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Album: Rebel YellReleased: 1984Charted:
On an episode of VH1 Storytellers, Idol explained that he got the idea for this song at an event he attended where Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones were taking swigs from a "Rebel Yell" bottle of bourbon whiskey. This gave Idol the idea for the title and he wrote the song around it.
The song is about a passionate one night stand with a woman who wants "more more more." A rebel yell was also known as a Confederate battle cry during the civil war.
Idol wrote this song with his guitarist, Steve Stevens, who came up with some unique sounds on the track. The ray-gun effect on the solo he created using a Lexicon PCM 41 digital delay processor, but he later figured out a way to get a more distinctive sound using an actual ray-gun. By tweaking a toy ray-gun, he was able to hold it to his pickups and generate these strange sounds. His "ray gun guitar" became one of the most popular spots of a Billy Idol concert.
The band Dope released a cover version on their 2009 album No Regrets
. Other bands to record the song include Drowning Pool, HIM and Kill Hannah. One performance that didn't go over well with Idol's fans was by Miley Cyrus, who sang it on the 2012 VH1 Divas
The video was directed by Jeff Stein, whose previous work included The Who documentary The Kids Are Alright. It was shot at the Capitol Theater in New Jersey with the audience made up of kids they bussed in from New York City. In the book I Want My MTV, Stein said: "We had lots of beer and wine on the busses, which nowadays you could not do. Everyone was well soused. I put the hot looking girls with the big tits up front."
Sounds of the crowd cheering and singing along were added to the video version of the song, which captured the live energy of this anthemic song. The clip was a huge hit on MTV, but it almost missed its premiere slot - Stein says MTV made them edit out a shot of a kid holding a beer, and the tape made it to the network just minutes before air.
Sesame Street parodied this (becoming "Rebel L") to teach children the alphabet.