Billy Idol On MTV Leading To Fame And Drugs
Billy Idol is hardly the party animal of 1982 — with a European tour set for this spring and a granddaughter he can’t wait to get home to. Idol — who recently released a new EP, titled, The Roadside, via George Harrison‘s resurrected Dark Horse Records imprint — recalled his early days and how it led him down a road to quick fame and drugs.
Idol spoke with Classic Rock magazine and looked back to when he hit the ground running in the U.S. after leaving his band Generation X back in Britain: “At first, mainstream radio wouldn’t play my music because I had a punk rock image, which they didn’t believe sold advertising dollars. College radio and then MTV gave us a platform. Then the kids who were watching MTV phoned the radio stations, and they folded and there we were on the radio.”
He went on to explain, “(Original Kiss manager) Bill Aucoin, who’d been in television in the ’60s and ’70s, knew cable and MTV were coming and that I’d be perfect for a 24-hour music channel. So, we knew this was going to be our secret weapon, that we could be on it, and that it was going to change everything.”
Idol spoke frankly about how early fame affected his life: “Pop stardom’s fantastic. You want people to hear your music and come to the shows. But I never thought of fame beyond just being a music person, of being on the radio and doing the occasional Top Of The Pops. MTV was on 24-hours-a-day, and it grew from an audience of a few million to countless millions all around the world. Suddenly everybody knew who you were. And that’s a little weird. When I came to New York, I’d walk around and only the few people who were into punk rock knew who I was; now suddenly everybody did.”
Ultimately, fame lead Idol down a long dark road: “It cut off your freedom. I started to live in tiny little rooms, because when you walked outside you walked into a world of mayhem. And it drives you a little nuts. So, you start overloading on drugs. Because what else is there to do? So, that was a problem. It didn’t help if you were a bit of a drug addict, and I turned myself into a bit of a drug addict at that point.”
Billy Idol he admitted to us that although not exactly clean and sober, he’s left his self-destructive habits far in the past: “I’m not sober, I mean, I don’t. . . I have to sort of say to myself, ‘Yeah, you can do everything, man, but I’m not doing it.’ If I say to myself, ‘I’m never doing anything ever again’ — I’ll immediately go and do it. That’s what I’m like. So, I have to sort of say, ‘No, man, you can do (laughs) whatever you want’ — but there’s a side of me saying, ‘. . . but we’re not going to.’ I like smoking pot. I still smoke tons of pot, and so. . . I don’t do coke or heroin or anything like that. I like to drink with a meal at a restaurant, y’know? But nothing else.” (30 OC: . . . But nothing else)
Billy Idol will next perform on April 29th in Atlanta, Georgia at the Shaky Knees Festival