William Michael Albert Broad, known professionally as Billy Idol, is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and actor who holds dual British and American citizenship. He first achieved fame in the 1970s emerging from the London punk rock scene as the lead singer of a band called Generation X. Subsequently, he embarked on a solo career which led to international recognition and made Idol a lead artist during the MTV-driven Second British Invasion in the United States. The name “Billy Idol” was inspired by a schoolteacher’s description of him as “idle”.
Idol began his music career in late 1976 as a guitarist in the punk rock band Chelsea. However, he soon left the group. With his former bandmate Tony James, Idol formed Generation X. With Idol as lead singer, the band achieved success in the United Kingdom and released three albums on Chrysalis Records, then disbanded. In 1981, Idol moved to New York City to pursue his solo career in collaboration with guitarist Steve Stevens. His debut studio album released in 1982, Billy Idol, was a commercial success. With music videos for singles “Dancing with Myself” and “White Wedding”, Idol soon became a staple of then-newly established MTV.
Released in 1983, Idol’s second studio album, Rebel Yell, was a major commercial success, featuring hit singles “Rebel Yell” and “Eyes Without a Face”. The album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipment of two million copies in the US. In 1986, he released Whiplash Smile. Having accumulated three UK top ten singles (“Rebel Yell”, “White Wedding”, and “Mony Mony”) Idol released a 1988 greatest hits album that went platinum in the United Kingdom. Idol then released Charmed Life in 1990 and the concept album Cyberpunk in 1993.
Idol spent the second half of the 1990s out of the public eye focusing on his personal life. He made a musical comeback with the release of Devil’s Playground in 2005 and again with Kings and Queens of the Underground in 2014.