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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.