Billy Idol Details Keith Richards And Mick Jagger’s Inspiration On ‘Rebel Yell’


Billy Idol shared some exclusive details about how he wrote and composed one of his iconic songs in his latest interview with BBC Radio. He also revealed that The Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards had a great influence on him while working on the song.

Billy Idol released his second studio album entitled ‘Rebel Yell’ on November 10, 1983, which was regarded as a new wave music-influenced album. It received very positive reviews from both fans and music critics along with hitting the charts and selling millions of records. Idol collaborated with producer Keith Forsey, multi-instrumentalist Steve Stevens, bassist Steve Webster, keyboardist, Judi Dozier, and drummer Thommy Price. Some of the album’s tracks, ‘Rebel Yell,’ ‘Eyes Without a Face,’ and ‘Flesh for Fantasy’ became very popular among his fans.

During a recent interview, Idol recalled the time while he was working on his hit song ‘Rebel Yell’ saying that he was stuck a little bit and found inspiration in a very strange way. The musician went to one of The Rolling Stones members’ birthday party in 1983 and started to observe the band members, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.

Jagger, Richards, and Ronnie Wood were drinking the Rebel Yell whiskey, and apparently the bottle’s shape and label drew Billy’s attention. After Idol saw the name, ‘Rebel Yell,’ he decided to use it for his new album. However, he first asked The Rolling Stones icons if they were thinking to use that name for their future songs so there wouldn’t be any problem with them.

As soon as they told him that they wouldn’t be using ‘Rebel Yell’ on their songs, Billy started to create some themes about the song which he decided to be about a cry of love. Idol stated that he went home after the party and started writing as much lyrics as he could for his new song. Later, with the contributions of Steve Stevens and their producer Keith Forsey, ‘Rebel Yell’ came out as a fantastic song.

Idol said in his interview that:

“My ultimate ’80s song is ‘Rebel Yell,’ by me! How would I finish the show? It would never end, I would just have to keep going until everyone is just tired out! However this way with this song we can do it in one go.

I went to this party in 1983, I think it was one of The Rolling Stones’ birthday, at one point there were standing in front of me – Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Mick Jagger, and they were all drinking this bottle of brown stuff, great big bottle.

I kinda followed the bottle up to their lips and was just wondering, ‘What is this stuff they are drinking from this big bottle?’ and I could see a label, there was this cavalier officer riding away with a floom in his hat, a simple war cavalier…

I could see the title ‘Rebel Yell.’ I was trying to write songs for the new album, I had no idea what to call it. So I was fishing, I said, ‘Did you have this made up?’ They said, ‘No, no, this is something made in Kentucky…'”

He added:

‘”But, ‘Rebel Yell,’ did you blokes think of using it as a song title? ‘They kind of looked at each other, ‘No, I don’t think we would use that.’ Of course, it was in my mind that I could use that, and I won’t make it about American Civil War. I’ll make it about a cry of love.

 I went home that night, and the next day, just did my bit and wrote as much as I could, and I took it to Steve Stevens, who had a rehearsal room, and we kinda had the intro, which became the middle bit, we just had a killer song.

Then we recorded it with producer Keith Forsey, and it came out fantastic, the kind of end piece and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

You can check out the interview and song below.