Billy Idol – Flesh for Fantasy
If I have to think of videos from the 80s that combine rhythm and sensuality, I would probably start the search from the universe of female artists. Surely there are very sensual songs by Madonna, like La Isla Bonita or Like a Virgin, or by other great singers, I think of Sade’s Smooth Operator or the beautiful voice of Maggie Reilly in Mike Oldfield’s Foreign Affair.
In the male world I think of George Michael’s Careless Whisper, for example, or Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, but we are always in the field of slow music and soft lighting. Things become more complex if we want to approach the world of rock or funk, and I think that above all, two artists have always combined rhythm, excellent music, and certainly sensuality, through sexy movements and provocative attires.
If in the United States the undisputed master of sensuality was certainly Prince, let’s just think of the video of his masterpiece Kiss, in Europe his correspondent was probably the great Billy Idol. Killer grin, very short platinum blonde hair, leather clothes, possibly studs, sensual dancers, teasing atmospheres. On top of this, a phenomenal guitarist and solos that have gone down in history: this is the context in which the beautiful Flesh for Fantasy was born.
In 1983 Billy Idol had reunited with the great producer Keith Forsey, and together with his alter ego, the unbelievable guitarist Steve Stevens, he had rebuilt a trio of people who had already been able to create excellent songs in the past. Billy, Keith and Steve had set to work on Billy Idol’s third album, which would later be released in November 1983, titled Rebel Yell. As a title, Billy Idol read the name Rebel Yell on a spirits label at a party, and thought it would make a good name for an album. The album had been a great success, driven by the first two songs released, Rebel Yell and the unforgettable Eyes Without a Face.
A few months later, in mid-September 1984, they released the third single and video, which carried on the sensual mood of Eyes Without a Face, but added grit and energy, and sensuality even became the topic of the song, as the title Flesh for Fantasy says. The text is quite explicit, and from the very first verses it speaks of a change in tastes and fantasies, and how this becomes evident during the night, in venues of entertainment but also of transgression.
The video, directed by American director Howard Deutch, is certainly in line with the text, and certainly recreates sensual atmospheres, but I would say that it does not scandalize. It is certainly a beautiful video that made history, and it is certainly sensual and provocative, but the director managed to keep it from becoming neither vulgar nor scandalous. In other words, I would say that on average today you see much worse in any video!
And perhaps this is precisely the greatness of Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, both as authors of this song and as obviously singer and guitarist: the provocative atmosphere in the end does not depend so much on what we see, but perhaps more on what we hear, because the song is fabulous. And then, of course, in addition to the song there were also the unforgettable solos by Steve and the historic grin of Billy Idol!
Billy Idol on Wikipedia