I've never read a really satisfactory account of how he made this move, and how he was regarded by others - his peers, I guess. The obvious thing would be to say that he became an MTV star / joke, but... that exact time was when the Clash was doing its NYC fetish, and 1982-3 presumably crossed time periods with the whole tourists taking photos of mohawks thing in London. Was it a sort of "good on you" thing, or derision, or was it an anachronistic thing in the face of colder new wave stuff? I don't really get the timeline or context, so if anyone wants to weigh in...
― paulhw, Wednesday, 3 October 2012 00:39 (7 months ago) Permalink
Hmm, well "Dancing With Myself" by the improvised "Gen X" (really just Idol and Tony James rehashing tunes from the unreleased (then) third Generation X album, with some friends helping out) became a long-lived alternative "club" hit in the States, the James / Idol partnership dissolved, and Idol hooked up with the same folks who managed Kiss, who took a totally different and very heavy-handed approach to managing Idol, just at the right moment - when new wave was seriously going mainstream and someone like Billy Idol seemed - to the masses - to have more street cred than say A Flock Of Seagulls or Duran Duran or the Human League. It worked, commercially, and Billy Idol crossed over even to dunderhead stoner rawk n roll fans who normally dug The Doors. (The Cars did this in a pretty similar manner, a few yeas earlier, but without going whole hog with the image makeover.)
I don't think Idol's story was unusual at the time, except for his level of success. There were lots of bands - the (English) Beat comes to mind - who polished up their sound to appeal to American radio, they just weren't quite as lucky. Not to mention Bow Wow Wow or Lords Of The New Church or a million more - bands who seemed pretty weird at the time to most people, but almost panderingly commercially motivated today. But don't like at me, I was listening to the Blue Orchids and On-U Sound stuff!
The first Billy Idol EP and album were puchased by a lot of people who wouldn't afmit it now. I think the feeling was that Idol made an album that wasn't as cool as Generation X, but not total crap, either. Even cynical still thinks "Hot In The City" was a great atmospheric tune for a teenage'summer. But Idol wasn't taken seriously by his peers (for the most part, this was true even in Generation X days) and so there wasn't much of any commentary. People had been waiting a long time for some member of the UK punk scene to break through in the US, and proud enough to see i t happen that it probably deflected some of the criticism that might have occurred n the merits of the work itself. By solo album #2, though, no one deep into music gave him the time of day, really.
The tourists taking pictures of punk thing was much more 1977 than 1982-1983, and back then no one really wore mohawks. I don't think anyone really connected Billy Idol to "punk" except through knowledge of his past or the fact that they lived in Butthole, Nebraska and just got MTV. He was just a pop character, and about as punk as Boy George (who was pretty radical to some folks.)
― crustaceanrebel, Wednesday, 3 October 2012 04:40 (7 months ago) Permalink