Billy Idol's Rebel Yell

 Billy Idol

On Billy Idol's upper left arm is tattooed a figure of a beautiful warrior, her hair blowing in the wind and her expression one of fierce defiance. She is Oktobriana, a figure invented by underground Soviet cartoonists to symbolize a rebellious spirit challenging the conventions of Russian society.

The symbolism is apropos for Idol, a founding member of London's mid 70s punk movement. "We were pissed off, fed up and sick of the rock groups that were being shoved down our throats," he says of that period. "We felt that change should be brought about whenever it's needed, even if the change doesn't lead to success." Sitting next to Idol in Electric Lady's Studio A. and watching him bounce ecstatically to his new LP. Rebel Yell (Chrysalis), it's apparent that becoming a success is no longer an issue. As much as "star" status seems at odds with the original punk philosophy, at 27, the leather-clad, spiked blond Idol is now riding the crest of a wave that has taken America nearly seven years to latch onto.

In 1976, Idol formed his first band, Chelsea, which evolved into Generation X, one of the seminal punk outfits. "It was really an exciting time," he recalls fondly. "People were cranking out songs every five minutes. The Clash would come over with a new one; we'd play them our new one; the Sex Pistols would play there new one." Although Generation X produced three LPs that were lauded for combining angry-young-man lyrics with pop accessibility, the band broke up after four years. Ironically, it's final collaboration, "Dancing With Myself," would later become Idol's most popular song.

Idol moved to New York City in 1981, quickly acclimating himself to the U.S. music scene and becoming a mainstay of New York's energetic rock clubs. "When I first got here, I was in this place called Hurrah; just standing there, and the dance floor was empty. Suddenly they wacked on "Dancing With Myself," and the bar emptied; everyone was going crazy on the dance floor."

Another thing that made Idol realize he had a following in the States was the success of his "Dancing with Myself" video, directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist). "I've always been a big of rock & roll," explains Hooper, "so when producer Jeff Abelson approached with the Billy Idol project, I had no problem saying yes, it was the most fun I've had shooting since doing Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Forming a band with guitarist Steve Stevens, bassist Phil Feit, drummer Gregg Gerson and Judi Dozier on keyboards, Idol released his debut solo LP. Billy Idol, in the fall of 1982. Lyrically acerbic, it spawned two Top 40 hits, "Hot In The City" and "White Wedding."

Rebel Yell contains a much more mature and optimistic vision then Billy's earlier work. As the title track comes rolling off studio A's multitrack recorder, Idol begins to explain the change. "A lot of new stuff is more up, and it really shows that I do feel positive about things." Not only that, but Idol's vocals on the new material are strong enough to finally dethrone David Bowie.

"Every time I pick up a music paper," says Idol, "you just get people who have no real interest in music or what's going on now, and they're commenting about it in a negative way. What they don't realize is that there is a totally new music scene for the eighties - and it's taking over - and that's what I'm doing, in a real positive way."

Idol's first major tour is now in full swing, and full-scale success appears just on the horizon. "Success? To me success is having people say, That's a great piece of music." I never wanted to be a commodity like Kellogg's corn flakes, which is what you are when you make the same old music simply because it sells."

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