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Idol Greatest Hits
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Billy Idol - Greatest Hits __________________________________________________


The Success Of Billy Idol Is One Of The Best Fuck-You’s In Recent Rock & Roll History.

The world first got an eyeful of Billy Idol – known to his parents as William Broad – when he was one of the “Bromley Contingent,” an assortment of nascent punks whose presence at the live shows of the then-unknown Sex Pistols was not unlike the Warhol Factory denizens who enlivened Velvet Underground performances, or the troupe of dancers led by sculptor Vito Paulekas who made magic in the audience at early Byrds shows – supporters whose passion and style imparted social substance to the new music they followed.  Supporting punk’s central dictate (“anybody can be in a band – even you!”), Billy soon turned up as a guitarist(!) in the seminal band Chelsea.

Despite this impeccable punk pedigree, Billy Idol was rarely accorded the respect he deserved in England.  Generation X – the band he and Tony James left Chelsea to start – had a string of some of the best singles of the early punk era, were the first band of its kind to be on TOP OF THE POPS, were the first to explore multicultural territory, and were early supporters of Rock Against Racism.

But their unabashed love of ‘50s and ‘60s pop culture was a triple no-no, because punk: a) having “no future,” couldn’t have a past either; b) detested the “commercialism” of pop; and c) was anti-culture.

One suspects that Billy’s good looks, peroxided coif and presumptuous moniker (actually an ironic play on one teacher’s evaluation of little Billy Broad as “idle”) didn’t help much either; just as alternative rock would later be the revenge of the nerds, punk was meant to be the revenge of the “grotty.”  Gen X (as they took to calling themselves) was perceived to be punklitically incorrect, and Billy Idol was treated like an interloper in a scene he had helped bring into being.

When the guitarist-cum-vocalist quit the band and decamped for New York, who could blame him?  The tastemakers thought they’d seen the last of him, but that was only one of many miscalculations.  In the Big Apple he hooked up with Bill Aucoin, who – as manager of KISS – had developed a sharp eye for the populist appeal in things the tastemakers missed or dismissed.  Aucoin saw an image he immediately knew would connect with the American public.  With Keith Forsey – who’d stepped out from behind Georgio Moroder’s board to produce some of the final Generation X sessions – as part of the team, they set about making it happen.  It’s tempting to say they reinvented Billy Idol, but it was more a matter of building on what was already there.

Billy had no track record with American Top 40 radio, and British punk carried no weight whatsoever with AOR stations, so leaving things to the vagaries of radio program directors hardly seemed prudent.  As it turned out, a track they already had provided a place to start.  Dancing With Myself had been the last Gen X single, and though it had failed (twice) to scale the UK charts, it was in fact an inspired bit of what we’d later know as punk disco.  Idol and Forsey fashioned an extended version of the track, which became a club hit and helped establish Billy as a solo personality.  Even more influential was the emergence of MTV, which seemed hand-tailored to fit the photogenic Idol’s attributes.  The quality derided by Brit crits as “cartoonish” actually exploded on the music video screen (and later on arena projection screens) – an image at once menacing and goofusly endearing.  It’s a tightrope only The Ramones can claim to have walked as well.

The DON’T STOP EP (featuring Dancing With Myself and a new-wavey cover of Tommy James’ Mony Mony) bought him time to plan his full-length solo debut.  The time was not wasted.  The 1982 album simply called BILLY IDOL contained Hot In The City, Billy’s tribute to New York (making it a synth-pop successor to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer In The City), which pleased his club audience while being catchy enough to take up a four-month residence on the Top 40 charts.

The album’s real revelation, however, was White Wedding.  Here the tone was set by the guitars of New Yorker Steve Stevens, leaving the trendy synths to supply a secondary texture – a crucial turning point for the music.  More importantly, this is where Billy Idol came into his true voice – a voice to match his signature sneer.  Like many before him – from Jim Morrison to Iggy Pop to David Bowie – he found in his lower register a rock & roll croon with a sinister undertow.  At the time, the BILLY IDOL album seemed like a breakthrough (though his critics dismissed it as a one-off aberration).  But we now know that it was only a warm-up.

The REBEL YELL album delivered on everything White Wedding promised.  The ascendance of Steve Stevens to full creative partnership (in the time-honored tradition of guitar foils) was acknowledged by his prominent photo and namecheck on the album’s back cover.  With Stevens’ guitar as focus, Forsey captured the right mix of punk attitude, metallic crunch and synth-pop frosting.  It was a big, driving sound that never lost sight of its melodic mission, and it was harnessed to serve a great collection of Idol/Stevens songs.  The vocal confidence Billy had acquired was on display in the ballad Eyes Without A Face, a stylistic risk that paid off handsomely as his biggest hit yet (and a record even the English couldn’t ignore).

Once Billy Idol got to the top of the mountain, he did something his critics hated him for most of all – he stayed there.  WHIPLASH SMILE also went platinum, spawning the chartbusters Sweet Sixteen, Don’t Need A Gun and To Be A Lover (his take on William Bell’s I Forgot To Be Your Lover).  Throughout the ‘80s he had hit singles, platinum albums and award-winning videos, and turned out to be one of those rare artists who actually got better as a performer the larger his audience became.  (The unflagging support of Chrysalis Records – particularly label co-founder Terry Ellis, A&R chief Jeff Aldrich and head of promotion Daniel Glass – needs to be acknowledged here.)

The 1985 compilation VITAL IDOL even brought England to her knees; it stayed on the UK charts for six months.  A live version of Mony Mony from the 1987 American release gave Idol his first Number One single.

What the critics couldn’t do to Billy Idol, a 1990 motorcycle crash almost accomplished.  He rebounded from this career-threatening mishap with the appropriately titled CHARMED LIFE, which included his first gold single – Cradle Of Love – and a roughened-up L.A. Woman (a tribute to his second adopted home).  Since then he has acted theatrically and in film, while continuing to record forward-looking music like Shock To The System, from 1993’s CYBERPUNK.

This collection is not a career retrospective; it is more like the view from one plateau.  There will be more to come from Billy Idol.  He is one of rock’s great “synthesizers,” an artist able to incorporate any fresh input into his own distinctive personality.  If there’s one thing people should have learned about Billy Idol by this time, it’s never to underestimate him.

Success is still the sweetest revenge.

Ben Edmonds, 2000


Generation X
(Idol – James)
Released: Chrysalis 42723 (7”) – 1983

 (James – Cordell – Bloom – Gentry)
This version never released as a single


Released: Chrysalis 2605 (7”) – 1982
Re-released: Chrysalis 43203 (7”) – 1987
Pop Debut Date: 7/3/82
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #23
Pop Re-entry Debut Date: 12/12/87
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Re-entry Position: #48
Album Rock Debut Date: 8/28/82
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #31

(Part 1)
Released: Chrysalis 2648 (7”) – 1982
Re-released: Chrysalis 42697 (7”) – 1983
Pop Debut Date: 5/21/83
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #36
Album Rock Debut Date: 4/2/83
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #4

(Idol – Stevens)
Released: Chrysalis 42762 (7”) – 1983
Pop Debut Date: 1/28/84
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #46
Album Rock Debut Date: 11/26/83
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #9


(Idol – Stevens)
Released: Chrysalis 42786 (7”) – 1984
Released: Chrysalis 42791 (12” picture disc) – 1984
Pop Debut Date: 5/5/84
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #4
Album Rock Debut Date: 5/12/84
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #5

(Idol – Stevens)
Released: Chrysalis 42809 (7”) – 1984
Released: Chrysalis 42810 (12”) – 1984
Pop Debut Date: 8/25/84
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #29
Album Rock Debut Date: 8/18/83
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #8

Released: Chrysalis 42840 (7”) – 1984
Pop Debut Date: 11/3/84
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #50
Album Rock Debut Date: 11/24/84
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #24

(Bell – Jones)
Released: Chrysalis 43024 (7”) – 1986
Released: Chrysalis 43025 (12”) – 1986
Pop Debut Date: 10/4/86
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #6
Album Rock Debut Date: 10/4/86
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #2

10. DON’T NEED A GUN (Single Edit)
original version from WHIPLASH SMILE
Released: Chrysalis 43087 (7”) – 1986
Pop Debut Date: 1/24/87
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #37
Album Rock Debut Date: 11/15/86
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #10

Released: Chrysalis 43114 (7”) – 1987
Pop Debut Date: 4/25/87
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #20
Album Rock Debut Date: 3/28/8
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #26


(Werner – Idol)
Released: Chrysalis 23509 (CD5) – 1990
Pop Debut Date: 5/5/90
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #2
Album Rock Debut Date: 5/5/90
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #1

13. L.A. WOMAN (Single Edit)
(Densmore – Krieger – Manzarek – Morrison)
original version from CHARMED LIFE
Released: Chrysalis 23571 (CD5) – 1990
Pop Debut Date: 9/8/90
Highest Billboard Pop Chart Position: #52
Album Rock Debut Date: 7/28/90
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #18

(Idol – Younger – Smith)
Released: Chrysalis 24825 (CD5) – 1993
Album Rock Debut Date: 6/19/93
Highest Billboard Album Rock Chart Position: #7

15. REBEL YELL (Live and Acoustic)
(Idol – Stevens)
Recorded live 12/11/93 for KROQ’s Acoustic Christmas, Universal Amphitheatre, Universal City, CA

16. DON’T YOU (FORGET ABOUT ME) – New Recording
(Forsey – Schiff)
Billy Idol – vocals
Steve Stevens – guitar
Programmed by Joe Boshara, Julian Beeston, Keith Forsey and Ici Levay
Engineered by Brian Reeves
Recorded at Redhouse, Venice, CA
Mixed at The Jungle Room, Burbank, CA

Tracks 1-13 and 16 produced by Keith Forsey
Track 14 produced by Robin Hancock

Compilation Produced by: Kevin Flaherty

Executive Producer: Paul Atkinson

Mastered by: Kevin Bartley & Keith Forsey

Project Manager: Kenny Nemes

Creative Direction: Darren Wong

Art Direction & Design: Robert Fisher @ Flying Fish

Liner Notes: Ben Edmonds

A&R Administration: Michelle Azzopardi

A&R Coordination: Tricia Deaton

Licensing: David Brown

Production: Bryan Kelley

Photos provided by:
Cover: Albert Sanchez Photography
Pg. 3 – Neal Preston
Pgs. 6, 8, 12 – Albert Sanchez Photography
Pg. 7 – The Capitol Records Archive
Pg. 11 – Peter Gravelle
Back Inlay: Albert Sanchez Photography / The Capitol Records Archive

Management: East End Management – Tony Dimitriades, Robert Richards


All tracks 24-Bit Digitally Remastered

(P) 2001 Chrysalis Records, Inc., except where noted.

Billboard® chart positions and debut dates courtesy of BPI Communications and Joel Whitburn’s Record Research Publications.



See Hollywood and Vine

This compilation (P) © 2001 Chrysalis Records, Inc. Manufactured by Chrysalis Records, Inc., a division of Capitol Records, Inc., 1750 N. Vine Street, Hollywood, CA 90028. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Printed in U.S.A.


Also available from Billy Idol:
REBEL YELL – Expanded Edition (CD only)
GENERATION X – PERFECT HITS (1975-1981) (CD only)
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