This song is commonly thought to be about masturbation, but it's really more about dancing by yourself. Billy got the idea after watching Japanese kids at a Tokyo disco "dancing with themselves" in a nightclub. The kids would dance in a pogo style up and down, and there were mirrors in the club so they could watch themselves doing it.
Idol concedes, however, that there is "some sort of masturbatory element" to the song.
Idol originally recorded this in 1980 with his band Generation X, but producer Keith Forsey thought Billy should try releasing it on his own in the States. Forsey set Billy up in New York and thanks to MTV, the song quickly caught on. Idol re-recorded it when he went solo in 1981 and used it as a B-side on various extended singles.
This song is about more than just dancing. Idol told Rolling Stone: "The song really is about people being in a disenfranchised world where they're left bereft, dancing with their own reflections."
Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols played the solo. Steve and Billy remained close friends.
This song was a big deal for Idol because it established him in America. When he left Generation X, he came to the States and tried to get his solo career off the ground. With no idea what to do and a bit of depression creeping in, he went to the New York nightclub Hurrah to drown his sorrows. As Idol tells it, he was in the bar area when suddenly a crowd migrated to the dance floor. The song that got them up and dancing was "Dancing With Myself," which he had recorded with Generation X.
He realized that this was the hot sound - one also being employed by Simple Minds and Depeche Mode - and that he should run with it. With this revelation, Idol was able to evolve his punk sound into a new wave/dance style that made him one of the biggest stars of the '80s.
The video was directed by Tobe Hooper, who directed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Saint - New Orleans, LA, for all above
On Guitar Center Sessions, Idol explained: "With 'Dancing With Myself' I was trying to put back in punk energy, but streamline the music at the same time and make it great to dance to and slightly more sexual - some of the things that punk precluded because it was a sort of gang kind of music. I wanted to put a sexual feeling into it, and that's when I started doing with songs like 'Dancing With Myself.'"