For those who wonder- no, this isn’t the book cover. It is, however, a great image of Mr. Idol holding the actual book. Yes, I’m a Billy Idol fan. Yes, I’ve been waiting for it to come out since earlier this year. Thank you to Meredith and Lauren at S&S for sending me a copy- a finished one- to read and review before it was released. It was worth the wait.
Billy Idol has been around many years. He started out in Siouxsie and the Banshees before they were officially known as thus, then formed a band Chelsea, before that splintered off into Generation X, one of the first punk bands to appear on Top of The Pops. He tells a lot of their roots in Gen X coming from some well known punk bands, but leaning more toward 1960’s pop acts. I learned a lot of background on the punk scene from that era. I’ve always tried to read as many punk rock histories as possible, as I do enjoy a number of punk bands and the history in general is fascinating. It’s equally fascinating to read about that era starting out, from the viewpoint of one who was smack in the middle of the punk rock revolution unfurling. Idol doesn’t mince words, sharing his own experiences at trying to find the right sound to fit in and the right song to break through the wall, along with his observations about seeing many of the punk movement’s pioneers in concert for the first time. Definitely an enjoyable part of the autobiography, for me, at least.
Idol’s early childhood and memories aren’t anything special; per se, he had a normal childhood with a hardworking father and a loving family. Born in England, the family did end up moving to the states when his father gets a new job. Reading Idol’s thoughts on the US vs. the UK aren’t only funny, but also quite accurate. The family ends up moving back to the UK, where Idol stays, until he gets into the punk rock game, and then it’s off to New York City. The Gen X days morphing into his solo career is a pretty wild ride, but one that has been widely chronicled through his career and through the press. Not a lot of the 1980’s part of the book shed any new light on the Idol chatter, and that part didn’t terribly enchant me as a reader. I did, however, greatly enjoy the stories of how some of his most famous (and some not so famous) solo hits were crafted and brought into the sonicsphere for the rest of us to enjoy. Idol’s long-time relationship with Perri Lister gets the complete treatment, including nothing but praise and love for her from Idol, and complete and total disclosure about what went wrong (it’s probably what you think) and how he moved on past the heartache after it was done for good. There’s no question reading this book that Lister is the one who got away, and some part of him will never forgive himself for losing her. Gut wrenching stuff, that love stuff. I give him major points for not taking the wussy way out and sugar-coating the beginning, middle, and end.
Idol’s career after the 80’s? Well, no sugarcoating that either. His drug addictions are covered in detail, including the good, the bad, and the truly ugly. No excuses, no fancy terminology, and no apologies- only the truth. I love that. He admits that shit didn’t go well after the “glory days” of the 1980’s pass and things get quiet. The discussion of his involvement in the Doors movie, including that rascally Oliver Stone man, are pretty entertaining. The end of his relationship with Lister coinciding with his almost losing his leg and his life in the motorcycle accident in February, 1990, is some tough stuff. Fighting his way back, while also confronting his addictions and trying to get sober and get back on the map with his sidelined career, is the stuff that really makes you realize this guy is a tough motherfucker. The extent of the injuries from that accident, as well as the scars that aren’t as easily seen, are eye opening and inspiring. Because he did it, and although it took him 14 years before he rose from the ashes again to take over the world, he’s back and badder than ever. The book ends with a poignant chapter talking about his father, and it goes full circle, as the book begins talking about his father. That part choked me up, as you guessed it would. The only part of this book that I had a problem with? Was the 1980’s part, which is something I normally would love, but it didn’t capture my attention as much as the beginning and end did. As I said, perhaps because I’ve read so much about the decade of excess that much of the detail brought forth has already been read by me? Still entertaining as hell. I encourage you to read this and give it to someone who will enjoy it and recommend it to someone else. Because it really is a kickass autobiography.