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billy 2009 pic
Photo credit: David J. Criblez | Billy Squier will hit the Blue Point Brews Stage at teh Great South Bay Music Festival tonight (July 19) at 8:10 p.m. (summer 2009)

"Squier: Long Island's other Billy"
Originally published: July 17, 2013 3:53 PM
Updated: July 18, 2013 12:57 PM

By David J. Criblez david.criblez@newsday.com

This summer, rock star Billy Squier is staging an experiment on Long Island. The man who dished out hit after hit in the '80s ("The Stroke," "Everybody Wants You," "Rock Me Tonite") is emerging from semiretirement to deliver a curveball.

When he appears at the Great South Bay Music Festival in Patchogue Friday night, Squier will take a different approach to his live show.

"I'm doing it without the band as a solo electric guitar performance — just me and the songs," says Squier. "I've never done this as a show before. It's a really good platform for me to explore."

LI is home
What many people may not know is that Squier has lived on Long Island for the past 25 years — in the Hamptons. He bought an old barn that he renovated near the beach in 1988.

"The property was a complete disaster," says Squier. "I started clearing it and getting it together. I found myself becoming a committed gardener."

Squier got so wrapped up in gardening that he ended up volunteering his time for the Central Park Conservancy, where he physically maintains more than 20 acres of Central Park outside his Manhattan apartment.

"I would never dispute the fact that music is my greatest love. But it takes a backseat to gardening now in terms of time," says Squier. "Gardening I can do every day, and it's not dependent on a hit record or somebody wanting to book me."

Music on the back burner
It's been 15 years since Squier has released an album of new material, and he tours on and off, depending on his mood.

"I only play in situations where it feels good and it's a challenge. There has to be something special about it," says Squier. "I'm not interested in going out on these package tours, playing the hits every year. That's exactly where I do not want to be."

Even though he has unplugged from the music business, Squier's songs can be found in four films ("Grown Ups 2," "We're the Millers," "Red 2," and "The Wolverine") this summer.

"It blows my mind," says Squier. "To me, that validates me as an artist. I'm not just a one-hit wonder."

 


timeout photo Time
September 1–8, 2005

Billy Squier
Loopfest 2005
Charter One Pavillion; Sun. 4

A flicker of fame in the music biz qualifies one as a "rock star." An elite few earn the title "legend." More amorphous is the designation "one of the greats." We're not sure how you qualify for that distinction, but one way to gauge it is to look at someone who just missed the cutoff. Perhaps to achieve greatness, you need at least six songs with perennial classic-rock airplay. Billy Squier had five: "The Stroke," "My Kinda Lover," "Lonely Is The Night," "Everybody Wants You," and "Emotions In Motion." Perhaps you need to spread the hits out (Squier's best are all from '82 and '83). Perhaps you need an image as strong as the music (not great in videos, Squier's histrionic "Rock Me Tonite" clip is oft-mocked on VH1). Whatever the deal is, it has nothing to do with talent or innovation.

On Sunday 4, Squier warms up the crowd for his former opening act, Def Leppard, a band he paved the way for by perfecting a formula for hooky pop that felt like hard rock. The students ultimately eclipsed their master, but Def Lep's success was a studio triumph of its writer-producer, Mutt Lange. Squier, on the other hand, wrote and helped produce everything, played lead guitar and sang awesomely without studio-sweetening. He may be one of the most underrated artists of the '80s.

But don't cry for Squier. His tunes "The Stroke" and "Big Beat" have been heavily sampled in hip-hop (most prominently in Jay-Z's "99 Problems"). Perhaps to contrast this digital-age rebirth, he will play this concert unplugged. The headlining band may qualify as one of the greats, but Squier's going to show us who's the true artist.

—Jake Austen