So what’s with Billy Idol

So what’s with Billy Idol on Letterman the other night? A million years ago I was a big fan of the blond one–well, at least a big fan of a handful of songs–but what’s he doing now? Did he have new material to show? Not! He stood on the well-lit glittery stage with his perpetual sidekick Steve Stevens, the twister-haired guitarist, and played the very old Rebel Yell.

It was so lame. It’s very hard to be energetic on a small TV studio stage, and the sound wasn’t fuzzed up or anything. Low volume, no bass to speak of. It was like watching the Donny Osmond version.

I thought back to a road trip I took in 1986, when I was a student at St. Francis Xavier University, in the one-horse college town of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Billy Idol was playing in Halifax, about a 2.5 hour drive away. My buddy Ken, drove up from Sydney in his Camaro (another 2.5 hours). We had a few beers and then headed for Halifax.

When you hear the music you make a dip
Into someone else’s pocket then make a slip
Steal a car and go to Las Vegas oh, the gigolo pool

I don’t remember much about the show except for the bit when Steve Stevens lit into the big guitar solo in Eyes Without a Face–it was great. The rest was so-so, partly because Idol’s voice was shot from too much rebel yelling. I think I enjoyed it at the time, but only later did I realize I hadn’t enjoyed it as much as I thought I had.

I’m on a bus on a psychedelic trip
Reading murder books tryin’ to stay hip

After the show we had a few beers somewhere and then drove back to Antigonish. (Things were different then.) Ken slept on my sofa and headed back to Sydney the next day. A few months later he crashed his Camaro when he hit a patch of gravel on a turn while racing with a buddy in another car. The Camaro skidded off the road, flipped a few times, sending Ken flying out the window, and finally T-boned itself into a pole, folding it in half. Miraculously, Ken only had a few scratches. The man is blessed. He can also eat like a horse and never gain weight.

I’m thinkin’ of you you’re out there so
Say your prayers

I couldn’t sit through Billy Idol on Letterman, so I flipped around and eventually found Bill Mahar’s Politically Incorrect, which allowed me the surreal experience of watching former Prime Minister Kim Campbell and Jimmy Walker of Good Times fame (“Dy-no-mite!”) sitting side by side spewing liberal conservatism. Screw that, I turned it all off and hit the sheets.