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

We are to the final studio album released in our Billy Idol Series which means we are really close to the end of the series which makes me a little sad as I have enjoyed doing this series.  The next album up for review is a  remix album of Billy’s hits called ‘Revitalized’ which was released in September 2018 and is 31 years after the release of his first remix album called ‘Vital Idol’.

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 original album has 11 tracks where the digital version gives you an additional 4 tracks for 15 songs total.

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I guess I will preface this by saying the album is full of hits songs and the remixes are all worth a listen, but nothing beats the original songs and actually nothing is better than Vital Idol.  These songs are good and give us a look at them in a new, modern light.  For fans it is fun and a must have for the collection; however, nothing groundbreaking here like Vital Idol was.

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Billy Idol – “BFI Live” – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

On November 25th, 2016, Black Friday or another Record Store Day, Billy Idol released a special edition 3 LP vinyl Live Album!!  The release were highlights from his 2014-2015 Kings & Queens of the Underground Tour.  I say it is highlights because the songs are from various different shows from around the world and not one full show.  I am sure he went and grabbed the best versions of each song.

The album was limited to only 2000 copies, each hand-numbered and exclusively on vinyl as the only physical release. The album is available digitally as well (which also comes with the Vinyl version.  It is a beautiful set and the sound is amazing.  Here’s the only problem.  I was unable to snag a copy during its initial release.  I am keeping a watchful eye on eBay and Discogs to find a reasonably priced one for sell and then I will grab it.  So, this review is really just a review of the digital release.

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BFI?  What does that stand for?  I think it is Billy “Fucking” Idol.  I also think BFI is the name of his label as well.  Whatever it stands for, BFI Live is fantastic.  The sound quality of each recording is crisp, clear and loud!  Was it cleaned up in the studio…probably, but who cares.  It is still live for the most part and that is all that matters.  It captures the essence fo a Billy performance and that is all you really want anyway.  Okay, I guess it is missing a little of the roughness that happens during live shows so that might be the only negative.

The release has 16 tracks from 10 different cities including Houston, Vienna, Munich, Atlanta and even Council Bluffs (wherever that is).  The setlist is greatest hits set live basically.  It is everything you would want to hear and expect to hear at a Billy show.

He does 3 songs off the latest album and they are “Postcards from the Past”, “Can’t Break Me Down” and “Save Me Now”.  Two of the first three songs are off the new album which is smart as people tend to go to the bathroom or get a beer (or both) when a song comes on they don’t really know.  When the show opens up, the crowd is so energized, that isn’t going to happen.

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It is a high energy show and Billy and Steve Steven show no signs of slowing down.  The songs are kept pretty much to their original format with the exception of a few lyric changes such as “LA Woman” (the Doors cover) being changed to “Portland Woman” and Billy asking “Nashville to Dance” on “Dancing With Myself”.  Billy and the crowd seem to be having a wonderful time.

Steve Stevens sounds really great with his guitar work especially on Flesh for Fantasy and the one song I didn’t know when looking at the track listing. It was “Dementia” which turned out to be a wonderful Steve Stevens guitar solo.  I didn’t know guitar solos actually had names other than “Guitar Solo”. Seriously though, the song is actually off Steve’s solo album “Flamenco a Go-Go” from 2000.  Kinda nice Billy let him highlight one of his own songs.

The songs cover most of Billy’s career with even a song from his Generation X days, “Ready Steady Go” which Billy seems to love to still play and Steve adds a whole new magic to it with his playing.  You also get the story behind the song “Sweet Sixteen” which Billy tells with such enthusiasm.  Before that story, a woman screams “I Love You!!!” and immediately Billy responds back “I Love Me Too!  That makes two of us”…it was a very funny moment I am glad they left in.

And let’s talk about how he ends this album.  The album ends with 3 of his most iconic songs and I could imagine the crowd going nuts and loving everything about it.  He ends with “Rebel Yell”, “White Wedding” and “Mony, Mony”…what an amazing way to go out.

All-in-all, this is a hell of a live set and since Billy has only released one other live album (VH1 Storytellers), I will take what I can get.  I loved this set and I am eager to go out and find the physical copy after listening to this.  With 16 songs and 1 hour and 40 minutes of music…it is simply wonderful.  I will give this a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars and only deducting because it is too clean…I mean I don’t think Billy misses too many notes and I don’t think that is possible (I have never seen him live so can’t say for sure).  If you are out and about and come across it (somehow), grab it.  You won’t be disappointed.

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

Up next will be Billy Idol’s ‘Revitalized’.

Billy Idol – ‘Devil’s Playground’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

On March 22, 2005, Billy Idol returns to music with his first album of new material in over 12 years.  Way too long in my book.  While on tour prior to the album, Billy was approached by Sanctuary Records to record an album.  The trick was that they wanted it in the old Billy style and sound.

As a result, Billy, Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey re-teamed to record the album. Yep, the gang was back together and I couldn’t be more happy.  Along for the ride was Stephen McGrath on bass, Derek Sherinian on keyboards and Brian Tichy on drums.  Not a bad line-up.

Of course, Steve and Billy had some songs together.  However, it was only 3 songs for Steve.  Billy did most of his writing with drummer Brian Tichy who had 8 writing credits on the album.  Of course, Billy had to have a cover song and the album checks that bucket as well.  All was now in place.

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Billy Idol – ‘VH1 Storytellers’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

For the last half of the 90’s, Billy didn’t release anything.  After the failure of the ‘Cyberpunk’ album (which was awesome) and the issues with the label, Billy sort of vanished from the music scene.  He did have the single for the movie “Speed”, he made a memorable cameo in the movie ‘The Wedding Singer’, but outside of that, there wasn’t much else.

In 2001, that started to change.  VH1 aired a ‘Behind the Music’ on Billy and a greatest hits compilation was released that had a cover of Simple Mind’s song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” which had moderate success.  Heck, the greatest hits album sold over 1 million copies in the U.S. alone.  VH1 also decided to film a VH1 Storytellers with Billy and along for ride was Steve Stevens which was a reunion that was long overdue.

I am not going to critique the VH1 Storytellers show, but the CD that was released.  The CD came out on February 22, 2002 and is only the songs that were played and not any of the stories.  For that, you need the DVD.

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Billy Idol – “Speed” (from the Speed Soundtrack) – Single Review (The Billy Idol Series)

After the lack of success of ‘Cyberpunk’, Billy Idol was pretty quiet for many years with one minor exception.  He reunited with Steve Stevens for a song on the 1994 Soundtrack to the movie Speed starring Keanu Reeves.  Billy was having some disagreements with his label and having many issues with drugs (still), he needed something to get back in the fans good graces.

Billy and Steve were contacted by the soundtracks music director, Ralph Sall, to come up with the movie’s title song and Billy thought this would be a good opportunity.  The song was inspired by the movie and the rest of the soundtrack included songs that were either inspired by the movie or were just songs about Speed such as the Kiss song “Mr. Speed”.

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Track Listing for the Soundtrack

I am not reviewing the whole soundtrack as this is a Billy Idol series so we will focus only on Billy’s song.  And what a song it is.  It didn’t do well upon its release as this was 1994 and Billy’s style of Rock was no longer in fashion.  The movie did way better than the song for sure.

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

After the tour for Rebel Yell, Billy Idol continued to live like he was on tour.  The drug use was getting worse, his relationship with Perri Lister was over and even his manager, Bill Aucoin was absent due to his own drug issues.  Billy’s world was slowly spiraling out of control.  And so was his ego.

When work was started on his next album ‘Whiplash Smile’, Billy’s ego started to get in the way.  He wanted control.  He wanted to write all the songs.  He wanted to add more synthesizers, more sounds, more stuff that wasn’t Steve Stevens.  And it is noticeable in the music.

What is also noticeable, is that with everyone leaving his life, the loneliness found its way into the music.  And an album that found about as much success as its predecessor, it wasn’t not quite the Billy Idol album people wanted or critics even liked.  It was an album that would lead to the end of a relationship between musicians that really needed each other.

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

After the success of his self-titled debut album, Billy Idol, teamed back up with producer Keith Forsey and guitarist Steve Stevens.  And in late 1983, we were treated to his second album, ‘Rebel Yell’.  The collaboration with Steve Stevens grew immensely with this album.  On the first, Steve only had his hand in writing two songs.  On ‘Rebel Yell’, he contributed to all but one song that was only written by Idol.  The bond had grown so much, that Steve even made the back cover of the album.

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The duo of Billy and Steve was complete and you couldn’t have one without the other, at least for a long while anyway.  If you notice on the back cover, the songs are broken out into Sides 3 and Sides 4.  This was because the debut was 1 and 2, so these naturally would be 3 and 4, he would do this at least one more time for the next studio album.  I liked the concept.

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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.

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Billy Idol – ‘Don’t Stop E.P.’ – Album Review (The Billy Idol Series)

After the demise of Generation X and Gen X, Billy would follow Bill Aucoin, his manager and Kiss’ former manager, to New York City to start a solo career.  When Billy signed on with Gen X as their manager, he quickly learned that the star of this band was not the band, but its lead singer, Billy Idol.

When Billy got to New York, he met a lot of interesting people and really loved the club scene…and of course, the drug scene was something he enjoyed as well.  If you read his book, “Dancing With Myself you can find out all about it so I won’t spoil the details here.

Billy was introduced to a guitarists at this time that would become just as big a part of Billy’s solo career as he was.  He met Steve Stevens.  There is no Billy Idol sound without Steve and his guitar playing is what makes Idol’s solo songs that much better.

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With Steve Stevens in tow along with Phil Feit on bass and Gregg Gerson on drums, the band set out to record Billy’s first solo album.  As a teaser and build up to his career, it was decided an E.P. would be put out, I guess to whet everyone’s whistle and draw up buzz on the singer.  ‘Don’t Stop’ was the result.  It was more of a dance album than the former punk sound Billy had and you could see the magic being developed on what would become an amazing run of albums in the 80’s.

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