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Saturday, February 14, 2004

William Broad Raked the Lawn
Bought Whiplash Smile last night. This is one of those albums that I once owned on cassette tape, and am finally getting around to purchasing on CD. (I tossed my cassettes several years ago.)

Billy Idol is a fascinating character. Let's start with an excerpt from Stephen Davis' Led Zeppelin biography Hammer of the Gods:

In November [1978] the whole band moved to London to rehearse an album that would be recorded the following month in a Stockholm Studio owned by the group Abba....The rehearsals were sensational, and the musicians realized they still could do it. Led Zeppelin had been scornfully ridiculed as musical Goliaths and anal-retentive tax exiles by the punks and new wavers. Now they could fight back with what they realized was their best, most sophisticated music. In the next rehearsal hall, the punk band Generation X was preparing for a tour. As Led Zeppelin were leaving one night, Generation X's spike-haired young singer hurled taunts of obsolescence at them. Bonzo asked who the kid was, and was told his name was Billy Idol.

(Off-topic: gotta get In Through The Out Door also....)

Fast forward a few years to 1986, when Whiplash Smile was released. Idol is collaborating with Steve Stevens on a collection of...no, not punk. Try disco metal. Let's look at Side 5:

Worlds Forgotten Boy
Billy and Steve start the album with their version of a metal extravaganza. Compared to some of the other stuff out at the time (such as the completely banal "Talk Dirty to Me"), this is pretty good. We then go to...

To Be a Lover
...Billy growling with a piano player and some soul backup singers. This song, incidentally, includes my favorite Idol line: "Didn't I say all those loving special things?" Gonna try that on the Empress some day...I don't think she cares for my Butt-Head "Hey baby" line any more. (Not that she ever did. But I digress.)

Soul Standing By
Ooh baby, this short-haired biker ex-punk is definitely going the metalhead route here. Can't imagine the album changing in any way...

Sweet Sixteen
Uh...yeah. Frankly, this is the reason I bought the cassette in the first place. If you don't mind Billy's growls, this is an absolutely beautiful, soulful, introspective song.

Man for All Seasons
Rev it back up again.

OK, ready for Side 6?

Don't Need a Gun
Back when records had two sides, there was usually a difference between side 1 and side 2, and side 6 of Whiplash Smile is no exception. Here Billy starts to (in the words of CBS heroine Janet Jackson) "take it slow." Yes, there are guitar solos, but the lyrics are getting softer as we go along.....Wait a minute! Are those synthesizers?

Beyond Belief
Fatal Charm
Relatively quiet lyrics, interspersed with guitar solos dubbed over the synths. Re-read the credits and see that Steve Stevens is responsible for the "programming." This ain't no Sex Pistols.

All Summer Single
Any concept of live playing completely disappears on this, the second best song of the album. Well, not exactly ANY concept - there's some beautiful steel-guitarish stuff here and there, as Billy sings about "a good time" over the synth beat. New York's alright if you like introspection and repetition. (Catch the reference?)

One Night, One Chance
Billy is more of a modern bluesman than Jim Morrison ever was. Jim wanted to be a drunken bluesman, but he was saddled with a bunch of peach and love TM freaks. Billy had no such restrictions. It sounds almost sweet stuff-ish, these
lyrics talking about waking up. And "Soul Standing By" was on this same album?

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