Book Review: Dancing With Myself

Dancing With Myself, by Billy Idol

This is the sort of memoir that someone who is a big fan of Billy Idol would likely greatly appreciate.  As someone who is somewhat of a fan of his music, not much of a fan of his lifestyle, and a general music fan [1], I found a lot here to think about and was able to respect the author for his honesty if not approve of his life choices.  This book is painfully honest about the poor life choices that Billy Idol made during much of his career and also discusses the way that he was involved in a scene before becoming an active musician.  As a look at the London punk scene of the 1970’s as well as the American pop rock world of the 1980’s, this book is a cautionary tale where the author presents himself as having learned and grown from his experience and been redeemed, at least somewhat, by the experience of being a father and wanting to live a good life for the sake of his children.  If the author is not someone who one should model one’s life after, this book has a lot of detail to provide about how it is that a great deal of our culture comes from broken people with disordered lives.

This book is about 300 pages long and divided into three parts and 43 generally short chapters.  Beginning in the early 1990’s at a motorcycle accident, the first part of the book looks at the author’s life as an American-English kid growing up near London and attracted by the punk scene (where he happened to have been closely involved with a set of punk musicians that were loyal fans of the founders of the British punk movement), where the author expresses his lack of academic ambitions and his early efforts at developing a fanbase as a songwriter and musician.  The second part of the book looks at the author’s life when he was based out of New York City as an early solo artist after the breakup of X Generation and where his early songs as a solo artist were helped at least in part by their music videos.  The third part of the book then looks at the author’s life when it was centered around Los Angeles and discusses his experience at the peak of his career as well as the commercial disaster that followed the release of Cyberpunk and his efforts to maintain a musical career even after that failure and the collapse of the record label he had been signed to, as well as discussing his recent and current musical adventures that have gone on outside of the public eye.

The title of this book is a knowing look at the past, as the author tries to avoid making excuses and discusses aspects of his life and career that are not likely to be known or appreciated by all of his fans.  Starting in media res with a motorcycle accident and ending with a poignant look at the author mourning the death of his father, this is a book that has at its core questions of identity (the author’s changing of his name) and the worth of relationships in a world where so much is temporary.  The author provides a great deal of insight of how it is that a functioning junkie operates on a regular basis and how it is that we are eventually called to account for the mistakes we make and the way that we live our lives wrongly.  Even the reader who is not particularly sympathetic to Billy Idol or his choice of a life can appreciate the way that he slowly and painfully has sought to gain insight from his mistakes and sought to make a name for himself while also being the sort of man who can be respected by his children and perhaps even by the reader.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Music History, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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