Friday, November 15, 2013

rebel yell

Billy Idol bridged punk rock and heavy metal and had his greatest success with the slick new wave wail of this pyrotechnic pop pleasure.  William Broad had spent years in the UK punk rock scene, starting with the  Bromley Contingent of Sex Pistols fans and played in an early version of  Siouxsie and the Banshees before forming Generation X with Tony James.  When that group disbanded, Idol went to America:    "It was all about survival. Once Generation X broke up, your career in England was over. Things in England pass through so quickly.  Sometimes in America a single takes several months to make an impression. But in England it’s over in three weeks. Once Generation X had broken up, it was hard to restart something in England. It was fun to come to New York in 1981, and come see the place where Lou Reed and the NY Dolls were from. It was cool to come see a new scene. It was fun to see the American reaction to what we were doing in England. That was what it was all about. There were no jobs in England.  It was all about survival and coming to America and being new again. That was exciting for me...The good thing about the last Generation X record and my own music was it was more dance oriented. We started making dance rock with songs like “Dancing With Myself.” When I got to America I realized that I was big with this new wave-punk-dance chart. That kept me going and gave me a lot of hope.  I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got to America. When I saw how excited people were about “Dancing With Myself” I thought “Great. I only have to be myself.” I didn’t have to change or be different. I just had to find out more what was going on inside myself. That was what punk was all about. Being yourself and not changing yourself. It was great to find out that people were knocked out by us even though our records weren’t being played on the radio.  Things were changing at that time...That was the great thing about MTV: it gave people like me who were nobodies in America a platform. At that time they wouldn’t play anyone with spiky hair on the radio. They wouldn’t play punk rock. We actually didn’t put my picture on my first record. “Hot In The City” was number 18 in the American charts but nobody knew what I looked like. When we put my picture on “White Wedding” they wouldn’t play it. It happened that college radio was playing “White Wedding.” We made a video and it got played on MTV. It kept people like me alive. The media didn’t want to know about punk rock. MTV connected with the kids that did want to know about punk rock and the people who were involved with it. They were excited by it. MTV kept America alive in terms of new rock...[I didn't feel like a success until] after 'Rebel Yell'.   'Rebel Yell' was a number 4 album. “Eyes Without A Face” was a number 6 single. It was wild. I was a guy from England.   It was great to be embraced in America like that."

'Rebel Yell' was recorded at Electric Lady Studios on Eighth Street in Manhattan with Billy Idol on guitar and vocals;  Steve Stevens on synthesizer, guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards;  Sal Cuevas and  Steve Webster on bass guitar;  Judi Dozier and Jack Waldman on keyboards;  Thommy Price -and Gregg Gerson on drums;  Mars Williams on saxophone; and Perri Lister on vocals and background vocals.  The sessions were produced by Keith Forsey, who had produced his debut EP 'Don't Stop' and his eponymous debut album.  During the sessions, Idol was in a disagreement with Chrysalis Records over the direction of the album and stole the master tapes.  Forsey reveals:    “He was trying to make a statement to the record company.  I've always been band-oriented. It's me and the band against the record company. That was always my position. I would do what I thought the record company needed but within the realms of whatever the band wanted. I tried to move the band to where I thought it should be, but if they didn't want to go there, they had total override...I let him think he had the masters.  He did whatever he had to do with the label. Everything was squared away, and then he came back and I said, ‘By the way, Bill, I've got the real masters.’ He's like ‘Ohhhhh, great!’”

Stevens says:    "I knew we were making a really good record. There’s just a feeling that you get. We spent four months on the road prior to that and there’s just a vibe you get when you know that you are onto something really good. We had the opportunity to work in Electric Ladyland studios (the studio that Jimi Hendrix built) so it was like all of the right things were happening. There were a lot of good people in New York making records at that time as well. At the end of the day we were playing it very loud; people would come in flipping out over what they heard ... That record was amazing.  It put him on the map as an arena-rock artist, and it also cemented our working relationship that is still intact today. There's no denying that there was definitely a sound that was created with his voice and my guitar that hadn't existed before...It enabled me to play in a lower, more rhythmic way that I don't think other guitar players were doing.”

'Rebel Yell' hit thirty-six in the UK, sixteen in Australia and Switzerland, six in the US, and number two in Germany and New Zealand.  It has been certified double platinum in the US. 

"Rebel Yell"  went to sixty-two in the UK, forty-six on the US pop chart, nine on the US mainstream rock tracks chart, seven in Australia, and number three in New Zealand.  The song also received a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Performance.  Idol says he got the title from a bottle at a party at Ronnie Wood's house:    "It's a bit of a blur, but I think it was Mick Jagger's birthday. They were all drinking this Southern sour mash. I kept on following the bottle up as they drank from it, trying to read the label. I could make out this cavalry officer on a horse, then I saw it - Rebel Yell. I started fishing - 'You have Street Fighting Man, Jumping Jack Flash, are you thinking about doing Rebel Yell?' They went, 'No, don't think so.'?"

"Flesh for Fantasy" found its way to fifty-four in the UK, thirty in Italy, twenty-nine on the US pop chart,  twenty-seven in Australia, twenty in Switzerland, eleven in Germany, eight on the US mainstream rock tracks chart, and number five in New Zealand.

"Eyes Without a Face" hit twenty-one in Switzerland, eighteen in the UK, fourteen in Italy, twelve in Australia, ten in Germany, five on the US mainstream rock tracks chart, and number four in New Zealand and on the US pop chart.

"Catch My Fall" made it to sixty-one in Australia, fifty on the US pop chart, forty-two in New Zealand, twenty-four on the US mainstream rock tracks chart, and number eleven in Germany.

'Rebel Yell'

full album:

All songs written and arranged by Billy Idol and Steve Stevens.

1. "Rebel Yell"     4:45
2. "Daytime Drama"     4:02
3. "Eyes Without a Face"     4:58
4. "Blue Highway"     5:05
5. "Flesh for Fantasy"     4:37
6. "Catch My Fall"   Billy Idol 3:57
7. "Crank Call"     3:56
8. "(Do Not) Stand in the Shadows"     3:10
9. "The Dead Next Door"     3:45

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