Billy Idol was born William Michael Albert Broad in Middlesex, England, in 1955, the first child of Bill and Joan Broad. When Billy Idol was two his father moved the family to Long Island, New York in pursuit of the American dream. They returned 4 years later (now with a baby sister, Jane) to Dorking. America made a big impression on Idol; he loved the big cars and rock music.
Billy Idol began his course in English and Philosophy at Sussex University in September 1975. This coincided with the explosion of punk rock, which captured the imagination of Billy Idol far more than his studies.
At this time Bill Broad changed his name to Billy Idol and decided he wanted to be a real part of the musical revolution. This meant dropping out of university and forming his first band, The Rockettes, with his classmate Steve Upstone. They played covers of various bands, The Animals, Beatles and Doors. They also did an audition for famed music managers Malcolm McLaren and Bernie Rhodes who told Steve that he was the real star. This and his father’s doubt and disapproval only served to make Idol more determined.
When Billy Idol met Tony James, a fellow student, and became Chelsea then Generation X, they started to get noticed. The final Generation X lineup – Tony James on bass, John Towe on drums, Bob Andrews on guitar and Billy Idol as lead vocals, played their first live show in November 1976 and began writing and recording original material. In 1977 Chrysalis Records offered them a contract. After 3 albums and with management problems, band discord and the decline of the punk movement, Idol decided it was time to go solo. He relocated to New York and hooked up with Kiss manager Bill Aucoin. In 1981 the EP ‘Don’t Stop’ (comprising a cover of Tommy James’ 60s hit “Mony Mony” and a pair of remixed Generation X tracks including “Dancing With Myself”) landed him a solo deal with Chrysalis. Billy Idol found the perfect collaborator and partner in guitarist Steve Stevens and released the self titled “Billy Idol” in 1982. He made full use of the MTV explosion – the hugely successful videos for “White Wedding” and “Dancing With Myself” showcased his peroxide spiky hair, sneer and leathers to great effect.
The stage was set for the hugely successful “Rebel Yell” in 1984. These early years were wild with Billy Idol‘s hell-raising antics generating as much (if not more) publicity than his music. An eight-track best-of, “Vital Idol“, was released in 1985 and the popularity of the live video of “Mony Mony” on MTV kept him in the spotlight. 1986 saw a new release, “Whiplash Smile” – it sold well and saw Billy Idol nominated for a second Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance (the first was for “Rebel Yell”). Stevens left to form his own band shortly afterwards.
Billy Idol was ready to try new things and moved to Los Angeles. In 1990 however, around the time of the release of new album “Charmed Life”, Idol was involved in a serious motorcycle accident when he ran a stop sign on his Harley. He almost lost a leg and was confined to bed for 6 months. He battled back bravely – the video for the first single, “Cradle of Love”, showed him from the waist up. The album was a success, his fourth in a row to achieve at least platinum sales. Billy Idol decided to take a break and try his hand at acting, making his screen debut in Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” in 1991.
1993’s “Cyberpunk” saw a new-look Billy Idol, he had changed his famous peroxide spikes to dreadlocks and his sound to synthesized techno beats. The album flopped and Billy Idol sank into drug addiction. He had another brush with death in 1994 when he overdosed and had to be treated in a Los Angeles hospital. Upon his discharge he calmed down and began to focus more on fatherhood. Although he has never married, Idol has two children – a son from his long term relationship with former Hot Gossip Dancer Perri Lister, William Broad, born in June 1988 and a daughter, Bonnie Blue, from another relationship, born 1989. The next few years were quiet until 1998 when a cameo appearance in the hit movie “The Wedding Singer” began an Billy Idol revival. In 1999 his recognition was confirmed with his second wax model opening in Las Vegas. He teamed up with Stevens once more and found the old magic was still there. A more extensive “Greatest Hits” was released in 2001 and sold over half a million copies in the USA alone, 2002 saw two VH1 specials – Behind the Music and Storytellers.
Billy Idol is currently working with Stevens on new material, some of which has featured in the most recent tours over the past four years. It may be some time since the hedonistic, hell-raising days but his unbridled passion for music and performing remain and the shows are still no holds barred. Despite his bad-boy image, offstage Billy Idol is said to be quite gentle and sensitive, knowledgeable with a good sense of humor and vegetarian.
Categories: Musicians and Music Arts