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Billy Idol - Sweet Sixteen (1987)

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  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 1.87
  • Find this song on: Music Stack

"Sweet Sixteen" is a song by British singer-songwriter Billy Idol, released in 1987 as the third single from his third studio ...

"Sweet Sixteen" is a song by British singer-songwriter Billy Idol, released in 1987 as the third single from his third studio album Whiplash Smile (1986). The song written by Idol and produced by Keith Forsey. "Sweet Sixteen" peaked at No. 20 in the US and No. 17 in the UK. It was also a hit across Europe and beyond. The song appeared in the Miami Vice episode "Honor Among Thieves?" (1988).


"Sweet Sixteen" was inspired by the true story of Edward Leedskalnin, a Latvian emigrant who single-handedly built the Coral Castle in Florida. In Latvia, Leedskalnin was set to marry Agnes Skuvst, but she broke the engagement and Leedskalnin decided to emigrate to America. He built the Coral Castle there in dedication to Skuvst, who he often referred to as his "Sweet Sixteen". Idol wrote the song after watching "The Castle of Secrets", an episode of Leonard Nimoy's program In Search of... which was based on Coral Castle. The song was written during the making of Idol's 1983 album Rebel Yell.

In his 2014 autobiography, Idol described the song as a "heartfelt lament". He added that while the castle was Leedskalnin's "coral memorial" to his former love, "Sweet Sixteen" was Idol's to his then-girlfriend Perri Lister.

Music video

Two music videos were filmed to promote the single. The black-and-white version, directed by Peter Sinclair, featured Idol performing the song in an empty room. An alternative video, filmed in colour, featured scenes shot at Coral Castle.

Critical reception

In a contemporary review of Whiplash Smile, Rolling Stone described the song as having an "acoustic shuffle", which "recalled the texture" of Idol's 1984 hit "Eyes Without a Face". Billboard noted in their review of the album: "...quick spins of "World's Forgotten Boy," "Sweet Sixteen," and "Don't Need a Gun" provide positive indication that Idol is rocking on the right track." In a retrospective AllMusic review of the album, Johnny Loftus commented on the song's "weird, Marty Robbins-meets-Del Shannon-in-space vibe." Loftus also selected the song as one of the album's highlights by labelling it an AMG Pick Track. On the 30th anniversary of the album, Ultimate Classic Rock described the song as a "relatively stripped-back acoustic love song".

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