Steve Stevens Shares Billy Idol’s ‘Policy’ For Recording His Songs
Billy Idol collaborator and guitarist Steve Stevens recently spoke about the process of Idol’s song recording techniques. He stated that Idol always insisted not to delete the first takes of the music off the tape.
Steve Stevens and Idol started working together in 1981. Stevens collaborated with the singer and became his songwriter and guitarist to jumpstart his solo career. In 1982, he released his first album ‘Billy Idol’ which quickly became a commercial hit and built a reputation in the English punk rock scene. He has received many awards by important platforms throughout his career and is still considered one of the most influential musicians in the music world.
Even though Stevens worked with many musicians throughout his life, including Vince Neil, he described that working with Idol was different than working with the others because Idol preferred spontaneity. Back in the day, when musicians recorded on tapes, they only had a few chances to get it right and deleted the previous takes to record new ones. This created a bit of pressure on the artist.
According to Stevens, Idol didn’t allow any first takes to be deleted because there was always the risk of not being able to top that in the next ones. He stated that he would keep the first takes even if they had mistakes, which posed a challenge for the guitar player because he always knew he could ‘do better.’
As it turns out, Idol’s technique worked most of the time since his 1983 song ‘Rebel Yell,’ featured in the album of the same name, including the guitar parts, were recorded on the first try. The song became a huge hit and was voted No. 79 best hard rock song of all time in 2009.
Here are Stevens’ words about Idol’s recording technique:
“Well, working with Idol, everything is spontaneity. He’d always say, ‘Don’t erase,’ because these are the days of working on analog tape. You only have so many tracks, and if you’re going to redo something and erase the first one, you better be sure you can better it.
And Billy always had a policy of ‘No matter what, mistakes and all, keep that first take.’ And I’m a guitar player, I’m a knucklehead, and I always go ‘I can make it better…’ and invariably, the solo in ‘Rebel Yell,’ first take.”
You can listen to ‘Rebel Yell’ below.