After last week was a bit on the lighter side of pop, I decided that this week’s selection for the Monday Music Video should err on the side of hard rock. After all, while the selections have been a bit varied, it’s been a while since we’ve had anything that had a real edge to it. And what better selection could there be than Billy Idol?
The title track off of Billy Idol’s second album, “Rebel Yell” was inspired by a party that Idol attended which was being thrown by the Rolling Stones. Jagger, Richards, etc., were drinking from a bottle of Rebel Yell bourbon whiskey. Idol was unfamiliar with the brand, or the meaning of the name — it’s a Kentucky bourbon, and is named after the intimidation tactic used by the Confederacy during the American Civil War. But he liked the sound of it, and put his own spin on the concept into song. His guitarist Steve Stevens co-wrote the song, developing the musical arrangement; the opening instrumental section, designed to sound like a combination of electric guitar and keyboard, is actually a pure guitar solo by Stevens.
The song was a hit. Though it only made it to #46 on the mainstream Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at #9 on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks. In Idol’s native England, it would eventually reach #6 on the singles chart. Meanwhile, the album itself would achieve a peak position of #6 in the U.S., and would eventually be certified double platinum. VH1 would eventually rank it at #79 on their list of the 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs (personally, I think that’s rather low.) MTV gave the video heavy airplay, but the only accolade they gave it was to sneak it in at #497 on their list of the greatest videos of all time. But the song has become one of the most recognizable tracks from the new wave era, being utilized in several films and is a popular choice for covers from hard rock bands.