So the other night I went on a bit of a Billy Idol kick, listening White Wedding, Rebel Yell, Eyes Without a Face and even Cradle of Love, and then I thought: “Huh, whatever happened to that guy, anyway? Also, does he still sneer, like, all the time?”
So I decided to do a little research today, otherwise known as typing the words “Billy” and “Idol” into Google and reading the stuff that came up. Sherlock Holmes would be so proud of me.
Anyway, I learned many things about Billy Idol, like that he totally isn’t dead, which kind of surprised me, and that his real name isn’t Billy Idol, which kind of didn’t surprise me at all.
Billy Idol was born on Nov. 30, 1955, as William Michael Albert Broad, a more British name you couldn’t possibly find anywhere. I mean, there’s at least two princes thrown in that name and possibly a third, but I don’t pay much attention to the monarchy, so who knows? (Other people, that’s who.) Apparently, he came up with the moniker “Idol” after a teacher described him as “idle,” which sounds a bit like bullshit to me, because they have two completely different meanings and it seems like he would know the one is closer to “superstar” than “gadabout.” Also, I just used the word “gadabout.”
At age 2, Idol moved with his family to New York, but after four years, they moved back to England, probably because American kids mercilessly bullied a boy named “William Michael Albert.” Back in England, Idol attended the Ravensbourne School for Boys, which sounds like it has got to be covered in ivy and possibly the blood of whipped English boys. After finishing up at the School for Boys, Idol went on to major in English at the University of Sussex, but dropped out after a year to pursue his true calling: Stalking the Sex Pistols.
In 1976, Idol joined Siouxsie and the Banshees, which wasn’t called that at the time, but Wikipedia didn’t seem to know what it was called, so that’s as good as you’re going to get. Unless you’re friends with Siouxsie Sioux; then she can tell you. So apparently, Idol had some musical experience by that point or, possibly, like many of my friends who started punk bands in their late teens, a guitar from a pawn shop. Idol didn’t last long in the band with no name, and went on to join Chelsea (a band I have actually not heard of before) in 1977. Shortly thereafter, Idol and a bandmate left that band and started Generation X, beating out Douglas Copeland by several years.
Generation X released three albums, which is three more than I knew existed, before disbanding, and Idol embarked on his solo career. By this point, he had moved back to New York, because schoolchildren don’t make fun of a guy named Billy Idol (probably).
1981 brought Idol’s cover of Mony Mony, which I hope brings up as many bad junior high gym class memories for you as it does for me and if it doesn’t, have I got a stupid dance to teach you! Anyway, Mony Mony, the bane of junior high students everywhere, was actually quite popular (if horrible), and paved the way for much better work, like those songs I mentioned earlier and can’t be arsed to type the names of again, except Eyes Without a Face, just to point out it was on the penultimate episode of Fringe’s fourth season as elevator music right before the nanites started killing everyone.
On Feb. 6, 1990, Idol was out riding his motorcycle and ignoring stop signs when he got hit by a car. Wikipedia describes the incident as a “motorcycle accident,” but anyone with a journalism background who has seen Hot Fuzz knows that is a “wreck ” for sure. Anyway, the wreck nearly cost Idol his leg and definitely cost him his role as the T-1000 in Terminator 2, which is OK, because I can’t imagine anybody but Robert Patrick playing that role anyway.
In 1998, Idol had a cameo in The Wedding Singer (theme song: White Wedding, of course), back when we all still wanted Adam Sandler’s characters to find love and be happy. Also, he had a small part in the movie The Doors, which probably happened before The Wedding Singer, like playing with former Pink Floydian Roger Waters at Berlin in 1990.
At this point, Idol didn’t drop off the face of the earth, like I kind of thought, but made an experimental album in 1993 called Cyberpunk, because it was made on a computer, I guess, so why not call it that?
In 2000, Idol voiced the character of Odin in the animated film Heavy Metal 2000, which disappoints me because Odin is not the classic Norse god I was expecting, but is actually, like, an alien or something.
And this post is getting long, so brief highlights:
- 2005: Idol released Devil’s Playground. I haven’t heard of it either, so don’t feel bad.
- November 2006: Idol released a Christmas album called Happy Holidays. That makes me unhappy, for various reasons.
- June 24, 2008: A new greatest hits album is released, “Idolize Yourself,” because how did it take him 50 years to make that joke?
- I’m tired of typing now.
To wrap things up: Billy Idol! Listen to Rebel Yell right now! You know you want to!