Billy Idol and the song that changed his life: Listen now

'They kind of just slip into it... and it's one of the most incredible beginnings in Rock N' Roll ever'
Billy Idol
Billy Idol Photo credit Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images
By , Audacy

Getting a look at the circumstances that brought us our favorite artists can more often than not leave fans in wonder, not only because of certain unexpected surprises, but also those 'Ah ha' moments when influences, obvious or otherwise, stick out vividly.

LISTEN NOW: Bullseye with Jesse ThornBilly Idol on the song that changed his life

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
Billy Idol on the song that changed his life
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This week, Bullseye podcast host Jesse Thorn welcomes the cyber-punk himself Billy Idol to his The Song That Changed My Life segment, giving us a chance to peer into the sonic library that made him who he is today.

Interestingly, Billy's pick throws us way back to one of the first songs the King of Rock N' Roll, Elvis Presley, had ever recorded. Idol says he first heard Elvis' Arthur Crudup-penned 1954 single, "That's All Right," much later than its initial release (Billy was born in 1955), during an Elvis convention he had attended with his sister in the '70s. Billy was playing in punk bands at the time, which also coincided with a period when his contemporaries had a dislike for 'The King.'

"I hadn't really heard a lot of the very, very early Elvis stuff that he recorded on the Sun label," Idol says, detailing his experience with Presley's music, "because it wasn't so easy to get a hold of," he admits. "I was never really a massive fan of Elvis," he adds, "because Elvis was kind of already old to me," even though Presley was only in his late twenties, Billy remembers. "But my sister really loved Elvis; and she would listen to Elvis, The Monkees, and Neil Diamond... that's how I know a lot of songs, I know that kind of stuff, because of my sister," he explains. "It's funny, then she probably knows some of the weird stuff I was listening to; some of the Prog-rock stuff, or some of the Punk rock stuff..."

"When she was 14, I was 18, I took her to an Elvis convention because I was just trying to be a nice brother for once," he says. "Really, there was just a load of memorabilia and a load of pictures, there wasn't anything that exciting. But then, halfway through the afternoon, they started to show TV performances in chronological order, and it started with 'Baby Let's Play House' ... this Rockabilly stuff which I had never heard. I'd never heard Elvis' rockabilly stuff, and of course, he was dressed like a gangster or something."

The catalog of performances continued to cycle through Elvis' biggest hits, eventually landing on "That's All Right." This caused Billy to go back and listen to Presley's early Sun label recordings, and learn about the story of record producer Sam Phillips' attempts to find a white artist to emulate the popular "Black" soundscape that had emerged at the time. Elvis, in an effort to break the ice during writing sessions, belted out "That's all right now mama" and the band started to jam along, by chance creating the new mix of genres that Phillips was desperately searching for.

"I think when we listen to this recording, that's what you're listening to," Idol says. "They kind of just slip into it... and it's one of the most incredible beginnings in Rock N' Roll ever. After listening to tons and tons of Rock N' Roll and then you hear one of the very first Rock N' Roll songs, it starts off so organically. It slides in like butter, and then they're in the groove."

Listen to the full episode with Billy Idol -- now streaming on Audacy -- and follow along with Bullseye from NPR, your curated guide to culture, as Jesse Thorn hosts in-depth interviews with brilliant creators, culture picks from our favorite critics, and irreverent original comedy. Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ, and McSweeney's, which called it "the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world." (Formerly known as The Sound of Young America)

Listen to Billy Idol Radio and more on the free Audacy app

Browse and follow even more of your favorite music on Audacy's Elvis Presley Radio, New Wave Mix TapePunk Party80s UndergroundRock N’ Road, Freedom RockThe CanyonArena RockWake Up and Rock, and The Roots of Rock for those who crave the early days.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images