80's Rock: Billy Squier

billy_squierWilliam Haislip "Billy" Squier (born May 12, 1950 in Wellesley, Massachusetts) is an American rock musician. Squier had a string of arena rock hits in the 1980s. He is probably best known for the song "The Stroke" on his 1981 album release Don't Say No. Other hits include "In the Dark", "Rock Me Tonite", "Lonely Is the Night", "My Kinda Lover", Everybody Wants You, "All Night Long" and "Emotions in Motion".

Early life
While growing up, Squier began playing piano and guitar at an early age, but didn't become serious with music until discovering Eric Clapton. When Squier was nine, his grandfather taught him how to play the piano. He took lessons from his grandfather for two years. After he stopped taking piano lessons, he became interested in guitar and bought one from a neighbor for $95. Squier took guitar lessons for a couple of months until he decided to teach himself and had mastered it by the time he was 15.

billy_squier_3Early career
Billy Squier's first public performance was at a Boston nightclub in Kenmore Square called the Psychedelic Supermarket in 1968 which is where he saw Eric Clapton and his band Cream perform. Squier originally performed with the band Magic Terry & The Universe, which also included Klaus Flouride, who went on to play with The Dead Kennedys. He then performed with The Sidewinders that premiered during the early 1970s. He played with members including Mike Reed, Alex Phillips, Henry Stern, and Bryan Chase. Squier left the group to form the band Piper, which released a couple of albums in the mid '70s, Piper and Can't Wait, but broke off soon after. Bruce Kulick of KISS fame played with him during this period also. Upon reviewing the debut Piper, Circus magazine touted it as the greatest debut album ever produced by an American rock band. Piper was managed by the same management company as Kiss, and opened for Kiss for some of their most memorable performances during their 1977 tour, including the second and third nights of a three-night, sold-out run at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Squier signed with Capitol Records to release his solo debut in 1980. Tale of the Tape was a minor hit, partly because Squier played a mixture of pop and rock, which earned him a large crossover audience. The song "You Should Be High Love" received a fair amount of play on album rock stations, but no single cracked the pop charts. Years later, the song "The Big Beat" was sampled in rap songs.

Squier asked Brian May of Queen to produce his album Don't Say No. May declined due to scheduling conflicts, but he recommended instead Reinhold Mack who had produced one of Queen's most successful albums ever, The Game. Squier agreed, and Mack went on to produce Don't Say No. The album became a smash, with the lead single "The Stroke" becoming a hit all around the world, hitting the Top 20 in the US and topping the singles chart in Australia. "In The Dark" and "My Kinda Lover" were successful follow-up singles. Squier was a popular act on Album Rock radio, with every track on the album receiving airplay. Don't Say No reached the Top 5 and lasted well over two years on Billboard's album chart, selling nearly 4 million copies in the US. What distinguishes the album is the longevity of the tracks, many of which still receive recognition on "classic rock" radio stations.


1980's Peak
Billy Squier's third album for Capitol, Emotions in Motion, was released in 1982 and became nearly as successful as Don't Say No. The album also climbed into Billboard's Top 5 and sold just under 3 million copies in the US alone. The lead single was the album's title track, but the major hit was "Everybody Wants You" which hit #1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart and #32 on the Hot 100. Squier was also popular on MTV. That same year, he recorded a song, "Fast Times (The Best Years of Our Lives)" for the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Two years passed between Emotions in Motion and Squier's next album Signs of Life. It was his third consecutive Platinum album. The album's first single release, "Rock Me Tonite" was Squier's biggest pop hit. It reached #15 on Billboard's Hot 100 - as well as #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart - in late 1984. However, the video for the track (directed by Kenny Ortega - Xanadu, High School Musical) which shows Squier dancing around a bedroom in a pink tank top, frequently appears on "worst music video ever" lists.

Billy Squier's career took a major downturn afterward. His next two albums, released in 1986 and 1989, sold in the neighborhood of 300,000 copies each. He began playing smaller venues like music theatres. The 1990s would find Squier largely off the radar and recording and performing considerably less.

Squier is also known for his collaborations with Queen frontman Freddie Mercury on Squier's 1986 release Enough is Enough ("Love Is The Hero", "Lady With A Tenor Sax"). Mercury also sang background vocals on Squier's hit single "Emotions in Motion", along with Queen drummer Roger Taylor. In 1983, Squier did his first headlining arena U.S. tour with Def Leppard as opening act. On the VH1 show Ultimate Albums (Def Leppard "Hysteria" episode), Squier revealed that his career as a chart-topping rocker came to a rapid and sudden end with the release of the "Rock Me Tonite" video, derided by his fans who saw him as a guitar hero.

billy_squier_2Later years
Nevertheless, Squier continued to record music throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He released Hear & Now in 1989, which featured the singles "Don't Say You Love Me" (which peaked at #4 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart) and "Tied Up".

In 1991, Billy Squier released Creatures of Habit, which yielded only one single, "She Goes Down," which also peaked at #4 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The title of the track refers to oral sex, and the music video is a very rare item, mainly because it features nude females and sexual metaphors throughout.

Squier released his final album with Capitol Records in 1993, Tell the Truth, which featured different sets of musicians performing the various tracks. Squier called it his finest album since Don't Say No, yet Capitol did little to promote the album, and Squier walked away from the music business to pursue other endeavors.

In 1998, Squier released his last studio album to date on an independent label, a solo acoustic blues effort entitled Happy Blue. He embarked on a mini-tour to showcase songs from the album, which included a stripped-down acoustic version of his classic rock mega-hit, "The Stroke."

As time passed, many of his albums became out of print, leaving the albums of "Don't Say No" and some greatest hits compilations; however, many of his albums are now being reprinted.

Courtesy of wikipedia.org and Hair Band Rock - 80's Rock

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