Billy Idol has revealed that his signature hair look was the result of a friend’s faux pas in the 1970s.
In a new interview, the punk rock singer, 65, dished that early in his music career he had planned to highlight his naturally dark hair with blue streaks, but a friend who offered to help him color his locks didn’t bring the correct dye with her.
“She bleached my hair, because you bleach your hair first to put these blue highlights, and then you dye it black again,” Idol told Rolling Stone. “Then she reached into a bag and went ‘Oh, I haven’t got the highlights, so I can’t really do what we were going to do.’ … So I kind of looked in the mirror and went, ‘Well, this isn’t that bad, actually. This is kind of a bit of a laugh.’ It was a bit orange-y, but it was cool, especially for punk.”
Idol added that he debuted his unexpected look at a rehearsal with his group Chelsea, where he served as guitarist, but one of his bandmates took issue with it. The rocker explained that lead singer Gene October said to him, “You’re not leaving your hair like that, are you?”
Idol went onto say that he started to tell him the whole story, but October went on about it so much that he thought he must be worried that he was going to be “super-upstaging him.”
Idol said he falsely promised his bandmate he’d dye his original color back but he never did.
“And then it became a bit of a trademark,” he added.
After Idol left Chelsea, he formed the band Generation X and switched to lead singer. He took his blond ‘do — and his sneer — with him as he pursued a solo career. Idol shot to fame in the early 1980s with his self-titled debut studio album and hit single “White Wedding.” The album led to later success on MTV with music videos for songs including “Rebel Yell” and his megahit “Cradle of Love.”
Born William Michael Albert Broad, he initially spelled his stage name Billy Idle after a teacher wrote on his report card, “William is idle,” per LA Weekly. He eventually changed the spelling to Idol, which he later noted was a name that went “beyond punk rock.”
His accidental hairstyle completed the picture.
“With his bleached blond hair and punk-rock pedigree, Billy Idol emerged,” he wrote in his memoir, Dancing with Myself.
Idol’s hair was such a trademark that when actor Brad Pitt colored his hair blond and spiked it, his ex-wife Jennifer Aniston famously told Vanity Fair that Billy Idol called and wanted his “look” back.