​Billy Idol still has the swagger

Tracy Smith hits the road with the rock idol for an unvarnished look back on a lifetime of sex, drugs, and mostly rock 'n' roll
Tracy Smith hits the road with the rock idol ... 08:13

"Rebel Yell" was a big hit for rocker Billy Idol back in 1983. He has plenty to say about those days in a new book just released by CBS' Simon and Schuster. And he has plenty to say right now to our Tracy Smith, For The Record:

In a perfectly generic building, on an ordinary street somewhere in Los Angeles, Billy Idol is getting ready for a new U.S. tour.

Billy Idol on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1985. Wenner Media

And, at a fit 58, he still looks pretty much like the bad boy rocker you watched on MTV.

In the 1980s, few stars burned brighter -- or hotter. With that swagger and that hair, Bill Idol -- whose hits included "Dancing With Myself" and "White Wedding" -- was practically made for TV.

There is also, Smith said, his "trademark sneer, I guess is the best way to put it. Where did that come from? Is that just you?"

"Yeah. I think it's just my attitude," Idol said. "You have to have one hell of an attitude to get anywhere in the music business, or the world we came from."

And with one of his videos running just about every hour, he quickly became a megastar on MTV and beyond.

Smith asked him to define "Billy Idol music."

"It's taking the best of punk rock, the best of rock 'n' roll -- you're taking the best of everything and somehow cross-pollinating it," he replied. "So you have a bastard child, really, and the bastard child is my music."

Billy Idol, photographed in Los Angeles during rehearsals for his upcoming tour. CBS News

A highly successful child: Thoughout his career, he's had 16 songs in the top 40.

Not all of them were original Billy Idol tunes: He didn't write the wildly popular hit, "Mony Mony." But then again, Billy Idol isn't even his real name.

William Michael Albert Broad was born in England. Dad was a power tool salesman, mom a former surgical nurse.

Billy Idol's childhood looked pretty much like anyone else's: he went to church with his parents, suited up for snow days, fell in step with the Cub Scouts. But as a teen he was obsessed with music, and when he announced that he was quitting college to join a rock band, his parents hit the roof.

"They wanted security for you," said Smith.

"Yeah, of course."

"But you wanted punk rock?"

"Yeah, we wanted to dream, wanted to have fun, wanted something more glamorous than my dad's power tool business that he wanted me to join him in," said Idol. "And he was a great salesman, fantastic, actually. But I always thought to myself, 'The only weakness he's got is, he's selling a product that's not himself.

"So I'm still a bit of the salesman he is, really. But I managed to work out I could make my own product, and there's a power in that, you know?"

Young Billy Broad followed his instincts, and his heart, and in the mid-'70s helped form the successful punk band Generation X.

Inspired by a teacher who once labeled him I-D-L-E, he changed his last name to I-D-O-L. Before long, the new name would fit him perfectly.

By the 1980s he was on his own, racking up the hits -- and the excesses of stardom. His womanizing is the stuff of legend.