Great Rock Albums of 1987: Billy Idol- Whiplash Smile

Another artist I accused of ‘selling out’ in the mid 1980s was Billy Idol. The word going around at the time was that he went for a more commercial sound because all of the royalties from his previous albums went up his nose. I can’t say that was the case for definite but I did hear a lot of stories going around at the time that Billy was battling cocaine addiction. Here’s the thing, it wasn’t the album “Whiplash Smile” which made me think he had sold out, it was the his live rendition of the Tommy James and the Shondells classic, “Mony Mony” that steered my mind that way and I know of several metalheads who thought the same as me. However, that song isn’t on this album so I can listen to and post about in without any outside influences.

After a couple of listens to “Whiplash Smile,” I can safely say that Billy Idol didn’t sell out in order to pay for his cocaine habit. What he did attempt was to walk the thin line between the hard rock which he was originally known for and achieving commercial success in a 1980s synth pop oriented music world. There is nothing more evident of this than the first two songs of the album. Opener “World’s Forgotten Boy” reminds a little of the classic “White Wedding.” Sure, it doesn’t have that famous guitar riff but there are hard guitars to be heard. The following track, “To Be a Lover,” was definitely recorded with top 40 hit in mind. It does have a more commercial sound which was suited to the time. It did get to number 22 in the UK charts and 6 in the US, so he must have done something right.

On the third track, “Soul Standing By,” Billy attempts to fuse both the hard rock and commercial synths into the song. Long story short, his attempt is rather successful, especially as I like the guitar solo. Next comes one of my favourite tracks on the album, “Sweet Sexteen.” On this one, he goes a little bit country. The acoustic guitar kicks it off and carry on behind the song. If he had used steel guitars where instead of synthesizers on the fills, it would have been definitely country.

Any argument stating that Billy Idol had lost his ability to rock out is crushed on the track, “Man For All Seasons.” This song just rocks from the hard rhythm of the guitars to the cool guitar solo. This one is definitely the track that stands out for me. It could also be down to him sounding like Jim Morrison on the song. But it’s no surprise that “Don’t Need a Gun” was also released as a single. Although I was never one for trendy discos, I have the feeling that this track would have been played a lot in such places and would have gotten people out on the floor, possibly even me. It does have a steady beat which even I could bop along to, though I would have been tempted to go air guitar on some parts.

“Beyond Belief” is a ballad from Billy. As far as rock ballads go, it’s pretty good and I like the piano on it. Then he rocks out totally on “Fatal Charm,” which has a cool bass intro. Afterwards, he goes back to more synth oriented music. Actually “All Summer Single” reminds me of Simple Minds but the song does have a cool guitar solo. However, it took me a couple of listens for me to fathom the closer, “One Night, One Chance.” It was the way the guitar and bass line hook up to give a chilling feel to the song and it turns out to be the best way to end the album.

Track Listing:

  1. World’s Forgotten Boy
  2. To Be a Lover
  3. Soul Standing By
  4. Sweet Sexteen
  5. Man For All Seasons
  6. Don’t Need a Gun
  7. Beyond Belief
  8. Fatal Charm
  9. All Summer Single
  10. One Night, One Chance
Billy Idol

Billy Idol- lead vocals, guitar, bass

Steven Stevens- guitar, bass, keyboards

Marcus Miller- bass

John Regan- bass

Phillip Ashley- keyboards

Harold Faltermeyer- keyboards

David Frank- keyboards

Richard Tee- keyboards

Thommy Price- drums, percussion

Jocelyn Brown- backing vocals

Connie Harvey- backing vocals

Janet Wright- backing vocals

Apologies to Billy Idol, he didn’t sell out to fund his coke habit. Instead he put out an album which I should have paid more attention to back in the day. But I was too busy with the metal.

Next post: Marillion- Clutching at Straws

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12 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1987: Billy Idol- Whiplash Smile”

  1. I read his autobiography and he had a coke problem. I think he sold out long before because he went to a more pop sound after Gen X. I don’t think there is anything wrong with what he did because I think he’s great. This wasn’t my favorite album by him, but still a good one. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved Gen X. I had Rebel Yell but never did own this one. I yelled “hey say what get laid get f***ed” with Mony Mony at a function in Boston. I like Billy Idol but never went deep into the discography. Probably should. Steve Stevens is AWESOME.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I definitely remember his song, “Mony Mony,” because it takes me back to when I was dating my first serious boyfriend. Although I was horribly bullied in school, when I went out on the weekends with either my first boyfriend or my friends who were 18 and out of school, I had a blast! I used to live for the weekends! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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