Cradle of Love
“Rock isn't art, it's the way ordinary people talk.” Billy Idol
British import Billy Idol first acquired success in his native country as the vocalist of the punk rock band Generation X (Gen X) with whom he played with from 1976 to 1981. Since his move to the U.S. in the early 1980s, the singer/songwriter has enjoyed significant success as a solo artist. As a soloist, Idol has released seven studio albums, including the gold album “Billy Idol” (1982), the multi platinum “Rebel Yell” (1984) and the platinum releases “Whiplash Smile” (1986) and “Charmed Live” (1990). His career, however, received a setback after “Cyberpunk” (1993) and he did not record a new studio album until 2005's “Devil's Playground.” Idol has also released one EP, one live album and four compilation albums, including “Vital Idol” (1985) and “Greatest Hits” (2001). With trade mark platinum blonde hair, Idol emerged as a staple on MTV with the popular singles “Dancing With Myself,” "Eyes Without A Face,” “White Wedding” and “Cradle of Love,” which won a 1990 MTV Video Music award for Best Video from a Film. The latter song also brought him a nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 1991 Grammy Awards. He previously earned nominations for the same category for “Rebel Yell” and “Whiplash Smile.” Other hit singles produced by Idol include “To Be a Lover” and a cover of “Mony Mony,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987 for its live version. Idol, who once ranked No. 55 on the VH1 list of “100 Sexiest Artists,” has also guest starred on other artists' albums and appeared in several films. He is known for his fruitful partnership with guitarist Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey.
William Michael Albert Broad
Childhood and Family:
Born William Michael Albert Broad on November 30, 1955, in Stanmore, Middlesex, England, and the oldest child of Bill and Joan Broad, Billy Idol lived in Long Island, New York, from age 3 to 7. When his family returned to England in 1962, they resided in Dorking, a historic market town about 25 miles south of London. They also lived in Mickleham and Goring, Sussex, before eventually settling in Bromley in Kent. Billy had a somewhat normal childhood and was raised in a religious family. He became a member of the Boy Scouts in Goring though he was supposedly asked to leave after being spotted kissing a girl. He attended Ravensbourne Grammar School in Bromley and was accepted to Sussex University, where he studied English and philosophy. He quit college after a year in 1976. Shortly thereafter, he officially changed his name to Billy Idol, which was inspired by a school paper in which his teacher had written in the margin “Billy is Idle.”
After performing with the band Generation X, Billy immigrated to the U.S. in 1981 to pursue a solo career.
Billy is a vegetarian, but eats shellfish. In 1990, he was involved in a motorcycle accident and had a rod inserted in his right leg after the incident. He stated after the motorcycle accident, “Everybody got it wrong. I said I was into porn again, not born again.”
Billy Idol founded his first band, The Rockettes, with Steve Upstone. They performed covers of various bands, including The Beatles, The Doors, and The Animals. In 1977, Idol joined the funk band Chelsea as their guitarist, but quickly left to form Generation X, which was named after a 1960’s novel by Jane Deverson. The group included drummer John Towe and bassist Tony James and after recruiting guitarist Bob Andrews, Idol switched to lead vocalist. They performed their first live show in November 1976 and eventually scored a record deal with Chrysalis Records.
The debut album “Generation X” was released in 1978 for producer Martin Rushent and with new drummer Mark Laff. The album rose to No. 29 in the U.K. and spawned the U.K. hit single “Ready Steady to Go,” which peaked at No. 47 on the U.K. Singles chart. All tracks were written and composed by Idol and James. The sophomore effort, “Valley of the Dolls,” followed in 1979 and was produced by Ian Hunter. The album went to No. 51 in U.K. and yielded three singles with the songs “King Rocker” (#11), the title track (#23) and “Friday's Angels” (#62). In 1980, Generation X appeared in the documentary film “D.O.A,” which was co-written and directed by Lech Kowalski. After the band reduced their name to Gen X, they launched “Kiss Me Deadly” in 1981, recorded with only Idol and Tony James from the original line up. Although the album failed to chart on any U.K. album charts, it did introduce a version of “Dancing with Myself,” which was co-written by Idol and became a No. 62 hit on the U.K. Singles chart.
Following the disbandment of Gen X in 1981, Idol went to New York to begin a solo career as a singer. His first solo release, the four track EP “Don's Stop,” was released on October 24, 1981, with Chrysalis Records. Thanks to the singles “Dancing with Myself” and a cover of the American rock band Tommy James & The Shondells No. 1 U.K. hit “Mony Mony,” the EP peaked at No. 71 on the Billboard 200. The music video of “Dancing with Myself,” which was directed by Toby Hooper, was nominated for MTV Movie Awards in 1984 for Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects.
The first full length album, “Billy Idol,” followed in July 1982. It rose to No. 45 on the Billboard 200 and earned gold certification in 1983. The single “Hot in the City” (1982) went to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 58 on the U.K. Singles Chart. A re-release of the song in 1988 peaked at No. 13. The next single, “White Wedding,” (1982) made the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 (#36) and charted at No. 6 in the U.K. in 1985. The music video of “White Wedding” became one of his well known videos.
Idol released his second studio album, “Rebel Yell,” on December 3, 1983. Again recorded with guitarist Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey from “Billy Idol,” the album marked Idol's breakthrough hit in the U.S. when it peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified multi platinum by RIAA. “Rebel Yell” also charted No. 2 in Germany, No. 16 in Switzerland, No. 36 in the U.K. and No. 40 in Netherlands. Released on January 1, 1984, the title track charted on the Billboard Hot 100 (#46) but did not fare as well in the U.K., where it rose to No. 62. A re-release of the song in U.K. in 1985 peaked at No.6 and was nominated for a 1985 Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Idol also scored a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with the single “Eyes Without a Face,” which peaked at No. 4 and became his first Top 10 hit on the chart. The music video, directed by David Mallet, was nominated for MTV Movie Video Awards in 1984 for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. The song also charted at No. 18 in the U.K., No. 10 in Germany, No. 40 in Italy and No. 21 in Switzerland. The album produced two more hits on the Billboard 100 with “Flesh for Fantasy” (#29) and “Catch My Fall” (50).
“Vital Idol,” a compilation of remixed singles from his first two albums, was released in the U.K. in June 1985 and the U.S. in September 1987. It peaked at No. 7 in the U.K. and No. 10 in the U.S. and went platinum in both countries. The live version of “Mony Mony” rose to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1987 and made the top 10 on the U.K. Singles Chart (#7). The third album, “Whiplash Smile,” was launched in September 1986. It was supported by the singles “To Be a Lover” (#6 US, #22 UK), “Sweet Sixteen” (#37 US, #26 UK) and “Don't Need a Gun” (#20 US, #17 UK). “Whiplash Smile” was eventually certified platinum by RIAA and received a 1987 Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
Following his second compilation album, “Idol Songs: 11 of the Best” (1988), which peaked at No. 2 in the U.K. and went platinum there, Idol released the studio album “Charmed Life” in May 1990. It rose to No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and No. 15 in U.K. The lead single, “Cradle of Love,” which was co-written by Idol, went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and No. 7 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart. It was nominated for a 1991 Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. The song was also featured on the soundtrack of “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane,” a 1990 comedy directed by Renny Harlin and starring comedian Andrew Dice Clay. It won a 1990 MTV Music Video for Best Video from a Film. Directed by David Fincher, the video also picked up MTV Music Video nominations for Best Male Video and Best Special Effects. Idol also covered The Doors' “L.A. Woman” for the album. “Charmed Life” became Idol's last platinum release in the 1990s.
On June 29, 1993, Idol released “Cyberpunk,” his second album with guitarist Mark Younger-Smith after “Charmed Life” and his first with producer Robin Hancock. The album charted at No. 20 in the U.K. and No. 48 in the U.S. It yielded four singles but only two charted. “Heroin,” a cover of The Velvet Underground's 1967 single of the same name, rose to No. 16 on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart and “Shock to the System” charted No. 30 in the U.K., No. 7 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks and No. 23 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The latter was nominated for MTV Music Video awards for Best Special Effects and Best Editing.
After “Cyberpunk,” Idol did not produce another original album until 2005. In 1994, he wrote, produced and performed the theme song “Speed” for the successful motion picture of the same name, which starred Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves and was directed by Jan de Bont. The same year, he overdosed on drugs twice but has since attended rehab. Two years later, he appeared in a live version of The Who's “Quadrophenia” and played the supporting role of Lee Turner in Larry Bishop's comedy film “Mad Dog Time” (1996), starring Ellen Barkin and Gabriel Byrne. It was Idol's fourth acting job after the 1989 concert film “The Who Live, Featuring the Rock Opera Tommy” (TV, as Cousin Kevin), Oliver Stones' “The Doors” (1991, as Cat) and the direct to video “Shock to the System” (1993, as the Metal Man).
In 1998, Idol contributed to the soundtracks of several motion pictures, including “The Wedding Singer” where “White Wedding” became the title track, and “Jack Frost.” He also played himself in the first film. The same year, he released three new songs on the Internet and shared the stage with the band Third Eye Blind.
Entering the new millennium, Idol co-wrote and performed the song “Into The Night” for the 2000 album “Iommi” by Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. He also provided the voice of Odin in the animated film “Heavy Metal 2000: Voice Talent Featurette.” “Greatest Hits,” a compilation of Idol's popular singles, was released by Capitol Records on March 27, 2001, with the previously unreleased live recording of “Rebel Yell” and a new version of longtime producer Keith Forsey's “Don't You (Forget About Me).” The album peaked at No. 74 in the U.S. and was certified platinum by RIAA in 2005. It also charted No. 12 in Germany and No. 30 in Switzerland. The following month, on April 16, 2001, he appeared in VH1's “Behind the Music.” This was followed by a performance in “VH1 Storytellers” on April 19 of that year. The performance was recorded and released as a live album on February 26, 2002.
Idol released an album of new material, “Devil's Playground,” on March 22, 2005, under the independent label Sanctuary. A reunion with guitarist Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey, the album rose to No. 46 on the Billboard 200 and No. 15 and No. 20 in Germany and Switzerland, respectively. It produced two singles with “Scream” (#26 on the US Mainstream Rock Tracks) and “Cherie.” In support of the album, Idol and his new band performed on a world tour of rock festivals during 2005 to 2006. A Christmas album, “Happy Holiday,” followed on October 23, 2006, which was released on Bodog Music and produced by Idol and Brian Tichy. It featured the classic Christmas songs “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Silent Night,” in addition to some originals. Also in 2006, Idol made a guest appearance on his keyboardist Derek Sherinian's solo album “Blood of the Snake,” where he covered the 1970 Mungo Jerry hit “In the Summertime.”
“The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself,” a greatest hits compilation album, was released on June 24, 2008, under Capitol Records. It peaked at No. 37 in the U.K. He subsequently headlined a successful world tour with Def Leppard.
On July 16, 2009, Idol performed at the Congress Theater in Chicago for the TV series “Soundstage” and will play at the 2010 Download Festival in Donington Park in England in June, 2010.
Idol will voice Digger in the upcoming animation film “Cat Tale,” directed by Felix Ip and starring the voices of Sean Astin, Stanley Tucci, Elisha Cuthbert, Catherine O'Hara, David Cross and Jerry O'Connell, among other actors. It is scheduled to be released in 2010.
MTV Video Music: Best Video from a Film, “Cradle of Love,” 1990