35 years ago: Billy Idol takes the sex song ‘Mony Mony’ to No.1

Young Billy Idolthen known as William Michael Albert Broad, was 15 years old when he discovered a new meaning to life in the alley behind a charity shop.

“You’re a virgin aren’t you?” Idol recalled a woman asking in his 2015 memoir Dancing with myself. “No, I’ve done it before,” I lied as we walked up the hill to tumble. … While we were going at it, ‘Mony Mony’ by Tommy James and the Shondells was playing on someone’s transistor radio nearby.”

Not surprisingly, Idol says “that song has always had a special meaning to me.” But it wasn’t just the warm memories: “From the first time I heard it, I liked Tommy James’ voice and always thought that maybe I could get away with it too.”

“Mony Mony” came back to mind shortly after he moved to the US in 1981 and left his Generation X career behind in a risky attempt to reinvent himself. In a meeting with a Chrysalis Records promotion official, Idol raised the idea of ​​recording a cover version for his next single, although he first discussed the classic track “Shout”.

“What I really had in mind was to do a version of ‘Mony Mony’ that would get them dancing on the floors of the late-night clubs in New York that I had visited,” he said. “I knew my strategy had worked when he was lukewarm to the idea [of “Shout”]but got so excited when I mentioned ‘Mony Mony’.”

Listen to Tommy James’ version of ‘Mony Mony’

The label wanted to include the track on his first solo release, an EP to be titled Do not stop. “For me, it was a way to get out of the cold East Coast winter,” Idol added, as the recording sessions would be overseen by producer and drummer Keith Forsey in Los Angeles.

“The plan was to work on the arrangements of the songs in a small rehearsal studio before recording them,” Idol added. “We went through the arrangements of all the songs, but spent the most time on ‘Mony Mony’.”

He was determined to copy the Tommy James rhythm section, which Idol said “sounded like a tape loop,” which is why he hired Quiet Rebellion drummer Frankie Banali and bassist Mick Smiley.

“I had come to realize how important it is to work with good musicians and talented people,” Idol explained. “Keith and I had agreed that ‘Mony Mony’ should have an R&B vibe, so we decided to add some black female singers. We made a riff for the middle section, where we could later add a vocal arrangement.”

Idol also tracked “Baby Talk” and “Untouchables” during the same session. “Not bad for a single day’s work!” he said.

Listen to Billy Idol’s ‘Mony Mony’

Mixing of “Mony Mony” took place during an extended overnight session, where Idol and his colleagues continued to pursue the feel they had developed – which he described as part R&B, part disco, part techno, part rock and also “all those ingredients combined into a single sound. It was something I enjoyed doing, and it was a new sound and feel that went very well with the lyrics and music I was now writing.”

His next step was to “take it back to New York and see what happened.” Idol brought a copy of the song to the Ritz club on a quiet Tuesday night, where almost no one was present and almost no one was dancing.

“I spoke to the DJ, a ‘Dancing With Myself’ fan, and convinced him to give ‘Mony Mony’ a spin. He placed the pin on the vinyl and suddenly the worn-out dancers hugging the wall came to life . Instantly the dance floor was filled with bodies doing 60’s moves like the swim, the donkey trot and the mashed potato. Everyone was into it! I had my follow up to ‘Dancing With Myself’ … and all the questions I’d had about my decision to move to America, began to fade.”

“Mony Mony” achieved a very respectable No. 7 position in the fall of 1981 – but the story wasn’t over yet. “My first solo effort was a cool little record,” Idol said of his first EP. “I was really on my own, cruising from one gig to the next somehow, without too much of a bump. It didn’t take long and there it was in the New York record bins. The label read like a command: BILLY IDOL : DO NOT STOP.” Of course he never did. Then “Mony Mony” came back to mind a few years later.

Watch Billy Idol’s Live ‘Mony Mony’ Video

“It was about halfway [a] tour, and Mike Bone, the new head of Chrysalis Records, was looking for a way to make a mark right away,” Idol said, explaining that the executive had always felt the studio version of “Mony Mony” hadn’t gotten that exposure , the deserved one. .

He was right: a “more guitar-oriented” version went to No.1 on Nov. 21, 1987. Incidentally, it knocked another Tommy James song out of the top spot – pop signee Tiffany’s version of “I Think We’re Alone Now”.

Idol’s update of “Mony Mony” appeared on the compilation Vital Idolwhich also reached the Top 20. “The luck of the Irish was still with me,” Idol noted, before wryly referring to the troubles his career was in. by standing in the eyes: “Or was it?”

Meanwhile, his passionate fans had created their own tradition around “Mony Mony,” adding lyrics to complete a more raw rendition that perhaps dated back to Idol’s original encounter. Reports suggested the alternate lyrics (including the line “Hey, say what, lay down, get fucked!”) led to the song being banned from high school dances—but you’ll still hear those lines at Idol concerts. Idol even incorporated them into a third version of the track, released in 2018.

Listen to Billy Idol’s NSFW version of ‘Mony Mony’ Remix

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