When you speak of artists who were quintessentially 80’s, Billy Idol has to be towards the top of the list. While he released music after it, all of his success as a solo artist came between 1980 to 1990. While he started in the London punk scene with Generation X, by the new decade he had went away from the Clash/Sex Pistols influence, instead melding his punk sneer with a pop sheen. Hit after hit followed.
His first hit was Dancing by Myself, which was an infectious dance song. His cover of Mony Mony was the most-played song of my college life and I have grown to hate it so much I won’t include it here. Both these songs, plus Hot in the City and White Wedding, were on his debut release. Hey Little Sister, what have you done?
His second record, Rebel Yell, was his career peak. This was as much guitar player Steve Stevens record as it was Idol’s. Idol’s Elvis meets Jim Morrison vocals over Stevens guitar pyrotechnics made it one of the best records of 1983. Rebel Yell and Eyes Without a Face were the biggest and best songs from the smash. The Rebel Yell video I’ve included is live from 2009 and it’s amazing how good Idol still looks.
Whiplash Smile started to show the decline, as I’m guessing Idol’s hard-partying ways started to catch up with him. To Be a Lover, though, is my favorite Idol song, as I love its gospel feel. Below is a VH-1’s storyteller offering.
I have included his 1990 Charmed Life release as it still has an 80’s feel to it. Much like how hair bands fell-off the following year with the Nirvana onslaught, Idol’s era seemed to have past. Charmed Life did feature the seductive Cradle of Love. Like many 80’s acts, Billy Idol didn’t make great albums (Rebel Yell is good), but put out enough great singles that his Best of kicks ass.