“Big” Time Idolizing on Endor at the tail end of Generation X

Posted: August 25, 2013 by The Social Retard in Music
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I have no earthly idea as to why but I remember watching cartoons in 1985 or ’86 at six or seven years old. This isn’t the strange part as I watched cartoons before and, certainly, well after that. I only know this particular timeline because I definitely recall watching the Star Wars: Ewok and Droids cartoons. I actually went to a website to see when they would have aired. Where am I going with this? It’s a weird of a segue way as I can manage and I can’t promise that you’re going to get it. I have a recollection of something that doesn’t seem to exist. I could have sworn, during or around this block of programming, that I saw some weird psychedelic music video for Billy Idol‘s “Eyes Without a Face”. It was like watching a motion Magic Eye painting. I have been completely unable to figure out what program this might have been from. Does anyone remember this? No? Maybe it was just my imagination.

Regardless, this is just an example of how I experienced Billy Idol’s music in the eighties and nineties: tangentially. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the songs but I never really gave him, as an artist, much thought. When Big with Tom Hanks came out, there was the scene with Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins in the limo. She was trying to get him drunk and seduce her while “Hot In the City” is playing. There’s also that scene where he and his grade school chum are eating pizza in that shithole motel. That sounds so much more wrong in this day and age, a grown man bringing a ten year old back to a motel with the promise of pizza and ice cream….In that scene, we hear “Rebel Yell” and it reminded me that that song was awesome. But that was where it ended.

Fast forward to The Wedding Singer. You might know it as the last good Adam Sandler movie. And that was 1998! Who keeps going to see this crap? We get to the romantic climax of the movie where Adam’s character is, in defiance of all logic, on the same airplane as the girl he is in love with, played by Drew Barrymore (Her? He could have had, and I mean, had Christine Taylor’s character. Sandler really is a dumbass). Also on the plane is Billy Idol. I deem this is not that huge of a coincidence as my aunt and uncle were recently on the same plane as Billy Idol and Steve Stevens. Earlier in the movie, we heard “White Wedding” (which I have never cared for, honestly) and now Billy is trying to give Sandler love advice. He steals the whole damned movie in two minutes of screen time. It was then that I decided to finally explore his discography.

Very quickly, I realized that I had heard nearly all of his solo work already. I had only ever owned the “Shock To the System” cassingle 3 years prior and knew that there were no other Cyberpunk songs I needed to hear. Billy Idol is one of the few artists I listen to that you really don’t miss that much if you just listen to a Greatest Hits collection. His self-titled debut and Rebel Yell are fine albums and certainly worth getting, if I could ever find them on vinyl. I always come across Whiplash Smile and, fuck that, it just isn’t good. His last album, Devils Playground, not that holiday abortion album, was actually really good. People have seen me sing “Rebel Yell” and “Dancing With Myself” at karaoke nights and actually requested an encore. I even sang “DWM” at my friend Steve’s wedding, at his behest. But I’m a punk at heart, so I gravitate toward Idol’s pre-solo work, which is where “DWM” originally came from.

Generation X was Billy Idol’s first band and they were fucking great. They came on the scene in the second wave of British punk and released three full length LP’s. I have found all three at a couple of different occasions at the Chicagoland Record Collectors Show. I picked up my two favorites at the same show on May 16, 2010 for $18 total. I had found Valley Of the Dolls at another show but that was just to complete the set. Generation X has three of my favorite punk songs ever with “Your Generation”, “Ready Steady Go”,  and “Kiss Me Deadly”. The latter two I was lucky to see Idol perform at the Congress Theater (when you could still hear music there). The album Kiss Me Deadly, which is credited to just Gen X, contains the first version of “Dancing With Myself”, complete with more prevalent guitars by the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones. Also, there is the original and less slick rendition of “Untouchables” that Idol later redid, like “DWM” on the Don’t Stop EP.

It’s weird knowing that I am more interested in Billy Idol could be up to now than I ever was at the height of his popularity. I’ve seen him twice, once at the Congress and once at Lollapalooza. He still puts on a phenomenal show. I look forward to when his next actual “rock” album will come out so I can go for another ride on the “Blue Highway”. I also would like a sequel to Big where we find Elizabeth Perkins’s character, played by someone younger as that movie came out 25 years ago, checking in on Josh Baskin from time to time and is a hardcore alcoholic. She can’t deal with the fact that she fell in love with a little kid but she still loves him and can’t wait until he turns 18, so she forces herself on him. I realize that this is not the kind of movie Penny Marshall tends to make but Robert Loggia is only going to be around so long.

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