Catching Up with BILLY IDOL

April 5, 2020 by Harriet Kaplan

It’s 2020 and punk-pioneer and legend Billy Idol is still captivating us with his whiplash smile and semi-charmed life. From the time he first played in the London club scene in Chelsea as a guitarist, and later as the front-man for punk rock rebels, Generation X, he took no prisoners. With that infectious attitude of his, he graced the stage as their muse from the late 70’s until they split up in 1981. Although, he left in tow with a re-mix of the Gen X single, Dancing With Myself.

His plan was simple, Idol wanted to break through with his music in America. He immediately formed a crucial relationship with the incredibly talented guitar genius, Steve Stevens. The soon-to-be guitar legend became a very important part of the Idol sound with his own signature style, which included dominant aggressive slashing, atmospheric guitar pyrotechnics.

From the moment the two went to work, the duo had a phenomenally successful music career. They became global superstars due in huge part to the advent of MTV and VH-1. More MTV in those early days. It was those early music videos that catapulted him into the mainstream creating “pop-punk” as a genre. That forever cementing him into the mind’s of the American collective consciousness.

The peroxide blonde spiky-haired artist brought his unique style, swagger, honest, in-your-face attitude and intelligence to the music masses. he delivered his message through the airwaves with the help of MTV rotation play. Video literally made this radio star a monster with his ground-breaking, colorful and wildly imaginative way-over-the-top videos.

Back in the day, it didn’t matter where you called home… everyone knew who Billy Idol was. His lip-curling sneer and fist-pumping persona became his trademark with an undeniable nonchalant sex appeal he exuded with his natural charisma. Throughout his career, Idol sold out shows wherever he’s performed (to multi-generational fans).

He released a number of massive hit singles, which included songs like Hot in the City, Mony Mony, Cradle of Love, Sweet Sixteen, To Be a Lover, Catch My Fall, L.A. Woman, White Wedding, Rebel Yell, (Do Not) Stand in the Shadows, Blue Highway, Eyes Without a Face, Flesh For Fantasy… and many more.

To-date, Idol has released solo eight albums since 1981, he’s sold 40 million albums while scoring numerous platinum albums worldwide, nine top-forty singles in the U.S. and 10 in the UK. He was among the many rock and pop stars who became famous because of his MTV and VH-1 success; he was a trendsetter who ushered in bands like The Eurythmics, Duran Duran, Berlin and countless others who were part of that MTV generation.

Idol was undeniably a symbol of rebellion throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s. That tough-guy and dangerous attitude played a big part in his image. As he got older, it got more serious and magnified in his daredevil rock star lifestyle. As the legend of Billy Idol grew, he took more and more chances; basically living constantly on the edge. It was those larger than life indulgences that could have had deadly consequences. Despite all the bad habits, he was lucky to an extent.
Idol is a showman, so-much-so, he was influenced by Elvis Presley, and used aspects of his persona with the darker and more belligerent attitudes of his idols. Icons like Jim Morrison as well as the antics of John Lydon, Sid Vicious… you know, those Sex Pistols-esque attitudes and themes.

Billy Idol was James Cameron’s Original Pick to Play the T-1ooo

On February 6, 1990, Idol was in a terrible motorcycle accident; and he wasn’t wearing a helmet. He underwent seven hours of surgery to repair a fractured forearm and save his right leg, which was broken between the knee and ankle. He was also up for a role in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He lost it because of the accident. It also cost him a major role in the Oliver Stone movie, “The Doors,” but instead… he was featured in a smaller role. He did get better and continue to ride; unfortunately it caused other medical problems. In 2010, when Idol hit a discarded tire with his motorcycle, he suffered a hairline fracture in his foot and ended up needing surgery the following year.

Taking the accidents in stride and admitting he’s addicted to rock and roll; Billy wanted a buzz out of things but recognized he messed up in his life.  Unfortunately, trouble knocked on Idol’s door again in 1994. Idol answered the call and collapsed outside a Los Angeles nightclub due to an overdose on the drug GHB. It was reported, after that incident, Idol decided that his children would never forgive him for dying of a drug overdose. That woke him up and he began to focus more on fatherhood in the second half of the 1990’s and slowly faded out of the public eye.

Idol with his children Bonnie Blue (Left) + Willem Wolf (Right)
In 2000, Stevens reunited with Idol to go on a tour thanks in part to VH1’s Behind The Music episode, considered one of its craziest, on Idol. This lead to a 2001 well-received VH-1’s Storytellers series with Stevens, Idol, and his current band. The set was released as an album and then a greatest hit compilation followed .He made a musical comeback with the release of Devil’s Playground in 2005 and again with King & Queens of the Underground in 2015. Perhaps in a reflective mood, and as the saying goes… life comes around full circle; Idol wrote his autobiography, “Dancing with Myself.”

Idol over the Years

Over his career, Idol has done it all. He’s won music awards, his music has been in TV commercials, he’s made frequent appearances on late night, and he’s appeared in several films. After all, we can’t forget his moment on screen with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer. He’s also lent his name and talents to causes such as the recent Australia Wildfire Relief campaign.

Billy Idol in The Wedding Singer

Adam Sandler on Billy Idol

With all the side projects, Idol continued to perform. He recently had a residency at The Pearl at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The residency began in 2019; by all accounts, Idol was back in top form. he was enjoying life and playing in front of his adoring fans. The Vegas shows were to continue through March 2020 with one-off’s throughout the country in between.

Life had come full circle, and Idol, Stevens and the rest of the band were on track again. Then, in February of this year, murmurs of a virus that came out of China was hitting Europe hard. Before we knew it, we knew the virus as COVID-19, and it was now a pandemic.

Despite the challenges over the past few years, Idol has things in good perspective. Playing shows is not priority, it’s staying safe, keeping his family, band-mates and friends safe. AND just as important, to help wherever he can. Recently, Idol and Steve Stevens helped raise money for COVID-19 relief on the new hosted by @ohsnapjbsmoove.
BILLY IDOL once wrote in a song; “When I was a boy Daddy told me to grow tall
Yes and Billy don’t crawl, he taught me how to ride, set me out on my own and I never came back.
” Those are just lyrics, the truth is Billy and the band have nothing left to prove. idol himself recently said now being over 60, he lives for going on stage, it’s his biggest drug and high. No longer needing to get drunk or fucked up, he gets high off the music, whether it’s new or old. 


If I had a chance I’d ask the World to dance | Billy Idol
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