Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" continues to reverberate 40 years later in remastered, deluxe edition

From the title track to "Eyes Without a Face," the album delivers the hits, plus bonus tracks and an up-tempo demo

By Kenneth Womack

Contributing Writer

Published April 26, 2024 10:30AM (EDT)

Billy Idol (Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images)
Billy Idol (Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images)

In the early 1980s, Billy Idol exploded onto the American music scene with “Dancing with Myself,” the neo-punk anthem that he originally recorded with Generation X. He had recently left England for New York City, having heard the siren call of MTV. As he recently reflected on the "Everything Fab Four" podcast, the flamboyant Idol and upstart MTV were made for each other, which he proved in unforgettable style with the video hit “White Wedding” on his self-titled debut LP.

But Idol’s incredible coming-out party as a hitmaker was a mere prelude to 1983’s "Rebel Yell," an album that sounds as fresh and arresting as it did more than 40 years ago. In a newly remastered, deluxe edition, "Rebel Yell" underscores Idol’s vaunted place as one of his era’s most dazzling performers, as well as the searing, hard-rocking voice at the center of an increasingly plasticene, synth-driven musical epoch. In short, Idol was the rock ‘n’ roller at the center of the maelstrom.

With Steve Stevens turning in one raucous guitar lick after another, "Rebel Yell" is a veritable feast for the ears. When he originally assembled his backing band at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, Idol knew that something special was in the offing. Enjoying heavy rotation on MTV on the wings of “Dancing with Myself” and “White Wedding,” his audience hungered for more. With the hard-rocking “Rebel Yell” leading the way, the album delivered one hit song after another, including several of Idol’s signature compositions.

In addition to the title number, the album sizzles with hit songs like “Eyes without a Face” and “Flesh for Fantasy.” In the former composition, Idol turns in an early rap performance, while “Flesh for Fantasy” offers one of his most sensual musical turns. Both songs were ably supported by music videos, which cemented Idol’s place at the heart of the music-video zeitgeist. 

The deluxe edition of "Rebel Yell" features a host of bonus tracks, including “Best Way Out of Here” and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” But the real gems are the demo and early session take for “Flesh for Fantasy,” which began as a searing, up-tempo number only to settle into the slower, more pronounced version that later took the music world by storm. Audiophiles will revel in the array of supplementary materials provided by this lavish collection, while new fans will delight in the high-octane sound of Idol at the top of his game.

By Kenneth Womack

Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography of the life and work of Beatles producer George Martin and the host of "Everything Fab Four," a podcast about the Beatles distributed by Salon. He is also the author of "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles," published in 2019 in celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary, "John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life" and the authorized biography "Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans" (November 2023).  Womack is Professor of English and Popular Music at Monmouth University.

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