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Billy Idol
The Very Best Of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself Carol Clerk , July 21st, 2008 10:54

The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself

What a wonderful creation was Billy Idol. Shamelessly hamming it up with all the fripperies of punk-rock fashion - the bleach-blond spikes, the leather, the studs, the black glove, the bling - and, always, a great expanse of bare chest, Idol swaggered into the Eighties to become the definitive poster boy for the emerging MTV generation, part lover, part motorcycle rebel, part new-wave Elvis with the perfect curl of a lip.

He could've been a disaster, or at least a laughing stock. Back in his punk heyday with Generation X, Idol's flamboyance and beauty intimidated more than a few male journalists who cried "Poser!" and persistently attacked him for being middle class (class being quite irrelevant to punk). But Idol had certain things going for him even then. Unlike his accusers, he had a sense of humour. He had bundles of attitude. And he knew his way around a good pop song.

Pop and rock were crucial elements in Generation X's spunky punk mix, and without the tuneful exuberance of 'Ready Steady Go', the anthemic rowdiness of 'King Rocker' or the moody dramas of 'Untouchables', say, this collection can hardly claim to be "the very best" of Billy. 'Dancing With Myself' is here, opening the show, but it's not the early, classic version that jumped out of Kiss Me Deadly, all dizzying guitars spinning into the choruses.

One might question the value of yet another compilation (beyond the obvious lure of the filthy lucre), since songs such as 'Mony Mony', 'Hot In The City', 'Flesh For Fantasy', 'Eyes Without A Face', 'Catch My Fall' and karaoke standards 'White Wedding (Part 1)' and 'Rebel Yell' are like old friends turning up time and again as the years go by. The bait is the addition of two new songs - the slow-burning 'John Wayne', with its epic build, and the riffing, raving 'New Future Weapon' will not disappoint devotees - and, even more attractively, the first DVD release of Idol's fondly remembered promo videos, thirteen in total, with the deluxe edition.

Idol kick-started his solo career in New York by colluding with producer Keith Forsey and guitar ace Steve Stevens to unleash a torrent of irresistible, dancefloor-friendly pop-rock fancies and, crucially, by lucking into the birth of MTV, the ideal showcase for his uninhibited performances.

The CD tracks his later progress through the casual country colours of 'Sweet Sixteen', a hot and sexy 'To Be A Lover', an ill-advised cover of 'LA Woman', a blaring 'Shock To The System' from the unfortunate Cyberpunk project, and 2005's swashbuckling comeback album, Devil's Playground. Represented here by 'World Comin' Down', a careering punk rocker, this followed a 12-year retirement during which Idol rode his Harley, fought the corporate music beast and disentangled himself from pills, crack and heroin.

Idol crashed, burned and returned triumphantly with no excuses, no evangelising sobriety, no regrets, and all of the dazzle that befits a rock star who walked it like he talked it. Not bad for a poser.