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Despite rumors to the contrary, this song is not about Idol's actual little sister. "Little sister" is slang for girlfriend. He is singing about a woman/girl he loves marrying someone else while he still loves her.
Idol did have a sister who was getting married, but on an episode of VH1 Storytellers, he explained that his sister's wedding simply gave him the idea for the song. Like many of Idol's compositions, he started with the title and wrote the song from there. (thanks, Jon - Atlanta, GA)
The video for this song help launch Billy Idol to stardom. It was directed by David Mallet, who had worked with Queen and David Bowie. Idol had little cash, so Mallet cut him a break on his fee. The concept was a "nightmare wedding," with a Goth guy (Idol) marrying a normal girl, with some vampire imagery thrown in. The bride was played by Perri Lister, who was Billy's girlfriend. The resulting video contained some of the most indelible images seen on MTV, including the barbed-wire wedding ring, the motorcycle crashing through the church window, and the dancers slapping their own butts in time to the music.
Mallet said of Idol in the book I Want My MTV: "In those days, he was the greatest looker and mover since Elvis. Before 'White Wedding,' nobody would have admitted that was even possible. One look at that video and they got him."
In the UK, this did not become a hit until 1985, when it was released there for the third time.
This song is very anti-marriage song, and yet many people have it played at their weddings simply because it mentions a wedding.
This was used in the movie The Wedding Singer. After getting dumped at the alter, Adam Sandler tells his friends to "turn this crap off" after the video comes on. Idol later appears in the movie as himself. He helps get Sandler together with Drew Barrymore.
Herman's Hermits recorded this for the 2002 album When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You'd Hear
. Cevin Soling, who put the album together, explains why he chose this song for Herman's Hermits: "They have that very sweet, innocent persona. And you think of Herman's Hermits, you think that the cute, adorable Peter Noone fronting this very sweet, innocent thing. And then you've got Billy Idol who's kind of the antithesis of that. A friend of mine got to play the song for Billy Idol on the air, and she was interviewing him, so she played the Herman's Hermit's 'White Wedding' for Billy Idol. I think he just said the word, 'Frightening.'" (Check out our interview with Cevin Soling
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