Billy Idol’s Cyberpunk

Tony Peak
10 min readDec 1, 2023

The 30th Anniversary of the 90’s Most Underrated Rock Album

Cyberpunk’s album cover.

The future has imploded into the present

- from the album’s Intro, track #1

When I first heard Billy Idol’s ‘Cyberpunk’, I was on a bus, heading home from high school. It was 1993, and I was a fifteen year-old obsessed with Kiss, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, and Dungeons & Dragons. My musical preferences were rooted in passing trends from the 1980s, while Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the rock airwaves. I was more interested in fantasy than the future, if you can believe that.

My first impression of Cyberpunk was negative. I didn’t like the album’s electronic elements, which, at that time, seemed far removed from the rock and metal I loved. The looped beats, the industrial feel, the keyboard riffs, the samples — these were part of an aural world I had yet to discover, much less accept. A fellow classmate let me listen to it. I still recall the CD booklet and its Blendo-inspired cover. I found it more style over substance (an ironic take, considering my limited musical taste at the time).

Fast-forward four years, and I was very much into electronic music. I was (and remain) a huge David Bowie fan, and his 1997 electronica album, ‘Earthling’, opened me up to the genre. In quick succession I dove into The Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails, Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Jesus Jones, Orbital, Paul Oakenfold…the list goes on. But it would be a few more years — 2007, 2008 — before I gave Idol’s ‘Cyberpunk’ another chance.

Billy Idol in 1993

A time warp scene

A sci-fi story

A dirt-colored love

You hope for glory

I like to fight, I kill global oppression

If I quit, no hope of redemption

- from ‘Tomorrow People’, track #5

By then, I had devoured William Gibson’s cyberpunk science fiction novel, ‘Neuromancer’ several years prior, as well as other cyberpunk works. In light of that, Idol’s songs took on a special significance. I not only enjoyed Idol’s 1993 offering, but recognized what he was going…

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Tony Peak

Science Fiction & Fantasy author, member of SFWA, HWA, & Planetary Society; represented by Ethan Ellenberg