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Nicole Michael

Billy Idol, a Beatles "super-mega fan"

Legendary British-American rock icon Billy Idol joined host Kenneth Womack to talk about being a Beatles fan “in real time,” the U.S. vs. U.K. music scenes, the 40th anniversary of “Rebel Yell” and much more on our sixth season premiere episode of “Everything Fab Four,” a podcast co-produced by me and Womack (a music scholar who also writes about pop music for Salon) and distributed by Salon.

Idol, who blazed through the 1980s with such megahits as “Dancing with Myself” and “White Wedding,” first achieved fame in the 1970s with the London area punk bands Chelsea and Generation X. But his introduction to music began at a very young age, with his mother’s Irish family being “quite musical” and even having a family band.

At the time, he told Womack, Idol tried writing his own songs. And at 7 years old, he “fell in love with the Beatles. It was more exciting than anything else.” He began saving his money to buy Beatles singles because he “knew” those songwriters would keep putting out great new music. “I believed in John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney], and then ‘She Loves You’ came, and it was the first record I ever bought with my own money. I just believed in them.” He also paraphrased a statement by former music executive and one-time Lennon girlfriend May Pang (who was a previous guest on “Everything Fab Four”) by saying John and Paul were “both great on their own, but they were even better together.”


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As for his own musical evolution, Idol went solo, focused on writing and released his debut album “Billy Idol” in 1982. The year prior, he had just moved to the U.S. when music manager Bill Aucoin tipped him off that “there was a 24-hour music channel coming that I’d be perfect for” – and with the launch of MTV, Idol’s videos quickly became a staple of the network’s programming. Then came 1983’s “Rebel Yell” album, which Idol said, “really worked at the time; we felt like we were going somewhere with it,” yielding such hits as “Eyes Without a Face” and “Flesh for Fantasy” in addition to the title track. 

Though the Beatles had also released music videos, it was their jukebox movies like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” that had Idol hooked. “I saw them on a double bill, and I loved them. I just love, love, loved the Beatles. I was a super-mega fan and I still am. They are a beacon of light. When things are bad, you've always got the Beatles. From the ages of 6 to 15 I listened to all kinds of music, but it all began for me with the Beatles.”

Listen to the entire conversation on “Everything Fab Four” with Billy Idol, including how a NYC cab driver once mistook his voice for Paul McCartney’s, and subscribe via Spotify, Apple, Google or wherever you’re listening. “Everything Fab Four” is distributed by Salon.

Host Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography on Beatles producer George Martin and the bestselling books "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles” and “John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life.” His latest book is the authorized biography of Beatles road manager Mal Evans, “Living the Beatles Legend,” out now.

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