FORMER GENERATION X FRONTMAN and '80s MTV icon Billy Idol is best known for his halcyon years of rock’n’roll debauchery – squiring young ladies, taking drugs, crashing his Harley-Davidson motorbike, and so on. His Dionysian antics reached their apotheosis during sessions for his 1989 album Charmed Life, during which he found wearing clothes in the studio an unnecessary encumbrance. “It became more and more like a party,” he explains in the latest issue of MOJO, available from Tuesday, October 28. “We had a lot of orgies in the studio and it got quite wild. That window of free love and drugs hadn’t been quite closed by AIDS yet. We were enjoying it right to the end.”
However while his hedonistic exploits are infamous, Idol reveals he has another, more scholarly side that reflects his pre-punk student days studying English at the University Of Sussex in Brighton. “I’m reading a book about [director] John Ford,” he says when pressed by MOJO’s Pat Gilbert about his off-duty pursuits. “It’s really about how the lyrical nature of his personality led to the symbolic elements in his movies. How his life moved into his films in such a mythic way. My nose is never far from a book.”
Who’d have thought it?
Idol’s new album, Kings And Queens Of The Underground, and his autobiography Dancing With Myself (Simon & Schuster) are out now. His UK tour starts at Birmingham O2 Academy on November 5.
Watch a sample of the John Ford-directed classic The Searchers from 1956, below, starring John Wayne as an American Civil War veteran searching for his abducted niece.
PHOTO: Tom Sheehan