Sunday, November 18, 2007

'Cause I can play this here guitar, Pt. 19

Another entry in the Underappreciated guitarist series...

Billy Idol was one of the iconic performers of the early MTV era. Attractive, with exciting songs, and willing to do elaborate videos, he became a star in large part because of the influence of the video world. His songs rocked, even though most were constrained by the innovative (at the time) use of a LinnDrum drum machine.

But he wouldn't have rocked as much without his main performing partner, guitarist Steve Stevens:
His hit-making collaboration with Billy Idol began when Idol moved from the UK to the U.S., shortly after the latter's band Generation X disbanded. Stevens co-wrote and played on the albums Don't Stop EP, Billy Idol (1982), Rebel Yell (1984), Whiplash Smile (1986), and the remix collection Vital Idol (1985).

Musical differences during the Whiplash Smile sessions led to the pair's parting of ways (namely, Steve's jazz-laden guitar work on the cut "Man For All Seasons"). In (1987) Michael Jackson hired Stevens to back him on the Dirty Diana track.

. . . After an extended hiatus, Stevens and Idol reunited in 1999 for a series of tours across the USA and Australia. This era included a recording captured for the VH1 show Storytellers, which was subsequently released on CD and DVD. Stevens also appeared in the Billy Idol episode of VH1's Behind The Music.

Such was the success of this renewed collaboration, in 2005, along with producer Keith Forsey, the duo released Billy Idol's Devil's Playground album. This was the first album to feature the trio since 1986's Whiplash Smile. Also touring with Idol was keyboardist Derek Sherinian - Stevens played and co-wrote three songs on Sherinian's 2004 solo album "Mythology".

Great guitarists are often obscured by the more visual talents of the singer, it's the price they pay. Still, so many front persons would be so lacking without their star instrumentalists and collaborators behind them.

Here's Steve playing a song for some little movie starring Tom Cruise, often credited to other fine guitarists:

And here's some nice acoustic playing:

As an added treat, here's a live, unplugged video of "Rebel Yell". Stripped of the production elements of the recording, this video proves 2 things: 1) a good song doesn't need a big production to be great, and 2) Steven's contribution to Idol's success is invaluable.

Here's Steve's website: