Billy Idol Gave ‘Rebel Yell’ Masters to His ‘Heroin Dealer’ to ‘Blackmail’ Label

In the midnight hour, Billy Idol once prepared to “blackmail” his record label.

The rock icon spoke to The Guardian for a new interview about a time when he stole the master tapes for his Rebel Yell album in order to threaten his record label following a dispute over its cover artwork.

“I was saying: ‘There’s a flaw in this picture, and if we blow this up it will get worse,'” recalled Idol, 68, to the outlet. “The record company started to say: ‘We’re leaving it. It’s not that bad.'”

At the time, the “White Wedding” singer thought, “‘I’m just not going to let this happen. It’s so silly. They just need to reprint the picture. I’m not listening to what the record company guys say. In fact, I’m gonna blackmail them.'”

“So I went down to Electric Lady [Studios in New York City] in the middle of the night and got to where I knew the tape boxes were,” said Idol.

After taking the tapes, the Grammy-nominated musician took the master tapes, exited the recording studio “and gave them to my heroin dealer.”

Billy Idol performs in Oslo in June 2023.

 Per Ole Hagen/Redferns/Getty Images

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“And then I phoned the record company and said: ‘This guy I’ve given them to, he’ll have them out on the street bootlegged in a couple of days if you don’t change this picture.’ And they relented,” added Idol, before declaring: “Don’t let them walk all over you.”

The “Mony Mony” performer has been open about his past drug use and wrote about abusing alcohol, heroin and cocaine in his 2014 memoir, Dancing with Myself.

Billy Idol in Munich in June 1984.

Fryderyk Gabowicz/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

In an interview with PEOPLE earlier this month, Idol said he’s currently “California sober” and decided to stop using hard drugs following a 1990 motorcycle accident in which he almost lost his leg.

“I really started to think I should try and go forward and not be a drug addict anymore and stuff like that,” he said of the incident. “It took a long time, but gradually I did achieve some sort of discipline where I’m not really the same kind of guy I was in the ’80s. I’m not the same drug addicted person.”

Idol added that he can imbibe once in a while without it affecting him. “I can have a glass of wine every now and again,” he said. “I don’t have to do nothing. But at the same time, I’m not the drug addict that I was in the peak ’70s, ’80s.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.