The truth about Billy Idol's horrific motorcycle accident

Billy Idol (real name: William Broad) was the embodiment of pop-punk in the '80s. Riding on the wave of the newly established MTV, Idol's bleach-blond spiky hair and leather jacket became a blueprint for the counterculture within Generation X. His hits live on to this day, when you can occasionally catch "White Wedding" or "Dancing with Myself" on the radio. "Rebel Yell" has become one of the nightly requests for karaoke DJs everywhere. Idol even branched out into the acting world at times, but it was his music videos that really brought the musician fame and fortune. If it weren't for MTV, he might not have had a career.

Almost as famous as the bad boy's image and his music was his reputation for partying. Points in Idol's life were filled with drugs, women, and alcohol. The musician had struggles that mirror those of a number of rock stars. And these struggles contributed to his horrific motorcycle accident in 1990.

A case study in safe driving

In an excerpt from his 2014 autobiography Dancing With Myself, posted by Time Magazine, Idol says that by the time the motorcycle accident happened, he'd been living by the credo, "Live every day as if it's your last, and one day you're sure to be right." On February 6, 1990, any small factor could've made the line ring true. Somehow, Idol survived the motorcycle accident, but it's a tale worth telling, since living fast and dying young are both possible when you aren't operating a motorcycle safely.

Idol was still awake when dawn stretched into his Hollywood Hills living room. He'd been up from the night before thanks to a mixture of drugs, alcohol, and a rebellious attitude that kept him rocking instead of sticking to the everyman's nine-to-five. This wasn't any random long night of partying. There was a reason to celebrate. Idol had just finished the album Charmed Life literally that day. The partying had kind of a dark hue for Idol, who says he was feeling pressure now that the album was finished.

That morning, he decided to take his bike out for a spin and let the air wash all the negative feelings from his mind. The ride was going well until his 1984 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide was struck by a truck while Idol was running a stop sign, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Visiting an alternate dimension

Things got a little weird for Idol seconds after the collision. As you'd expect from an accident in a state with no helmet mandate at the time, Idol was knocked unconscious. What he claims happened next is a little unbelievable. Either Idol entered a spirit realm, or the human mind is capable of some crazy imagery when it's been smacked by several tons of steel. You be the judge:

"I'm transported to just above myself. There are no white tunnels or distant lights, rather a red dimension," Idol says in his autobiography. "Walking through the shadow world on the other side, I see the beings who grace the crimson night crowding around to greet me. They pour out their love. The strange dimension sends a beam of thought: You're all right. We love you. Don't worry, here is love. They press and push. The circle of people holds my soul in a warm embrace."

The musician goes on to say he was ripped from that red dimension of love and hurled into a point between living and dead. He then regained consciousness, and he was lucky to do so, since Idol claims his helmetless head was mere inches away from the curb.

The injuries wouldn't keep Billy Idol down

The injuries Idol sustained in the accident were pretty extensive. He was in immense pain. He couldn't move his leg, which looked like nothing more than a "bloody, mangled stump." He honestly thought his leg had been amputated in the accident because the denim of his jeans looked to be flat against the pavement.

Idol was taken in an ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was stable upon arrival, but his leg was so incredibly damaged that surgeons had to work on it alone for seven hours, according to the LA Times. "Ten years ago I would have had my leg amputated, but thank God the orthopedic surgeons and plastic surgeons have developed such a system of magic," Idol said in a 1990 interview with Arsenio Hall, posted on YouTube.

According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the injuries ended up causing Idol to miss out on a role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but the musician managed to film the video for "Cradle of Love," which he only appeared in from the waist-up because of the battered leg.