More, More, More Billy Idol

Punk rock's spiked bad boy lets loose in the midnight hour in this week's Forgotten Videos
  • Billy Idol in "Rebel Yell"
July 21, 2011 -- 7:00 am PDT
GRAMMY.com

Welcome to Forgotten Videos. For some, these videos are forgotten, for others just filed away, and for others still, a totally brand-new discovery. Whichever category you fall into, each week we'll feature a video that's possibly been collecting dust when what it really deserves is a fresh look. Or vice-versa…. We're not here to judge, we just want to take you on a little trip down memory lane. Yep, you'll remember when hair was really that big, when drums were that up front in the mix, when video was young(er) and so were you.

Billy Idol
"Rebel Yell"
1983

With his platinum-blond spiked hair and patented sneer, London-bred punk rocker Billy Idol was among the first group of artists to taste success in the early '80s courtesy of the then-new visual medium MTV.

Born William Michael Albert Broad, Idol initially emerged as a part of the UK punk scene in the '70s via Generation X. Relocating to New York in 1981 to launch a solo career, he hooked up with Kiss manager Bill Aucoin and dizzying guitarist Steve Stevens. Idol struck a deal with Chrysalis Records and in 1982 released his self-titled debut album, which proved a modest hit in the United States in cracking the Top 50 on the Billboard 200.

His sophomore follow-up, 1983's Rebel Yell, upped the ante with "more, more, more" everything. With a hybrid sound mixing punk, new wave and metallic rock elements, nine of the album's 10 songs were co-written by Idol and Stevens. Rebel Yell became Idol's best-selling album, reaching double-platinum status, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, and spawning four charting Billboard Hot 100 singles, including the mesmerizing Top 10 ballad "Eyes Without A Face." But Idol brought more than his share of the rock too, the album's title track being a case in point.

A fairly low-budget affair, the video appears to be your basic three-camera shoot, but certainly was more than enough to capture the live energy of the band and the bedlam in the crowd. (Upon listening closely, you can actually hear the crowd shout the "more, more, more" portion of the refrain.) Idol commands the stage, evoking one part Elvis Presley, one part Jim Morrison and another all his own with grins, tattered threads and fist pumps punctuated by spiky armbands. His band was primed for the assault as well. In addition to Stevens, with his jet-black hair and bag of shred tricks, Idol's lineup was rounded out in the video by bassist Steve Webster, keyboardist Judi Dozier and drummer Gregg Gerson.

As for the song itself, Idol got the inspiration for the title based on an event he was at with Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, who in true Stones fashion were sipping some Rebel Yell bourbon whiskey. Mix in plenty of hooks and references to a dancing angel, a license for love, slavery, and tears of pain in the midnight hour, and a punk rock anthem was born.

Idol enjoyed further platinum success with Whiplash Smile (1986) and Charmed Life (1990). Though he kept a lower profile in the following years, Idol re-emerged in 1998 for a cool cameo in Adam Sandler's romantic comedy The Wedding Singer. In 2001 Idol's Greatest Hits was released, which has since been certified gold, and four years later he unleashed a new studio album, Devil's Playground. With Stevens by his side, today Idol still has his license to rock out on the road.

Nowadays, you can keep up on all things Idol with his column "S*** From The Lip." And why wouldn't you? After all, as his website bio reads: "Rock stars come and go, but Idol is forever."

How many times does Billy Idol say "more" in "Rebel Yell"? Got any Forgotten Video recommendations? Leave us a comment.

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