Billy Idol was born William Michael Albert Broad on 30 November 1955 at Stanmore, Middlesex, England. While studying English Literature at Sussex University, Broad became involved with the “Bromley contingent” followers of The Sex Pistols.
This band lasted from 1976-81, after which Idol launched his solo career in New York and recorded Don’t Stop, which featured a revival of Tommy James & The Shondells‘ UK #1 Mony Mony.
Throughout the early 80s, Idol’s career blossomed and his acerbic vocal style and lively stage act brought a string of hits including Hot In The City (US #23), Eyes Without A Face (US #4/UK #18), White Wedding (UK #6), Rebel Yell (UK #6 when reissued), and To Be A Lover (US #6).
With his album sales increasing each year, Idol turned an old hit to advantage by taking a live version of Mony Mony to #1 in the USA in 1987.
Despite his legendary excessive lifestyle, Idol appeared in several charity shows. In 1988, he took part in Neil Young‘s Bridge School Benefit concert and the following year guested in the charity performance of The Who‘s Tommy in London.
After being auditioned for a part in Oliver Stone’s The Doors movie (1991), Idol almost emulated its central character by suffering an early death.
A motorcycle crash in February 1990 seriously damaged his leg, but he recovered remarkably quickly and the same May hit the #2 slot in America with Cradle Of Love (taken from the Andrew Dice Clay movie The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane).
He soon found himself back in trouble though – this time with the Los Angeles courts when, in 1992, he was put on probation for two years and fined $2,700 for an assault on a “fan”.
This all added fuel to the rebel image but by now Idol had become far more successful than most of the punk founders with whom he rubbed shoulders back in 1977.
His attempt to re-brand his image on 1993’s Cyberpunk was a notable commercial and critical failure, and the following year Idol narrowly escaped death a second time when he overdosed.
He laid low until the end of the decade when he made a cameo appearance in the Adam Sandler comedy The Wedding Singer (1998).