Dancing With Himself, as Only Billy Idol Can

Categories: Get Lit

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Photo by Michael Muller/Touchstone
Billy Idol exposes himself -- both literature-ly and literally -- in his raw new memoir.
Dancing with Myself
By Billy Idol
Touchstone Books, 336 pp., $28

When a young, snotty, peroxide-headed English punk rocker needed a moniker more in touch with his current life than what his birth certificate said, he recalled what a chemistry professor had once written across the top of a school report: "William is IDLE."

But since the country already had a famous Idle (that would be Monty Python's Eric), and the lethargy of the word did not match his explosive lifestyle or stage presence, he repositioned a few letters -- and, by default, its meaning. Thus, William Broad became Billy Idol, one of the most reliable hitmakers and video stars of the '80s.


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Robert Plant Is Ever the Sensational Space Shifter

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Photo by Jason Wolter
Robert Plant at Bayou Music Center, June 2013
Robert Plant: The Voice That Sailed the Zeppelin
By Dave Thompson
Backbeat Books, 280 pp., $27.99.

He's been in a laundry list of bands: The Crawling King Snakes. The Honeydrippers. Strange Sensation. The Band of Joy (twice). The Priory of Brion. And the Sensational Space Shifters. There's also that solo career and collaborations.

But of course, Robert Plant's musical legacy and career is inevitably tied to just one group: Led Zeppelin. Not that he's -- to the chagrin, frustration, and disappointment of millions (including his former bandmates) -- tied to it.

Zeppelin reissues and history-burnishing? Let Jimmy Page handle it. Reunions? A handful of one-off disastrous appearances. A full-on tour after the band's hugely successful they-still-got-it two hour show in 2007? Not a chance.


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Anthrax's Scott Ian Spins Tales From the Thrash Side

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Photo by Clay Patrick McBride/Da Capo Press
He's the man who was caught in a mosh: Scott Ian today
Like many men currently in their mid-to-late forties, Anthrax co-founder/rhythm guitarist Scott Ian was a huge, practically obsessive KISS fan growing up.

"My KISS window was about '75-'78, when I was 11 to 14 years old," Ian says. "The older kids all hated KISS because they thought it was only about the costumes and makeup and effects. But I heard and loved 'Rock and Roll All Nite' before I ever saw the band!

"And as someone who was into rock and horror movies and comic books, now I had all that wrapped up into one package," he continues. "And I loved the music."


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Jim Peterik Still Has That Eye of the Tiger

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Photo by Lynne Peters
Survivor co-founder Jim Peterik, who has developed a fondness for purple hair dye, today.
An answering-machine message not only changed Jim Peterik's life forever, but led to the creation of one of the '80s biggest anthems that can still be heard all over the place some three decades later.

"When I played the message, I thought someone was pranking me, because our road manager, Sal, did a pretty good impression of Sylvester Stallone," Peterik says today.

But no, it was legit: the actor/director was putting together Rocky III and needed a blood-pumping song to start the movie off after his original choice, Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," proved unattainable.

"The message was like 'Yo, Jim, that's a nice answering machine message you got there!" Peterik says with his own impression. "I really like that song you have called 'Poor Man's Son.' It's got a street sound, and I want that for my movie!"


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When the U.S. Caught Beatlemania, Larry Kane Was There

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Larry Kane
Larry Kane (center) with Paul McCartney and John Lennon aboard the Beatles' airplane on the 1964 U.S. tour.
Ticket to Ride: Inside the Beatles' 1964 Tour That Changed the World
By Larry Kane
Backbeat Books, 272 pp. (w/CD), $24.99

"What's your problem, man? Why are you dressed like a fag-ass?"

It was an inauspicious and unexpected question/accusation directed at Larry Kane, a fresh-faced 21-year-old radio news reporter from Miami. It was also the shocked journalist's first encounter with John Lennon, a member of the new pop group from England called the Beatles. Kane had been assigned to travel with them, covering the band's first U.S. tour.

The fact that Lennon was just taking the mickey out of the conservatively-dressed Kane at a reception, he got later. And as the only U.S. journalist to tour with the group on both their 1964 and 1965 jaunts, he saw and heard incidents and events that don't appear in any other tome on the Fab Four.


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Dream Weaver Gary Wright Was Best Friends With a Beatle

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Rob Shanahan/Tarcher Books
Gary Wright, Your Friendly Neighborhood Dream Weaver
There aren't many more concrete instances of one singer being so clearly connected to one song in the classic rock canon than Gary Wright with "Dream Weaver." The 1976 single, recorded with all synthesizers, reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart, has been a constant presence on radio and in movies (from Wayne's World to Toy Story 3), and is easily Wright's best-known number.

In fact, "The Dream Weaver" has also become a nom de plume for Wright, the URL of his official Web site, and the title of his upcoming autobiography, Dream Weaver: Music, Meditation, and My Friendship with George Harrison (Tarcher, 256 pp., $26.95). But the song, about God and inspired by Wright's intense devotion to Hindu religion and teachings, almost never made it on the album that would eventually bear the same name.

"It was the last song I put on the record, and I thought it was a nice little thing, but didn't put any credence in it," Wright says today. "I didn't think it would be [a hit]. But it took on a life of its own. And I feel very blessed and fortunate that I was able to have written a song that reached that kind of status."


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Joe Perry Walks His Way in New Memoir

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copyright Ross Haflin/Simon & Schuster
Joe Perry tells his life story - before and after the grey streak - in "ROCKS."
While they may not be blood brothers, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, singer and guitarist for Aerosmith, respectively, might as well be for the relationship they've had for more than 45 years.

It's a love/hate story that Perry details extensively, along with his own life, in his new autobiography written with David Ritz, ROCKS: My Life in and Out of Aerosmith (432 pp., $27.99, Simon & Schuster). And, if you've been following the saga of the "Toxic Twins" today, the future of one of America's greatest hard-rock bands is still in flux.

At the time that we recently spoke with Perry, just days before publication, neither Tyler nor any other band member had seen a copy of the book.


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Soul Brother No. 1 Was a Complicated Dad, Says New Book

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Chicago Review Press
Dr. Yamma Brown, whose Father was the Godfather. Got that?
James Brown was, of course, the Godfather of Soul and The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. But all that he worked to grab those titles over decades seemed to come crashing down through much of the '80s and '90s.

That's when he derailed into years of drug and domestic abuse, erratic behavior, weapons charges, a carousel of women, and questionable business deals. His name became more a punch line for comedians than a pillar for music writers, the low point being a crazy-looking mug shot and an actual stint in a South Carolina prison (remember the "Free James Brown" T-shirts?).

But his crash and burn was no laughing matter to some members of his family, especially daughter Yamma.


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Revisiting Johnny Winter's Hell-Raising Memoir

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Photo courtesy of Kid Logic Media
Johnny Winter, third from left, with John Belushi, Muddy Waters and Dan Aykroyd
Raisin' Cain; The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter
By Mary Lou Sullivan
Backbeat Books, 384 pp., $24.99

As is the case when any musician dies, widespread interest in his or her career and catalog shoots up in the immediate aftermath. And that has certainly been the case with blazing blues singer/guitarist Johnny Winter, who passed away in July at the age of 70 while on the road in Switzerland.

Ironically, even outside of his demise, the profile of the Beaumont native and former Houstonian was on the rise with the release of a career-spanning box set (True to the Blues), a documentary (Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty) and a now-posthumous "comeback" record, Step Back.

So it's a good chance to look back at Raisin' Cain. First published in 2010, it was the culmination of a rocky road for author Sullivan. Based on scores of hours of first-person interviews Sullivan conducted with Winter -- along with his bandmates, his mother and brother Edgar, friends, lovers and others -- the book took more than two decades to produce. It didn't help that a former manager barred her from access to Winter halfway through the project, while his next one restored the relationship.


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Totally True Tales of Classic-Rock Debauchery!

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Photos courtesy of Beau Phillips
Red Rocker Sammy Hagar (with wild blonde hair) and radio man Beau Phillips (with dark, super-'80s mustache) hanging out.
Come with me now, rock music fan, to visit a bygone time of yore.

Imagine a time when radio station program directors could actually program their radio stations. When artists both on the rise and hugely successful playing in town might drop by the station, hang with the DJs, and play some softball. And when interviews could last days over various illicit substances rather than as a series of phone calls in 15-minute increments with a publicist listening in to interject if the conversation got too "controversial."

This golden time of rock radio lasted roughly from the late '70s to the early '90s, and Beau Phillips lived it firsthand. As a DJ and director at Seattle's KISW radio and, later, VP of Marketing for VH-1, Phillips had plenty of opportunity to study the species rockstarus maximus up close and personal.


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