for the Kindle for $2.99 I had to get it and finally sat down and read it.  The book came out in October 2014 by Simon & Schuster and obviously tells the story of his life.  It is an autobiography which is why I wanted to really read it. It is straight from the man himself not someone taking stories from various sources who might have even been there.

The book covers his life from a child when they moved to the U.S. and then back to the U.K. all the way up to his last album (and my favorite Billy Idol album) released in 2014, ‘Kings & Queens of the Underground’.  I am actually playing it as I am writing and I will do a review of that one someday.  The book covers all the bands, the sex, the drugs, the albums, the sex, the drugs, the ups & downs, the sex, the drugs and so much more.  Did  I mention it covers the sex and the drugs?

He freely talks about his sexual escapades and what rock & roll biography doesn’t which is why that is really the least interesting thing about the book.  The drugs are typical for a rock & roll biography as well, but for this part, it is important in his life story.  It was interesting to hear how messed up he was during the recording of the albums, the tours and his life in general.  At times, his commentary about being high painted this very vivid image and he takes you on this stranger journey momentarily and you realize just how fucked up he really was.  It is amazing he is still alive.

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