1980s icon Billy Idol's penned a memoir and he's opening up in interviews about the reality of being a rock star. He opens up about excesses and finding peace.
Billy Idol's back in the news.
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At 58, the legendary rocker's penned a tell all memoir titled Dancing With Myself and the book tour’s offering up little tidbits in the personal memories of the singer.
New Jersey’s The Record interviewed the singer before a book signing in Riverwood on Monday. Writing without a ghostwriter forced a really deep look into what extremes have offered.
Billy proclaims that “I am my own nemesis.” And the reflection ultimately helped him find a centered peace of acceptance. “You try to come to grips with your past, and face up to yourself, for all of the good and the evil.”
Born William Broad, the need find a space between off-stage life and on-stage persona can be overwhelming. And unexpectedly, he opens up on why he wrote the book now. "I have always loved books. I gravitated to books from the time I was very young, gobbling them up. Especially histories, or biographies.”
Even without audio, it’s easy to hear the rolling, growling voice break to explain more.
“There was always a dream of mine to write a book. So when this chance came along, I thought to myself, I'm in this place in my life right now where I can look back a long way, and hopefully, still look forward, too.”
And the book managed to help him dust off those not-so-happy memories. “Some of the memories were just beginning to become corroded, and so I thought, god, if I don't do it now, I'll never be able to do it."
Calling the MTV a great vehicle, he also admits, “You had a great time, but at the same time, you scared the daylights out of people who loved you. I mean, there are other things in life.”
CBS News anchor Tracy Smith dug a little deeper in a recorded interview.
Billy opens up to Smith, admitting "it's impossible" to stay faithful to a significant other, "especially on a 10-month tour" where routine became the norm. While that might seem to be an excuse, many rock marriages and relationships often end through infidelity. "The only way to break up the monotony was a human piece of flesh." Sex, the release of energy and emotion, wasn't his only vice, however.
Wrapped a vido 4 'Can't Break Me Down' tonight/morning editing phase starts next...u should see something near the middle of Roctober!— Billy Idol (@BillyIdol) October 3, 2014
When living in New York City’s East Village, drugs filled the air and streets as dealers and customers shared a more illicit space. When Idol and Smith walk around the community reminiscing, Washington Square Park brings back memories.
In his heyday, a stroll through the park involved dealers that would entice the singer by calling out and asking him to try “Rebel Yell heroin, White Wedding crack, or Dancing with Myself marijuana.” Turns out that he was busted in a cop sting while “addicted to crack,” stumbling but managed to put himself back together—in time to almost lose a leg in a motorcycle accident.
The 1980s and 1990s were a time of excess, drugs, and flagrant disregard to society. That disregard helped push the man to O.D. in 1994--a father of two young kids whose care forced him to grow up. He doesn’t consider himself sober, though.
"I mean, I have to sort of say to myself, 'Yeah, you can do everything, man, but I'm not doing it.'" Moderation is key because the rebellious nature still shows up when something becomes forbidden. “But it's just, if I say to myself, 'I'm never doing anything again,' I'll immediately go and do it.”
And moderation includes drinking. “I drink a little bit. I like to drink with a meal at a restaurant, you know, but nothing else. I try not to. I wanna be here enjoying today.” Not to mention smoking pot. “I like smoking pot. I still smoke tons of pot.”
But harder drugs, like coke, are off limits. “I don't do coke, or any heroin or anything like that anymore” because “I don't wanna be brain-dead, and that could happen, too."
The sentiment is similar to what he said to the Record.
“It's not that easy to get away from being a drug addict.” Psychotherapy and Alcoholic Anonymous helped in the 1990s, but there’s a more boiled down element to the nightmarish experience of finding some kind of sobriety. "It helped a lot. But I also just had to come to a place in myself where I made a decision."
All smiles, there’s a sense of peace and appreciation for life when speaking to Smith. Crazy touring and constant changes while trying to maintain some kind of balance in the world still hasn’t dimmed that fire inside the British native. "Life is sweet." Pausing, he gestures around him. "Because I've got an audience, and the audience enjoys what I do."
The rebellious nature reared up 40 years ago and encouraged an 18-year-old to look into the rock-and-roll life instead of following in his father’s footsteps. But the two men reconciled before Idol’s father died last August.
“My dad was very much in the last stages of cancer, and was having trouble getting up the stairs or even doing simple things like putting his pajamas on, or brushing his teeth.” A barely discernible pause and he continued. “You'd have to help him with all of that, 'cause he was getting so weak.”
Anyone who has watched a loved one die of cancer or said goodbye understands the scene he describes. "And one night I put him to bed, and he got quite emotional and he sort of said to me, 'You know, Billy, did it upset you that I didn't really understand about you choosing music as a career?'”
Taking another pause, swallowing briefly, he continued on. “And you know, I thought about that for a couple of seconds and I turned to him and I said, 'Dad, I was crazy to do it!' And I was crazy to do it."
At 58, Billy Idol’s no longer just a sneering rebel with a need to push against the establishment. Now he’s an adult man looking to push against the boundaries without managing to fall completely into excess, but he’s definitely wearing that trademark sneer regardless.
On Oct. 21, the legend will also release “Kings & Queens of the Underground,” the first album in nearly a decade, with a American leg in an international tour. Instead of releasing several singles before the albums comes out, he maintains a little of that rebellious spirit.
Telling The Record: "Maybe putting out a whole album is flying in the face of modernity. But I come from that time. Even if it's not the way to sell music anymore. I still think that somehow, something great will shine through."
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