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In terms of importance to an artist’s catalog, a remix album traditionally falls somewhere between a Christmas LP and a live album. But Billy Idol was so popular in 1987 that an album full of the singer’s remixes, called Vital Idol, hit the Top 10 on the Billboard chart. Even Madonna couldn’t get up there with her remix album, We Can Dance, which came out that same year.
Although Idol played up his punky image for MTV, he moved in time with the dance clubs, where DJs embraced many of his singles for their beat-forward nature. His solo career even launched with a remix. Idol’s debut single, “Dancing With Myself,” had been a more rock-oriented track when he sang it with former band Generation X. When it was determined to be his first solo release in 1981, the track was remixed to place more emphasis on the beat, bass and vocals.
Ever since, Idol (along with guitarist/frequent co-writer Steve Stevens) had enjoyed tinkering with remixes of his songs that would be released for the clubs as 12” singles. These were often longer than the standard-issue singles, with extended instrumental intros, mid-track breakdowns and a greater emphasis on the beat or synthesizers. For the singer, the practice dated back to his Generation X days, when he helped create dub reggae remixes of the bands songs (just like the Clash did). As Idol’s career progressed, he and Stevens would begin thinking about remixes as soon as they were recording the album version of a song.
“What we would always do is we knew we had certain songs where we wanted to have some space to do remixes,” Stevens recalled in 2014. “So we’d leave 16 bars or 32 bars in the middle of the song no matter what the song was and then do an edit on it later and that left us room to experiment for a dance remix.”
Idol also allowed an outsider remix one of his tracks: “Flesh for Fantasy” from the Rebel Yell album. Gary Langan – an engineer on Queen and