Music Moment: The Lost Art of Billy Squier

MTV has sucked for years, though that wasn’t always the case. There used to be a time between its 1981 beginnings up until the early 1990s that I used to look forward to watching the channel. I discovered a lot of artists as a result of MTV, one of them being Billy Squier.

Billy Squier’s ‘Emotions in Motion’ 1982 album cover

Squier is a rock musician who wore jeans, t-shirts, had semi-long, curly hair who loved to play music. He wasn’t pop-happy, narcissistic, misogynistic, conflicted or full of angst.

His music was enjoyable and easy to rock out to whether you were at home, driving around or hanging out in a bar. He wrote songs mainly about men, women, relationships, love and sex that had good hooks and strong lyrics. He had a distinctive voice and was handy with a guitar. His big hits included “The Stroke,” “In the Dark,” “Everybody Wants You” and “My Kind of Lover.” He’s one of the artists who helped start me on my ‘inner white boy‘ music journey.

It’s kind of amazing that he was successful during the 80s given he was in the era of music video stars such as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Duran Duran. Squier’s videos mainly showed him singing with his band live or lip synching with his band. Straight-forward videos for a nothing-too-fancy-up-and-coming rock star.

Then came the “Rock Me Tonite” video off of his 1984 Signs of Life album. The one time he attempted to do a stylized dance video and it was a cringe-worthy disaster. I remember the first time I saw it.  I thought he looked ridiculous. His dancing was weird and out of character. The layered pink and white shirt he wore in the video looked like it came from the Flashdance movie set, which he then proceeded to rip off his body. I’m not sure if David Lee Roth or Mick Jaggar at the height of their strut-worthiness could’ve pulled off that video let alone Squier. The video was a misstep, but I decided to overlook it because I liked Billy Squier. Unfortunately many others didn’t do the same though the song was and is still his biggest hit.

Billy Squier in concert (Photo/Wiliam Randolph, 2009)

Squier has done several albums since Signs of Life, but his career has never been the same. Squier himself has blamed the “Rock Me Tonite” video for his career slide. Maybe this was just another true-to-life example of the Buggles’ song “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Then again, maybe it was just the early 1990s and the changing music landscape with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam becoming the death knell for Squier’s type of 80s rock music.

When I look at today’s music charts I can’t help but think it would be nice to see another Billy Squier – a rock musician who enjoys playing music without artifice. Luckily Squier still tours–albeit on a much smaller scale–and fans have posted snippets of his live shows and other performances (old and new) on YouTube. He’s still around and looks and sounds great to his old fans; hopefully to be discovered by new ones.

Though Squier is known for bigger hits, my favorite song by him is a1983 live version of “She’s A Runner” which he did in Detroit. To me it definitively sums up Billy Squier and his music to his fans. It also shows why he should’ve had a larger, longer and more successful career. Sigh – damn THAT music video.

10 responses

  1. I’ve always been fascinated how many GUYS don’t seem to take a fancy to male solo artists who are sex symbols. Guys like David Lee and Robert Plant got a pass because they were in a group.

    Why? Dunno.

    But if Billy was front man for a GROUP vs solo act … and he never does that video … he’s one of the biggest rock acts. Ever.

    His entire portfolio is better than more popular acts like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. Not. Even. Close.

    1. Nice to hear from other Squier fans :) You have an interesting point about Squier maybe surviving the video if he had been in a group vs. being a solo act. I agree that his portfolio is strong, not sure I would say it’s better than Def Leppard’s (definitely better than Bon Jovi’s), mainly because I classify them differently. I see Squier as more rock; Def as classic heavy metal.

  2. For some reason, I was such a music snob at this time, that I completely overlooked the fabulous Billy Squire. Now I’m binging on everything I can find by him and putting together a discography. I watched the 1981 Santa Monica concert last night — Oooh la la! Hot, blazing hot concert ! And i loved the vid above. Know anywhere I can see the 1983 live concert vid? I’ll check back. And thanks for posting this.

    P.S. I’m also looking for the 2 Piper CD’s — but geez, Amazon wants $70!

    1. Glad you liked the post and have joined the Squier bandwagon :) Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the 1983 live concert anywhere – just the clip that I have on my blog. Can you send me the link/info to where you saw the 1981 Santa Monica concert? I would like to see that. BTW check out Amazon UK, there are times I’ve found out of print or older stuff on their site much cheaper than Amazon USA. Good luck!

    2. If you want the Piper albums they are easy to get just go to billysquier.com Billy owns his music he sued the record company and they gave him his music back. He tells it in an interview on his site.

      1. Thanks for the info/tip! Sorry I hadn’t replied sooner. I somehow missed this comment :(

  3. Found 1983 concert in Detroit at werockdvds.com for ten bucks. Wolfgangsvault.com has the 1981 concert to watch anytime free. And I found Piper on Megaupload! now getting ready to watch MTV profiles in rock, parts one and two on Youtube.

    Thanks for replying. I love it here on the bandwagon! (And thanks for the tip on Amazon UK, too.) You’ll love the 81 show. I tell ya, I had some “interesting” dreams last night after watching it.

    Rock on. Jen

    1. Thanks for the links to the concerts; glad there’s a place where you can still buy the concert dvds. Looking forward to seeing them!

  4. Huge fan of Squier. You might want to check out Butch Walker. Not the exact same type of music, but he’s the closest we’ll get to a modern solo rocker like Squier.

    1. Glad to hear from another Squier fan :) I’ve heard of Walker, but I’ve never checked him out. Thanks for the tip!

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