Happy Blue header

Happy Blue cover

Happy Blue © 1998 J-Bird Records, Inc.
Written, performed and produced by Billy Squier

Recorded LIVE at: IIWII Studios / Weehawken, NJ, by Sal Mormando
and Parkview / NYC, Technical support by George Eades & Shure Bros.

All songs written by Billy Squier, and published by I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP
except “River” by Joni Mitchell (lyrical adaptation by Billy Squier), published by Joni Mitchell Publishing Corp / BMI

At IIWII: John Hanti, Roy Cicala

Counsel & Support: Judy Miller, Art Robbins, Barry Slotnick, Gene Walder

Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studios, Portland Maine

Correspondence & Information: SASE to Little Knight Productions, PO Box 1251, NYC 10023

Cover concept: Billy Squier
Design: Alexis Rodriguez, Bill Goldstein for RAW Interactive

Front cover photo: Laura McDonald
Back cover photo: Aniik Libby
Additional photos: Aniik Libby, Michael Rosenfeld, halley k. harrisburg

Special thanks: Bill Goldstein, Bob Ludwig, John Hanti


Happy Blue 1998
Happy Blue, 1998

After walking away from the music business in 1993, I barely touched a guitar for three years. Aside from working on the “Reach For The Sky” anthology, I really didn’t want anything to do with that scene anymore. Two events then occurred that presented me with an unexpected—and welcome—musical challenge.

Towards the end of ’96, I slipped back into creative mode to write a poem for my two-year old godson’s birthday. When I showed it to his mother, she suggested that I put it to music. This was interesting because the verse was somewhat free-form, so I had to figure out a way to create a song-structure that would accommodate the lyric rhythms I’d already put in place. When it was done, I threw it down on a cassette-recorder I had lying around the house, made a copy for Harrison, and forgot about it.

In ’97, I was contacted by VH1 and asked to be part of a special they were doing on 80’s artists. When they told me they’d like me to do a couple of songs “live” for the show, I replied—without hesitation—that I would do so only on the condition that I perform without a band (solo). They agreed…and I panicked. How was I going to do “The Stroke”…”naked”? The answer came to me while running on the beach several weeks later: I suddenly realized that, once you stripped away all the bombast and production tricks, “The Stroke” was a blues song. I went home and began messing around with some open tuning variations…and voila.

Now that I had two acoustic songs, the idea of doing an unadorned CD of like-minded material presented itself. I was pretty irritated by what I perceived was happening in music at the time, what with everybody slapping samples together and pretending to be musicians—whether they could play an instrument or not. I thought it would be a challenge to write and perform songs that would rely solely on my abilities as a songwriter, singer and guitar-player…without the cover of production gimmicks or bloated arrangements. I began by looking for acoustic guitars that inspired me with their natural “voices,” and I employed special tunings in response to each one’s characteristics.

This took me well out of my comfort-zone—it’s not unlike learning a new language—but led to many musical discoveries and new song directions. “Happy Blue” is the product of six different guitars that I collected for the purpose of making this CD. It is a “live” album, although it wasn’t recorded in front of a live audience. I put some very basic recording equipment in my NYC apartment and did about half of the tracks there, using one mic for both vocal and guitar. For the VH1 sessions—which included “Inferno”—I chose to record at IIWII Studios in Weehawken, NJ. I really liked the vibe at this place, and ended up doing a bunch of other songs there as well. “Two” remains in its original “demo” form.

All in all, a very satisfying project.

signature

Lyrics

Happy Blues
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

I don’t wanna be happy
 if happy means I got to be like you
I don’t wanna be happy
 if happy means I got to be like you
Wake up in the mornin’
 try to satisfy somebody new

You make it sound so sweet
 why do I always feel so sad
Make it sound so sweet
 why do I always feel so sad
All the time I keep wonderin’
 whatever happened to the love I never had

I could be satisfied
 if you would never ever call my name
I could be satisfied
 if you would never ever call my name
I’m tired of your down-lookin’
 and I don’t wanna play this losin’ game

I don’t wanna be happy
 if happy means I got to be your friend
I don’t wanna be happy
 if happy means I got to be your friend
Take all I got to give –
 leave me out here on my own again

“For years, Blues Music has been part of my daily existence (Back in school, I used to practice guitar riffs in my head when I was supposed to be studying). This song provided a vehicle for interpreting a genre that defies trends and has had a profound effect on the music of our times. The Blues changed my life. And it feels good.”


The Pursuit of Happiness
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

If you want love
 you gotta love somebody
If you wanna be happy
 stand in line
If you’re feelin’ lost
 you better find somebody
And if you’re lookin’ for truth
 don’t tell lies

If you don’t want problems
 walk away (walk away)
If you hurt somebody
 you know you’re gonna have to pay
If you don’t wanna dance
 don’t strut your stuff
And if you don’t like fightin’
 don’t play rough

Day in, day out
 they will wear you down
Choose or lose
 they turn your blues to brown
Float upstream as all your dreams go down

If you need somebody
 you gotta let them know
It’s all right – don’t be afraid
 to let it all let go
And it’s all right
 if you wanna be free
And if you can’t love somebody
 let them be

Daytime, nightime,
 lonely lifetime bound
Miles and miles of hopeful smiles
 turned round
Float serene while all your dreams go down

If you’re diggin’ for gold
 you gotta work real hard
Fly over the moon
 you gotta go real far
If your heart say “Yes”
 then don’t say “No”
And if you find what you’re after
 don’t let go

Day in, day out
 they will let you down
Miles and miles of hopeful smiles
 turned round
Daytime, nightime,
 lonely lifetime bound
Float upstream as all your dreams go down

You gotta love somebody – better find someone

“I’d been carrying this notion around for some time, and made a few half-hearted attempts at translating it before stumbling into this version at the last minute. The title kept nagging me – I guess it’s an obsession for most of us. Songwriting can be hard work; I often recall the I Ching dictum “Perseverance Furthers.” Other times, it’s effortless, magic. The magic is not unlike happiness – you don’t know if you’ll find it, but you’re sure gonna try.”


She Will
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

Men who can’t love are so predictable
 Break your heart like they cross the street
Show you their wounds and make you vulnerable
 Make you feel they really need you
Men who can’t love will win you over
 Casanova, he had a plan
Run you round, then he run you over
 Run you out, maybe come back again

He will lead you to the higher ground
 Tell you secrets that will make you whole
Leave an address where he can’t be found
 And a promise that will leave you cold
But he will feed you if you come around

Men who can’t love will leave you lonely
 Grow so distant, and be downright mean
And if you ask him, “Can we talk about it?”
 He will answer, “Let’s not make a scene”
Men who can’t love hate to admit it
 Make you wonder if it’s all your fault
Women who fall have got their reasons
 Make you guilty cause they love too much

If you tell him you could fall for him
 He will say he doesn’t want you to
And if you tell him you don’t wanna go with him
 He will make you feel it’s somethin’ you should do
He will make it so you just can’t win

He will call you when you’re almost home
 Drag his voice across your mainline
Tell you everything’ll be different
 Just when you thought you had an answer
Women who love, you best be careful
 Hide your purpose with your charity
Women who love – they make me nervous
 Stay away, child, don’t you mess with me

He will leave you out in “Nowhereland”
 Searchin’ for a man you never knew
You’re a stranger in a foreign land
 And there’s nothin’ that a girl can do
He will lead you out to “No Man’s Land”
 Start a fire that you can’t control
Lay a minefield of impossible demands
 Cross a border that you can’t patrol
And tell you everything is in your hands

“This issue is a bit more complicated than it appears on the surface, but I won’t go into that. Musically, it’s another blues-inflected piece, the kind I Find myself falling into more and more, as I find the groove. Grooves and women seem to go together.”


Grasping For Oblivion
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

Cezanne, the unloved prophet, found a dignity
 the grace in everyone
He packed his reverence and his paints and went
 where no one else had gone
Such a lone-strung man was he
 Solitary vision, dyin’ to break free

And I hear the voices when you call
 see the hero where you fall
You’re the reason why I can’t get old
You’re the reason why I run
 you’re the reason why I come
I will be forever grasping your oblivion

Picasso in his world ruled over everything
 there was no other way
How else could he face the Dons of history
 and brush them all away
Such a potent man was he
 Scandalized by nothing – perhaps what only he could see

(chorus)

A man is just a man until he finds himself
 as part of something more
And even then he stops to ask himself
 what it is he came here for
Such a wondering soul is me
 Sure of barely nothing – except for my uncertainty

(chorus)

“The artist in flight, in might, and in plight. Inspired by the lectures of Allen David, and the conviction of Paul Cezanne (with a nod to Picasso for a masterful performance as The Villain).”


If You Would Hate Me Less I’d Love You More
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

I’m havin’ a daydream – Thinkin’ of how it might have been
 if we had not gone and lost our way (reads like a tragedy)
More than a memory – I have lost a part of me
 I’d only just begun to know (and it’s taken such a long time)

Your daggers wound me deeply
 but if you would hurt me less I’d soothe you more
I would give myself so cheaply
 if you could hate me less I’d love you more

Sister have mercy – come to me, take my hand
 I am such a long way from home (and I’m cryin’ out)
Love is a mystery – as the silent scream of loneliness
 is ever wont to know

Does suspicion rule unending
 if you’d only doubt me less I’d trust you more
There’s no use in our pretending
 but if you would hate me less I’d love you more

Fear is the enemy – hurt and anger take their toll
 they leave their mark on you (they mark me too)
Immune to your feelings – consciousness is blockin’ the door
 did I tell you you are not alone

You’re so anxious to condemn me
 but if you would judge me less I’d serve you more
I don’t want you to defend me
 but if you could hate me less I’d love you more

Do you have to be so angry
 if you’d only ask for less I’d give you more
Do you really wanna hang me
 if you would hate me less I’d love you more

“With this title, I had the potential for a future country classic, but the music took me somewhere else. This was one of several new tunings for me, and it was fun to stretch out a bit and grapple with a different musical vocabulary. A lot of what you know goes out the window, but you discover things you would never have learned otherwise.”


Stroke Me Blues
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

Say everybody – have you heard
 If you’re in the game, then the stroke’s the word
Don’t take no rhythm, don’t take no style
 Got a thirst for killin’ – grab your vial…

Put your right hand out – give a firm handshake
 Talk to me about that one big break
Spread your ear-pollution both far and wide
 Keep your contributions by your side

Stroke me, stroke me
 Could be a winner boy, you move quite well
Stroke me, stroke me
 Say you’re a winner, but man, you’re just a sinner now

Put your left foot out – keep it all in place
 Work your way right into my face
First you try to bed me – you make my backbone slide
 When you find you bled me, skip on by

Stroke me, stroke me
 Give me the business all night long
Stroke me, stroke me
 Say you’re a winner, but man, you’re just a sinner now

Better listen now – it ain’t no joke
 Let your conscience fail ya – just do the stroke
Don’tcha take no chances – keep your eye on top
 Do your fancy dances – you can’t stop

Stroke me, baby – stroke me all night long
 Stroke me, baby – like my back ain’t got a bone
Could be a winner boy, you move quite well
 Say you’re a winner, but man, you’re just a sinner now

From sessions recorded for VH1, 27 June 1997. “They were adamant about having this song, and I wanted to give them something completely different from the original. This endeavor pushed me one step closer to conceptualizing a project of acoustic material.”


More Than Words Can Say
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

More than words can say
 or the sweetest song that I can play
More than words can say
 I love you now
More than you may know
 from the simple ways I try to show you
More than words can say
 I love you now

They can take you where they want
 Will they bring you back
They can give you what they want
 They can’t give you everything

Walkin’ down the road
 far away from home
Many miles to go
 but it’s all right
So much work to do
 before my day is through
But when I think of you
 my spirits fly

They can hurt you if they want
 How are you to know
Desert yo when you need them most
 I will be there constantly

More than words can say
 or the sweetest song that I can play
More than words can say…

But if I can’t reach you now
 what am I to do
If I can’t reach you now
 I will reach out constantly

More than words can say
 or the sweetest song that I can play
More than words can say
 try hard as I may
More than words can say
 more with every passing day
More than words can say
 I love you now

“I often get caught up in verbal gymnastics, because I’m intrigued with words and the intellectual possibilities they present. But sometimes it’s better not to think too hard about what you’re trying to get across. The sentiment says it all.”


Inferno (Everybody Cries Sometimes)
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

Started out at the break of dawn
 Braved the woods fro the light of day
With a smile and a dream and a hope so warm
 Half way home I had lost my way

Here in my world I circle round and round
Here in my world it’s a long way down

I look up to the sky
I reach down in my heart where my feet tread on
 emptiness wherever I go
Where a good man will fall and a sinner may rise above
 but one destiny we all will know

Everybody cries sometimes
 Everybody hurts so bad
Tell me ’bout your hard times baby
 I already been through that

Tamed three beasts who would do me harm
 Sought a wise man to lead me to…
Put my strength on a woman’s arm
 That ancient glory won’t see you through

Here in my world fortune’s wheel spins round
Here in my world I’m neither up nor down

Every virtue is sin set to rupture when doubt
 makes it easy to sacrifice the god you know
There’s no comfort within – only pleasure without
 as you realize there’s one more circle yet to go

Everybody cries sometimes
 Everybody’s got their cross to bear
Spit up all your hard luck baby
 Life can treat you so unfair
Catch you when you’re not aware

Cache your valuables in the vault
 Choose your morals or loyalty
Humanity is your own damn fault
 though it’s not what we choose to be

Lack of hope breeds desire and you sacrifice
 everything to satisfy the urge to know
Be you guilty of love, or a penchant to falsify
 we don’t go where we don’t want to go

Everybody cries sometimes
 Everybody moves so bad
Tell me ’bout your hard times baby
 I already tried all that

Everybody…sometimes
 gonna feel so sad
Have another drink my darlin’
 Heaven knows I’ll stand you that

Everybody…sometimes
 gonna feel so sad
Everybody…one time
 Lord knows I’ll drink to that

Also from the VH1 sessions. “I wanted an opportunity to try out something new, and a nationwide audience seemed like a good place to start. I’d not performed this prior to the taping, and was more than happy with the results (when I think what might have happened). I pieced the song together while studying with Dante scholar James Tetreault. The moral: stay in school.”


Long Way To Fall
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

Off in the land of heroes and fables
 a man would not think to decline
Wrapped in your arms I’d climb any mountain
 but that’s only half the climb
Follow the treasures of darkest desire
 Dance with Medusa, but don’t look in her eyes

It’s a long, long way to fall – I won’t go down
 You took the wrong turn after all – I won’t be there
Knowin’ what I know – knowin’ I got to go
 Cause I don’t believe

There was a time when I could forgive you
 and laugh at those sad games we’d play
I always thought that you were the strong one
 and you’d break the walls down one day
Follow the circle, you come round again
 Land on my doorstep, but I can’t let you in

It’s a long, long way to fall – don’t pull me down
 You took the wrong turn after all – I won’t be there
Knowin’ what I know – showin’ what doesn’t show
 knowin’ what I know
That I don’t believe

I didn’t lie when I said that I loved you
 but you couldn’t hope to believe
You can’t come home to claim what you squandered
 I’ve barely got room for my grief
Heart of the mineshaft the sun never shines
 Lost in a minefield you might as well be blind

It’s a long, long way to fall – I won’t go down
 You took the wrong train after all – I won’t be there
Knowin’ what I know – knowin’ I’ve got to go
 knowin’ what I know
That I don’t believe, and I can’t conceive
 now I just can’t see you no more

“New Guitar + New Tuning = New Music. I used this formula extensively throughout the project (taking over half a large closet in the process). Instruments have their own sensibility; I try to discover what tuning is right for each guitar and take off from there. As for lyrics, coming up with new tunings for heart and mind is the real trick.”


River
Joni Mitchell (lyrical adaptation by Billy Squier), Joni Mitchell Publishing Corp / BMI

It’s comin’ on twilight, and all the world’s at ease
They’re pullin’ down the curtains, sailin’ off to sweet release
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
But me I’m not so quiet – I’m restless and I’m mean
I won’t let you know I’m bleedin’, that I’m crawlin on my knees
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

I tried hard to help her, let her do as she pleased
And I loved her so naughty – made her weak in the knees
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
We’re so hard to handle – we’re selfish and we’re sad
And we throw away those precious things we work so hard to have
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so deep I would swim away from time
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
Do we have to say goodbye

It’s comin’ on daybreak, and everyone’s at peace
They’re dreamin’ bout deliverance from the wounds that will not cease
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
But me I’m not so lucky – I’m anxious and I’m lean
I’ve made a tone of money but I can’t buy out this scene
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I skate away on
I have to say goodbye

“I thought it would be interesting to approach this situation from the other side, while offering up the odd personal insight. Why? Who wouldn’t want to get closer to Joni?”


Two
Billy Squier, I.M.E. / Songs of the Knight / ASCAP

Happy birthday little man
On this night you are two
and I am far away, much farther than
I would ever be from you

You’re my dearest little friend
and tonight I miss you more than most
as I rock myself, my arms my lonely cradle
Sometimes it makes me sad
yet always I’m glad for knowing you

Good night my little man
Thought mine you’ll never truly be
I will watch you grow
and maybe someday you will know
how very, very much you mean to me

It’s been a happy day
You’ve learned what presents are
But the greatest gift by far
is the presence that you bring

Sleep tight, my little man
and fill your days with wonder
of kites and sand castles and colored elephants
so many wondrous elements

Be safe and happy with your dreams
and smile that special smile that says
for all the world to see
“I see the world fro all it’s meant to be
and know that all of it is meant for me”

Original demo. “It took a little boy to bring me back to music at a time when I had begun to wonder if I would ever write again. Thank-you, Harrison, for all that you are.”