Watch Trent Reznor before he was famous singing Billy Idol's Eyes Without A Face

Trent Reznor onstage with The Urge
(Image credit: erikerodri/YouTube)

Everybody's gotta start somewhere, and for Nine Inch Nails frontman and award-winning composer Trent Reznor, that somewhere was Cleveland. Reznor's early career is littered with the names of C-Town bands who'd be long-forgotten were it not for his involvement. 

There's Option 30, the band he joined while still in high school, whose self-titled CD was released in 1997, a mere 14 years after it was recorded. There's The Innocent, whose sole album, Livin' In The Street, came out in 1985. Exotic Birds, for whom Reznor played  keryboards on the 1986 mini-album L'oiseau. Slam Bamboo, whose output was limited to just two 7" singles. Lucky Pierre, who released one EP in 1988, a year before NIN's debut album Pretty Hate Machine appeared.

And then there was The Urge. Like Option 30 – who included songs by Icehouse, Falco and the Thompson Twins on their album – The Urge were happy to cover fashionably appropriate versions of Top 40 hits by contemporary artists, and while there's very little information online about the band, there is a video. And it's great.

In the clip, The Urge play Billy Idol's 1984 classic Eyes Without A Face, and they nail it. The original is one of the strangest hit singles ever, with lyrics based on the French horror film Les Yeux Sans Visage, which tells the story of a plastic surgeon who wants to perform a face transplant on his daughter, who's been horribly disfigured in a car accident. And perhaps it's that darkness that appeals to Renzor, whose Idol impersonation is spot on. 

Elsewhere, there's a guitar solo from Mike Baranski that manages to replicate Steve Stevens' original with uncanny precision, and a backing vocal from the same man on the ascending "les yeux sans visage" line that suggests Reznor wasn't the only musician in the band with a big future. 

But it's Reznor who steals the show. The voice. The moves. The ease with which he carries off the archetypal new wave-era floppy fringe/sleeveless shirt combo. And the very obvious charisma. It was only a matter of time. 


Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.