Billy Idol

William Michael Albert Broad (born 30 November 1955), known professionally as Billy Idol, is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and actor who holds dual British and American citizenship.[1] He first achieved fame in the 1970s emerging from the London punk rock scene as a member of Generation X. Subsequently, he embarked on a solo career which led to international recognition and made Idol a lead artist during the MTV-driven "Second British Invasion" in the United States. The name "Billy Idol" was inspired by a schoolteacher's description of him as "idle".[2]

Billy Idol
Idol performing in June 2012
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Michael Albert Broad
Born (1955-11-30) 30 November 1955
Stanmore, Middlesex, England
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • actor
  • Vocals
Years active1976–present
Associated acts

Idol began his music career in late 1976 as a guitarist in the punk rock band Chelsea. However, he soon left the group. With his former bandmate Tony James, Idol formed the band Generation X. With Idol as lead singer, the band achieved success in the United Kingdom and released three albums on Chrysalis Records before disbanding. In 1981, Idol moved to New York City to pursue his solo career in collaboration with guitarist Steve Stevens. His debut studio album, Billy Idol (1982), was a commercial success. With music videos for singles "Dancing with Myself" and "White Wedding" Idol soon became a staple of then-newly established MTV.

Idol's second studio album, Rebel Yell (1983), was a major commercial success, featuring hit singles "Rebel Yell" and "Eyes Without a Face". The album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of two million copies in the US. In 1986, he released Whiplash Smile. Having accumulated three UK top 10 singles ("Rebel Yell", "White Wedding" and "Mony Mony") Idol released a 1988 greatest hits album entitled Idol Songs: 11 of the Best; the album went platinum in the United Kingdom. Idol then released two studio albums, Charmed Life (1990) and the concept album Cyberpunk (1993).

Idol spent the second half of the 1990s out of the public eye focusing on his personal life. He made a musical comeback with the release of Devil's Playground (2005) and again with Kings & Queens of the Underground (2014).

Life and career

1955–1975: Early life

Idol was born William Michael Albert Broad on 30 November 1955 in Stanmore, Middlesex.[3] He is of Irish descent on his mother's side.[4] His parents were devout Anglicans and attended church regularly. In 1958, when he was two years old, he moved with his parents to Patchogue, New York. They also lived in Rockville Centre, New York. His younger sister, Jane, was born during this time. The family returned to England four years later and settled in Dorking, Surrey.[5] In 1971, the family moved to Bromley, London, where Idol attended Ravensbourne School for Boys. He also attended Worthing High School for Boys in Worthing, West Sussex. In October 1975, he attended the University of Sussex to pursue an English degree and lived on-campus (East Slope) but left after year one in 1976. He then went on to join the Bromley Contingent of Sex Pistols fans, a loose gang that travelled into town when the band played.[6][7]

1976–1981: Generation X

The name "Billy Idol" was coined due to a schoolteacher's description of Idol as "idle".[8] In an interview on 21 November 1983, Idol said the name "Billy Idol" "was a bit of a goof, but also part of the old English school of rock. Billy Fury and all that. It was a 'double thing' not just a poke at the superstar-like people ... It was fun, you know?"[9] In another interview for BBC Breakfast in October 2014, he said that he wanted to use the name "Billy Idle", but thought the name would be unavailable due to its similarity to the name of Monty Python star Eric Idle and chose "Billy Idol" instead.[10] Idol has also claimed in interviews that the name was an inspired response to being described on his school report card as "ïdle" by his Chemistry teacher, a subject which he admits he hated and underachieved.[2]

In late 1976 he joined the newly formed West London 1960s retro-rock band "Chelsea" as a guitarist.[11] The act's singer/frontman Gene October styled Idol's image, advising him to change his short sighted eye-glasses for contact lenses, and dye his hair blonde with a crew cut for a retro-1950s rocker look, in contrast to the prevalent long-haired fashion of the mid-1970s from the Hippy movement.[12] After a few weeks performing with Chelsea, Idol and Tony James, the band's bass guitarist, quit the act and co-founded Generation X, with Idol switching from guitarist to the role of singer/frontman. Generation X was one of the first punk bands to appear on the BBC Television music programme Top of the Pops.[13] Although a punk rock band, they were inspired by mid-1960s British pop, in sharp contrast to their more militant peers, with Idol stating; "We were saying the opposite to the Clash and the Pistols. They were singing 'No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones', but we were honest about what we liked. The truth was, we were all building our music on the Beatles and the Stones".[6] Generation X signed with Chrysalis Records and released three albums and performed in the 1980 film, D.O.A., before disbanding.

1981–1985: Solo career and breakthrough

"MTV has paved the way for a host of invaders from abroad: Def Leppard, Adam Ant, Madness, Eurythmics, the Fixx and Billy Idol, to name a few. In return, grateful Brits, even superstars like Pete Townshend and the Police, have mugged for MTV promo spots and made the phrase ”I want my MTV” a household commonplace."

—Anglomania: The Second British Invasion, by Parke Puterbaugh for Rolling Stone, November 1983.[14]

Idol moved to New York City in 1981 and became a solo artist, working with former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin. Idol's punk-like image worked well with the glam rock style of his new partner on guitar, Steve Stevens.[15] Together they worked with bassist Phil Feit and drummer Gregg Gerson. Idol's solo career began with the Chrysalis Records EP titled Don't Stop in 1981, which included the Generation X song "Dancing with Myself", originally recorded for their last album Kiss Me Deadly, and a cover of Tommy James & the Shondells' song "Mony Mony". Idol's debut solo album, Billy Idol, was released in July 1982.[16]

Part of the MTV-driven "Second British Invasion" of the US, in 1982 Idol became an MTV staple with "White Wedding" and "Dancing with Myself". The music video for "White Wedding" was filmed by the British director David Mallet, and played frequently on MTV. In 1983, Idol's label released "Dancing with Myself" in the US in conjunction with a music video directed by Tobe Hooper, which played on MTV for six months.

Idol's second LP, Rebel Yell (1983) was a major success[17] and established Idol in the United States with hits such as "Rebel Yell," "Eyes Without a Face," and "Flesh for Fantasy". "Eyes Without a Face" peaked at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100, and "Rebel Yell" reached number six in the UK Singles Chart.[18][19] This album and its singles saw Idol become popular in other countries such as Germany, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand.

1986–1992: Whiplash Smile and Charmed Life

Idol released Whiplash Smile in 1986, which sold well.[17] The album included the hits "To Be a Lover", "Don't Need a Gun" and "Sweet Sixteen". Idol filmed a video featuring "Sweet Sixteen" in Florida's Coral Castle.

In 1986, Stevens appeared with Harold Faltermeyer on the Top Gun soundtrack. Their contribution was the Grammy winning instrumental, "Top Gun Anthem". Stevens was working on Whiplash Smile, and Faltermeyer supplied the keyboards which led to both of them playing on the Top Gun score.

After Stevens' success, the partnership between Idol and Stevens fell apart. Besides playing an acoustic show for KROQ in 1993, Stevens and Idol did not tour again until early 1999. Stevens and Idol collaborated in the mid-1990s, playing with Guns N' Roses members Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum in 1995. Idol, Stevens, McKagan, and Sorum performed "Christmas in the USA" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1995.

A remix album was released in 1987 called, Vital Idol. The album featured a live rendition of his cover of Tommy James' "Mony Mony". In 1987 the single topped the United States chart and reached number 7 in the UK.[17][19] The album had already been available in the UK for two years.

Idol and his girlfriend Perri Lister moved from New York to Los Angeles. Lister became pregnant with Idol's son Willem Wolfe Broad, born on 15 June 1988. Idol did not stay loyal to Lister and started seeing Linda Mathis, who was 13 years younger than Idol. At the age of 19, Mathis became pregnant and chose to move in with her mother to have her child, a girl named Bonnie Blue Broad, born on 21 August 1989.

Idol was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, which nearly cost him a leg, on 6 February 1990 in Hollywood.[20] He was hit by a car when he ran a stop sign while riding home from the studio one night, requiring a steel rod to be placed in his leg.[21] Shortly prior to this, film director Oliver Stone had chosen Idol for a role in his film The Doors, but the accident prevented him from participating in a major way and Idol's role was reduced to a small part. He had also been James Cameron's first choice for the role of the villainous T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day; the role was recast entirely as a result of the accident.[22]

Charmed Life was released in 1990, and a video for the single "Cradle of Love" had to be shot. The song had been featured in the Andrew Dice Clay film, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Since Idol was unable to walk, he was shot from the waist up. The video featured video footage of him singing in large frames throughout an apartment, while Betsy Lynn George was trying to seduce a businessman. The video was placed in rotation on MTV. "Cradle of Love" earned Idol a third Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.[23] Against his doctors' advice, he also managed to make appearances to promote Charmed Life.

Idol also had a small part in the film The Doors, directed by Oliver Stone. Idol played Jim Morrison's drinking pal, Cat.[24] He was also considered for the role of the villain, Jacob Kell, in Highlander: Endgame, although ultimately Bruce Payne was cast.

1993–2004: Cyberpunk, decline, and resurgence

In 1993, Idol released Cyberpunk.[25] Regarded as experimental, it was recorded in a home studio using a Macintosh computer. Idol used Studiovision and Pro-Tools to record the album. The album took ten months to make. Idol recorded the album with guitarist Mark Younger-Smith and producer Robin Hancock. Special editions of the album were issued with a floppy disk which contained a screensaver. It was one of the first albums which listed the e-mail address of the artist (, now inactive) in its booklet. The album was successful in UK and Europe, but it did not perform well in the United States, despite the commercial success of Shock to the System. Idol toured in Europe and also played a Generation X reunion show in 1993.[26]

In 1994, Idol collapsed outside a Los Angeles nightclub due to an overdose[27] on the drug GHB. GHB was a legal drug at the time and mainly used by weightlifters.[28] After the incident, Idol decided that his children would never forgive him for dying of a drug overdose, and he began to focus more on fatherhood. Idol and Steve Stevens contributed a song called "Speed" to the soundtrack of the hit film Speed, starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Idol did not want to release an album during this period because he was having a lot of problems with his record label. It was decided that he would wind up owing the record company money if he produced anything. EMI hired producer Glenn Ballard to work with him on a new project, but Idol battled the label over creative differences and the album was put on hold.

In 1996, Idol appeared in a live version of the Who's Quadrophenia.[29] Idol made a cameo appearance as himself in the 1998 film The Wedding Singer with Adam Sandler, in which Idol played a pivotal role in the plot. The film also featured White Wedding on its soundtrack.

In 2000, Idol was invited to be a guest vocalist on Tony Iommi's album. His contribution was on the song "Into the Night", which he also co-wrote. That year he voice acted the role of Odin, a mysterious alien character, in the animated fantasy film Heavy Metal 2000, also providing a song for the soundtrack.

VH1 aired Billy Idol – Behind the Music on 16 April 2001. Idol and Stevens took part in a VH1 Storytellers show three days later. The reunited duo set out to play a series of acoustic/storytellers shows before recording the VH1 special. Another Greatest Hits CD was issued in 2001, with Keith Forsey and Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" appearing on the compilation. The LP also includes a live acoustic version of "Rebel Yell", taken from a performance at Los Angeles station KROQ's 1993 Acoustic Christmas concert. The Greatest Hits album sold one million of copies in the United States alone, as well as being a success around the world, providing Idol with a big comeback.

In the 2002 NRL Grand Final in Sydney, Idol entered the playing field for the half-time entertainment on a hovercraft to the intro of "White Wedding", where he managed to sing only two words before a power failure ended the performance.[30]

2005–2009: Devil's Playground

Devil's Playground, which came out in March 2005, was Idol's first new studio album in nearly 12 years. Idol reunited with guitarist Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey to record the album. It was after a concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom that Sanctuary Records approached Idol about making new music in his older style.

The album was recorded with the entire band playing in one room, rather than each person recording their part separately. Idol's drummer, Brian Tichy, collaborated with Idol and Stevens and co-wrote some of the tracks on the album. The first single and video to be released was "Scream".

The album reached No. 46 on the Billboard 200. The album included a cover of "Plastic Jesus." Idol played a handful of dates on the 2005 Vans Warped Tour and also appeared at the Download Festival at Donington Park, the Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans and Rock am Ring.[31] Guitarist Steve Stevens broke his ulna while taking a few bags into his hotel in New Orleans. The guitarist had to perform most of the tour in a two-piece removable cast.

In 2006, as his only UK live date, he appeared headlining the Sunday night of GuilFest. That same year he made an appearance on Viva La Bam where he helped Bam Margera succeed in "creating" a sunroof for his Lamborghini Gallardo and performed live for April Margera for her birthday. In 2006, Idol guested on his keyboardist Derek Sherinian's solo album Blood of the Snake, covering the 1970 Mungo Jerry hit "In the Summertime". A video was made featuring Idol and guitarist Slash. In November 2006, Idol released a Christmas album called Happy Holidays.

In 2008, "Rebel Yell" appeared as a playable track on the video game, Guitar Hero World Tour, and "White Wedding" on Rock Band 2. The Rock Band 2 platform later gaining "Mony Mony" and "Rebel Yell" as downloadable tracks. On 24 June 2008, Idol released a new greatest hits album, The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself. The compilation featured two previously unreleased tracks, "John Wayne" and "New Future Weapon." A third track, "Fractured," was available for download on iTunes. He embarked on a worldwide tour, co-headlining with Def Leppard.

In July 2009, Idol performed at the Congress Theater, Chicago for the United States television series Soundstage. This performance was recorded and was released on DVD/Blu-ray as In Super Overdrive Live, on 17 November 2009.[32]

2010–present: Kings & Queens of the Underground

On 16 February 2010, Idol was announced as one of the acts to play the Download Festival in Donington Park, England. He stated, "With all of these great heavyweight and cool bands playing Download this year, I'm going to have to come armed with my punk rock attitude, Steve Stevens, and all of my classic songs plus a couple of way out covers. Should be fun!"[33] In March 2010, Idol added Camp Freddy guitarist Billy Morrison[34] and drummer Jeremy Colson to his touring line-up.

In 2012, Idol appeared on the third episode of the BBC Four series, How the Brits Rocked America.[35]

Idol released his 8th studio album Kings & Queens of the Underground in October 2014. Whilst recording the album between 2010 and 2014, he worked with producer Trevor Horn, Horn's former Buggles and Yes bandmate Geoff Downes[36] and Greg Kurstin. Idol's autobiography, entitled Dancing With Myself, was published on 7 October 2014 and became a New York Times best seller.[37]

On 30 October 2018, former Generation X members Idol and Tony James joined with Steve Jones and Paul Cook, former members of another first wave English punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, to perform a free gig at the Roxy in Hollywood, Los Angeles, under the name Generation Sex, playing a combined set of the two former bands' material.[38]

Live band

Idol's current band consists of:

  • Billy Idol - lead vocals (since 1981)
  • Steve Stevens – lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1981–1987, 1993, 1995, 1999–present)
  • Stephen McGrath – bass, backing vocals (2001–present)
  • Billy Morrison – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals (2010–present)
  • Erik Eldenius – drums (2012–present)
  • Paul Trudeau – keyboards, rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2014–present)

Former members

  • Phil Feit – bass (1981–1983)
  • Steve Missal – drums (1981)
  • Gregg Gerson – drums (1981–1983)
  • Judi Dozier – keyboards (1982–1985)
  • Steve Webster – bass (1983–1985)
  • Thommy Price – drums (1983–1988)
  • Kenny Aaronson – bass (1986–1988)
  • Susie Davis - keyboards, backing vocals (1986-1988)
  • Phil Soussan – bass (1988–1990)
  • Zane Fix – bass (1980s)
  • Mark Younger-Smith – lead and rhythm guitar (1987–1993)
  • Larry Seymour – bass (1990–1996)
  • Tal Bergman – drums (1990–1993, 2000)
  • Bonnie Hayes - keyboards, backing vocals (1990-1991)
  • Jennifer Blakeman – keyboards (1993)
  • Julie Greaux – keyboards (1993)
  • Danny Sadownik – drums (1993)
  • Mark Schulman – drums (1993–2001)
  • Sasha Krivtsov – bass (2000)
  • Brian Tichy – drums (2001–2009)
  • Jeremy Colson – drums (2010–2012)
  • Derek Sherinian – keyboards (2002–2014)



Studio albums

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1985"Rebel Yell"Best Male Rock Vocal PerformanceNominated
1987"To Be a Lover"Best Male Rock Vocal PerformanceNominated
1991"Cradle of Love"Best Male Rock Vocal PerformanceNominated

MTV Video Music Awards

The MTV Video Music Awards is an annual awards ceremony established in 1984 by MTV.

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1984"Dancing With Myself"Best DirectionNominated
1984"Dancing With Myself"Best Art DirectionNominated
1984"Dancing With Myself"Best Special EffectsNominated
1984"Eyes Without a Face"Best CinematographyNominated
1984"Eyes Without a Face"Best EditingNominated
1990"Cradle of Love"Best Video from a FilmWon
1990"Cradle of Love"Best Male VideoNominated
1990"Cradle of Love"Best Special EffectsNominated
1993"Shock to the System"Best Special EffectsNominated
1993"Shock to the System"Best EditingNominated

Brit Awards

The Brit Awards are the British Phonographic Industry's annual pop music awards.[39]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1991Billy Idol – "Cradle of Love"Best British VideoNominated

See also


  1. AM, Scott McDonald On 11/16/18 at 1:50 (16 November 2018). "British rocker Billy Idol took his oath to become a United States Citizen, making it a nice day to, get sworn in". Newsweek. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  2. "Radio with Pictures". Television New Zealand alternative music show interview with Karyn Hay (cue to 04:30s), broadcast April 1984. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  3. Guinness 1992, p. 1222.
  4. "Billy Idol's Religion and Political Views".
  5. "Film Reference biography". Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  6. "Billy Idol: the return of Billy the kid". The Daily Telegraph. London. 24 July 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  7. The Roxy London WC2: A Punk History - Paul Marko. 2007. ISBN 9780955658303. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  8. Edmunds, Ben, untitled essay in Greatest Hits (2001)
  9. ConcertVault interview 21 November 1983
  10. "BBC Breakfast Billy Idol Interview (27 October 2014)" on YouTube. BBC. Retrieved 28 October 2014
  11. History of the band 'Chelsea'.
  12. Interview with Gene October, 12 June 2019, 'Mexon Recordings', published on Youtube 12 June 2019.
  13. "Biography by Greg Prato". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  14. "Anglomania: The Second British Invasion". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  15. "Vernon Reid – Guitar World interview (part 3) Cult of Personality". The Biography Channel. 15 February 2010. Archived from the original on 30 December 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  16. William Ruhlmann. "Billy Idol - Billy Idol | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  17. "Billy Idol Music News & Info". Billboard. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  18. Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books
  19. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, England: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 266. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  20. Marilyn Monroe Died Here – More Locations of America's Pop Culture Landmarks by Chris Epting, pg. 185
  21. Biography for Billy Idol on IMDb
  22. "Billy Idol Almost Played the T-1000 in 'Terminator 2,' Robert Patrick Says".
  23. "Billy Idol". Rock On The Net. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  24. Kilday, Gregg (8 March 1991). "Faces in the Crowd". Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  25. "20 Years Ago: Billy Idol's 'Cyberpunk' Album Released". Ultimate Classic Rock.
  26. "Billy Idol wants Generation X reunion". Archived from the original on 7 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  27. The Times (London, England). (8 August 1994): News: p5. "The British rock star Billy Idol was released from hospital in Burbank, California after he was admitted in a critical condition from an apparent drug overdose on Friday night."
  28. Both Billy Idol and his friend John Diaz discuss this incident/drug in MTV BTM interview 2001 "MTV Behind the Music". Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  29. Dave White. "About Classic Rock - Review Who "Tommy/Quadrophenia" DVD". Entertainment.
  30. "Idol idle: rebel's yell silenced". 7 October 2002. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  31. "Rock am Ring 2005". Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  32. "Billy Idol · Super Overdrive Live DVD". Archived from the original on 19 October 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  33. "Billy Idol announced to play Download 2010". Archived from the original on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  34. "Billy Morrison: MORRISON WITH IDOL 2010". 11 May 2011.
  35. "BBC Four - How the Brits Rocked America: Go West". BBC. 18 October 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  36. "Album of the Week: Stream 'Zang Tuum Tumb,' a 27-Track History of ZTT Records". SPIN. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  37. "Billy Idol to Release First New Album in Nearly a Decade". The Hollywood Reporter. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  38. "Generation Sex: King Rockers and Silly Things at the Roxy". LA Weekly. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  39. "Billy Idol nomination for 1991 BRIT Awards Best British Video". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014.

Reference bibliography

  • Larkin, Colin, ed. (1992). "Idol, Billy". The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. 2: Farian, Frank to Menza, Don. Guinness.

Further reading

  • Gilbert, Pat (December 2014). "Just William". Mojo. 253 (6): 54–57.
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