Dancing With Myself (2014)
The Bromley Contingent continued to make the scene with a series of wild parties, including one memorable bash at Bertie Berlin’s house, with Siouxsie, Steve Severin, Simon Barker, a bunch of workers from Malcom’s Sex shop, and Johnny Rotten. Those were the fun times. We were fine young cannibals, ready to conquer the universe, poised to become stars in our own right. (54)
I read this book primarily because of Idol’s involvement in the “Bromley Contingent” which was a group of punks who were basically Sex Pistols fans. Aside from Idol, the Bromley Contingent included punk luminaries like Siouxsie Sioux and Jordan (more on Jordan when I get to Adam Ant’s autobiography) and they were known for their risky fashion choices – enabled by their relationship to Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood – as much as they were for their disruptive behavior at Pistol shows and TV appearances. Idol was also famous in the burgeoning New Romantic clubs in 1979/1980 for being a great beauty who drew admirers like Boy George to him, even if the New Romantics had declared those still wearing punk clothes to be dirty and unfashionable. Sometimes a great face can conquer one’s aversion to torn t-shirts and tattered jeans! Idol had, in fact, lived in a squat with Steve Strange (singer of Visage and owner of The Blitz club, among many other important New Romantic clubs of the time) when both were in the early days of the punk scene. The punk section of this book is rich with information and filled with Idol’s encounters with heavy hitters like The Clash.
The book loses some of its punch once he becomes famous, though there is a great story about him appearing on the TV show Solid Gold to perform “Mony Mony” in 1981. I’ll let Billy tell it:
I was asked to do some promotion, and I agreed to go to L.A. to perform on Solid Gold, the U.S. chart TV show hosted by Marilyn McCoo and Andy Gibb […] We flew out for the show, on which I was to lip-synch the words to the recorded track. After doing so much TV in the UK, I was up for it.
When we arrived for the rehearsal, a choreographer had worked out all of these ‘60s steps for me to perform with the Solid Gold Dancers, but I told him, ‘I sing, they dance,’ so he got them to perform their routine around me. My long, hard stare into the future at the end of my performance let everyone know, ‘I’m a punk rock ‘n’ roller’” (147).
There truly is nothing more punk than acting tough on Solid Gold. Good for you, Billy! I believe the camera didn’t actually capture that long, hard stare but you can look for it here:
There are the usual stories of excess here and one explicit encounter with a fan that is the first thing I think of when I tell people I’ve read Billy Idol’s autobiography. If you’re interested, pick up the book and leaf through it. I guarantee you’ll know which fan encounter I’m talking about when you find it.
In terms of postpunk research, this book provides a glimpse into how punk became 80s and then finally became New Pop. Good stuff about the early punk scene. Idol is a real name-dropper and I mean that as a compliment!