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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Album Spotlight: Billy Idol

You know, when I first began doing the Sunday Jukebox entries in this blog four years ago, the vast majority of entries were about one song.  Usually they came from songs that I had listened to on the radio, or songs that were playing on the loudspeaker at work.  Sometimes I did a feature on country artists, while other times covered a song that was based on a theme week (I'm thinking of the time I wrote a blog on Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" during Back to School Week). 

But sometimes, I would do a spotlight on a whole album's worth of songs.  And I have to say that I really enjoyed writing those types of entries because it allowed me to focus on a variety of different songs, and it allowed me to do a more in-depth analysis of an artist or band.

So, I thought that for the rest of the year, I'd do album spotlights for the Sunday Jukebox entries.  After all, learning how albums come together, and how singles are chosen to promote albums is always fun to learn about, right?

I guess you could consider this to be a combination of a Sunday Jukebox entry and a Tuesday Timeline entry, as I'll be featuring an album spotlight from the past. 

In fact, today's album that I'll be featuring was released thirty-three years ago this month!

That's 1982, to be exact.  And, hey, get a glance of the Sunday Jukebox year logo!  I decided to go musical and colourful!  This logo will be in play only on Sundays though.

And, the album that I'll be focusing on comes from a man who bleached his hair long before Zack Morris ever did.  A man who released several punk rock hits during the 1980s, and nearly died in a motorcycle accident in 1990.

A man who - believe it or not - is turning SIXTY this coming November.

Yes, today we'll be focusing on British musician William Michael Albert Broad.  But, let's face it.  Having a name like THAT would never fly in the world of MTV and rock music.  He had to go by something a little cooler.

Like maybe, Billy Idol, perhaps?

And it was 33 years ago this month that Billy Idol released his breakthrough self-titled album.  Though it technically was not his first album (his first album was an independent release in 1981), this was his first studio album.  And even though only three singles from the album became hits, it was enough to get him noticed by both UK and US fans.

Released on July 16, 1982, "Billy Idol" contained ten singles, two of which were huge hits.  The album sold so many copies (it was certified Gold in the United States, selling at least half a million copies), that it was reissued one year later, and included a third single that was released in late 1981.

And, yes...I'll be covering all three hits in this blog.  Are you ready for a music session with the man who at the time had more blond ambition than Madonna?  I bet you are!

Released:  1981
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #102
Peak Position on the Billboard Dance Charts:  #27

Now, here's an interesting fact about this song.  The 1981 release date happens to be the year that Billy Idol recorded this solo version.  And it happens to be a cover version from a song that Idol had performed with his first band back in 1980.  Until 1980, Idol was a member of the punk rock band Generation X, and the original version of this song (which peaked at #62 on the British album charts) was definitely a lot louder and harder than the solo version that Idol would release.  Have a listen to the original 1980 version of the song.

Billy Idol made the conscious decision to tone down the guitars and made the song more pop friendly to allow it to be played on Top 40 radio stations.  I am actually shocked that the song did not make it beyond the "Bubbling Under" charts, because I recall "Dancing With Myself" to be kind of a signature tune for Billy Idol.  But I guess it's one of those songs that got popular as time went on.  I imagine that its presence in bars and clubs during the early 1980s helped it climb the Dance charts, and to this day, the song is one that is heavily featured during sports events to help energize the crowd.

Released:  May 27, 1982
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #23

I have to say - aside from "Eyes Without A Face" (which would not be released for another year) - this is probably my favourite Billy Idol song.  Released in late spring 1982, this song was probably the summer soundtrack for a lot of people during that year.  It was also Billy's first major success in the United States, reaching the peak spot at #23. 

You might have never known it until now, but there were several versions of this song released.  They all sound the same, mind you, but different radio stations in various areas of the United States were given different tapes to play.  The album version has Idol shouting "New York", but there were also versions in which he would yell "Boston" or "Minneapolis".  Wherever your radio station was located, that was the city that you heard.

(Mind you, not all cities were represented.  I can't see Billy Idol shouting "Sheboygan!".  I honestly don't know if Idol can even pronounce Sheboygan!)

Oh, and I should mention that one of the two music videos made for the song was banned by MTV.  When the single was re-released in the UK in 1987, a version was released where Perri Lister was bound to a cross at the end of the clip.  Apparently, MTV decided that was too controversial...and yet two years later, Madonna was dancing in front of burning crosses.  Go figure.

And finally...

Released:  October 23, 1982
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #36

Again, I am a little shocked that this did not chart higher than it did...but then again, it was Billy Idol's first exposure to the American audience.  Not every artist has a smashing debut.

What I can tell you though is that the success of this single is linked to the very creative music video.  Directed by David Mallet, the video features Perri Lister as the bride (she and Idol had dated exclusively for years at the time that this video was filmed - they broke up in 1989).  And I don't know what it is about Lister, but once again, this video was slightly censored by MTV.  The scene in which Billy Idol forces a wedding band made out of barbed wire on Lister's finger which shreds her knuckle was edited out - even though Lister was perfectly okay with the scene being shot as she felt the scene would be more realistic.

The scene with the exploding kitchen?  The set was previously used in a David Bowie music video.

And the subject matter of the song?  Well, obviously it has to do with the bitterness of the singer regarding his sister getting married and him not approving of the union at all.  But the rumour has it that Idol wrote the song about his own sister, and his misgivings about the wedding.

Either way, the song definitely made you think about the dark side of "happily ever after".

So, that was how the career of Billy Idol began...with a self-titled studio album and a dream to make music.  I'd say he succeeded.

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