Billy Idol Albums Ranked Worst to Best
A stage name like Billy Idol isn’t chosen just because it sounds cool. Nope. The man born William Michael Albert Broad was pretty much willing himself to stardom when he adopted that name, which conveniently sounded just like “idle” and fit right in with the British punk aesthetic he came out of.
Idol found himself in the thick of that paradigm-shifting musical movement, spearheaded by the Damned, Sex Pistols and the Clash, first as the guitar player in a minor-league band called Chelsea and then as frontman for Generation X. With bassist and co-songwriter Tony James, Idol led Generation X to a respectable amount of success in the U.K., delivering three albums in four years.
But his ambitions demanded more, and in spring 1981, he went solo, moved to New York City and secured the services and expertise of former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin. He then scored a Top 30 hit in the States with “Hot in the City,” taken from his debut album, in 1982. But it was “White Wedding” that really branded Idol’s peroxide-blonde, leather-clad, post-punk image all over the nascent MTV, making him one of the first stars launched by the new medium of music video.
1983’s multi-platinum-selling Rebel Yell consolidated Billy Idol’s stature as a star, yielding four hit singles over the next year; 1986’s Whiplash Smile kept the ball rolling unimpeded (even Idol’s guitar player, Steve Stevens, managed to launch a solo career); and 1990’s Charmed Life suggested there’d be no slowing him down in the new decade (despite a life-threatening motorcycle accident, he even made a cameo appearance in Oliver Stone’s The Doors). But slow down was precisely what Idol’s career did, when the singer’s industrial music-dominated concept LP, Cyberpunk, was a commercial failure. It was his last studio LP for more than a decade.
Idol made a comeback with 2005’s Devil’s Playground, which reunited him with Stevens and longtime producer Keith Forsey, but reviews were mixed, and no one could tell whether a Christmas album, Happy Holidays, released the next year was to be taken seriously or tongue-in-cheek.
Once again, close to a decade would precede Idol’s return to recording with 2014’s Kings & Queens of the Underground, but the singer seemed at peace with his off-and-on celebrity, making radio, TV and even theatrical appearances, sometimes as a caricature of himself. Through it all there’s the music, which we run down in the above gallery of Billy Idol Albums Ranked Worst to Best.