“Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol (1981)

Long, Long Ago: In the summer of 1985, my cousin Antoinette came to stay with my grandparents. By this time, I was living in Michigan with my mom and stepdad, but I was spending summers in Brooklyn. Antoinette (who we called Tootsie, which she quickly realized wasn’t going to fly in the hood in Brooklyn) was a huge cultural/musical influence on me. She also probably wasn’t my cousin; I think my grandparents took in borders (who may have had some vague familial or friendly tie) for money and explained them away to my naive and inquisitive ears as cousins. Anyway, she was a teenager wholly invested in Bop/Tiger Beat/16 magazine culture and new wave/new romantic/’80s Britpop. She got me very heavy into Duran Duran (Andy was her favorite) and she also had a thing for Billy Idol. I knew “Eyes Without A Face” because it was a huge hit, but wasn’t familiar with the rest of his oeuvre. “Dancing With Myself” probably crept into my conscious initially because of Antoinette’s influence and later because Z-100 in NYC played it like it was a new song in late ‘87/early ‘88, by which time I was back in Brooklyn permanently and Idol had ascended to a new level of stardom courtesy of his #1 smash cover of “Mony Mony”.

Long Ago: In my late teens and early 20s, when I was working at Tower and going out with my co-workers after work just about every night (no idea how I was able to afford that on $6-$7/hour when I was also paying rent), “Dancing With Myself” became a jukebox favorite. I might’ve heard that song more from 1994-1996 than I did in the late ‘80s. It struck the perfect mix of “dance”, “rock” and burgeoning ‘80s nostalgia to make all of us record store snobs happy…well, it was good enough that I don’t remember anyone actively bitching about it.

Now: Every now and then I DJ with my friend Adrienne. We spin at Otto’s Shrunken Head, a punk bar on the Lower East Side with a tiki theme. Our sets are relatively eclectic, but usually stick somewhere in the vague realm of “danceable alternative”. This usually means some Beastie Boys, some Beck, maybe some De La Soul or Deee-lite. Duran Duran, INXS, some of the weirder Prince shit, and inevitably, “Dancing With Myself”.

Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself”: your all purpose dance-rock song.

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