Friday, December 29, 2006
Idol, Billy Idol
This photo of Billy Idol and Joan Jett was published around the world - 47 magazines from mainstream to fanzine. This clip is from Japan's Music Life but most people I know remember it from Creem. Regardless of where you've seen it, or if this is the first place you've seen this image, it was the image that kicked my photography career up a notch and a half.
In May 1978, Billy Idol came to the USA to do some pre-release promotion of the Generation X album that Chrysalis Records was releasing. For months in advance of his visit, Pleasant and I had been talking with Billy on the phone, thanks to Rodney Bingenheimer, of KROQ fame.
That's Rodney in the shadow behind Billy.
In addition to our ally and secret weapon in Rodney, who knew of Pleasant's fascination/obsession with Billy, we had a lot of help from Brendan Bourke of Chrysalis. Brendan is a cool Englishman who had worked at Island Records, and at this time, was at Chrysalis and in charge of Billy's Los Angeles visit and schedule. And our friendship helped facilitate Lobotomy's exclusive hanging out with Billy on his tour of Los Angeles.
We took him shopping at all the hotspots on Melrose Avenue, and to the International Newsstand on Cahuenga. Pleasant took him to the Masque and we also made a few after midnight runs to Rock N Roll Ralphs...because we simply showed Billy what a typical Los Angeles punk rocker's life was like. I drove us around in my little Honda Civic. Not the yuppie car you know today, but more like an enclosed lawn mower.
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We were a bit surprised when these teenagers at the news stand recognized Billy.
This picture was such an obvious photo opportunity. Its like we three looked at one another and it happened naturally. Billy Idol did back then and still does now have the best ever punk haircut!
Unbeknownst to them both, Billy Idol and Joan Jett became the poster children and ambassadors of what appeared to be a unified, global punk rock "scene." BUT -when Joan hosted this party with Billy as the guest of honor, it was just another one of our San Vicente parties. Everyone was there - Germs Darby Crash and Lorna Doom, pop culture writer, fellow zine creator, and Lobotomy art director, future interior designer to the stars Brad Dunning was there, and Lobotomy creators, Pleasant and Randy Detroit were there and so were Lobotomy contributors Nancy "Nitro" Nagler and future Slash Records A&R maven Anna Statman. Of course, Randy Kaye (Detroit) would also go on to do A&R for Slash. It was quite the formidable house party.
The photos, however, live as a testament to how punk rockers around the world had some connection and rapport with one another. Sham 69 sang "If The Kids Are United....they will never be divided..." and this image seemed to illustrate and punctuate the mystique of a purported unilateral international punk ethos/zeitgeist.
They had no idea - we just liked Billy Idol! For the record - Pleasant fancied Billy and I was enthralled by GenX bassist, Tony James. Pleasant and Billy teased me mercilessly about it, and when Pleasant and I showed Billy the Famous Lobotomy Apartment (my place), we were all too pleased that he wanted to call home. He called Tony and ratted me out. Billy made it all up to me though. He crashed a couple nights on my couch, and he cleaned my apartment, including dirty dishes left by everyone BUT him. He investigated my record collection and was listening to Bruce Springsteen when I walked in on him.
Billy's week in Los Angeles went by far too fast. But we got to drive him to the airport, Pleasant and I accompanied Billy and Brendan and I took as many pictures of this last precious hour as I could.
Back in 1978, the airport restrictions were nothing like they are now. You could see your friends off right at the gate! And you could take pictures of everything. You could even take on way too much carry-on luggage.
Of course, since they let anybody up to the departure lounges, you had your ubiquitous Hare Krishnas and your regular old crazies. And below is one such unidentified airport crazy. We don't think she knew Billy was in a band, but this woman was drawn to his natural magnetism. Look at him! He does have head-turning star quality. I don't know what she was trying to tell him. All I ever see when I look at this picture is everyone's eyes... they're all gauging each other's reaction.
Time waits for no one. The plane was boarding and it was time to bid goodbye to Billy Idol.
In 2005, I got a chance to see Billy play a great show at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. I brought a box full of photos from our time together to give him. To my total surprise, he remembered the most amazing details of the events that were captured and remembered the names of many people in the photos. Needless to say, I was more than impressed.