Destiny’s a road we ride…Sight unseen – our thoughts untried
Through the years – a million miles…A trial of errors – a life of trials
|1959–1961:||introduced to classical piano lessons—and the fine art of bribery—by his grandfather|
|1963:||buys Danelectro guitar and Supro amp from neighbor (his first)—cost $90|
|1966:||turned on to John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton when a friend brings the lp home after a trip to UK…begins playing for keeps|
|1967:||witnesses Clapton and Cream’s string of appearances at Boston’s Psychedelic Supermarket, also Butterfield in Harvard Square|
|1968:||after high school, lands gig as house band at Psychedelic Supermarket, playing with such diverse acts as the Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, and the Moody Blues|
|1969:||moves to NYC to collaborate on the musical poetry endeavor “Magic Terry & The Universe”…records for Atlantic and Columbia…signs to Premier Talent Agency…MTU implodes after initial show at Boston Tea party exposes philosophical differences between band leaders…plays with Hendrix as the latter forms Band of Gypsies, chauffeurs Steve Paul as the latter brings Johnny Winter to the masses…and has a torrid affair with Jim Morrison’s common-law wife|
|1971:||Berkelee School of Music (brief diversion), Boston|
|1972:||returns to NYC…forms Kicks with Jerry Nolan, who later joins the NY Dolls|
|1973:||joins power-pop band “The Sidewinders” in Boston…quits a year later to pursue his developing vision for songs that would merge the pop elements of his youth with the hard-edged reality of his street experiences|
|1976–1977:||teams up with KISS manager Bill Aucoin, who signs his band Piper to A & M Records…cuts two lp’s: “the most articulate, emotionally intense rocker the 70’s has produced to date”|
|1979–1980:||after assuming an unabashed solo stance, signs with Capitol Records…releases “Tale of the Tape”…”You Should Be High Love” spends six weeks as the nation’s most requested rock track…tours with Alice Cooper|
|1981:||releases “Don’t Say No”…102 weeks later, lp is still in the US top ten, spawning three hit singles and launching Squier’s career in earnest…tours with Foreigner, Journey, and Pat Benetar before headlining his first string of shows at year’s end|
|1982–1983:||“Emotions In Motion” released in conjunction with major States tour with Queen…lp is top 5…Squier tours for nine months thereafter…brings Def Leppard to US, helping them break “Pyromania”: “The reaction to Squier was a set-long, deep-throated roar of the kind usually only heard at Springsteen shows”|
|1984:||produces “Signs of Life” with Jim Steinman…lp is top ten…tour follows|
|1985:||spends two months in Asia…first helicopter ascent of Mount Everest…begins work on “Enough is Enough” with Peter Collins|
|1986:||“Enough…” is completed after nearly a year’s work…Freddie Mercury contributes to two songs in London…following a surprising lack of support from Capitol, decides not to tour|
|1989:||long-delayed release of “Hear and Now”… tour of US markets|
|1991:||“Creatures of Habit” lp and tour|
|1993:||“Tell the Truth” is final lp for Capitol, prompting a less than harmonious breakup…turns his back on the music business|
|1994–1995:||climbing and exploring in the Karakoram and Nepalese Dolpo|
|1996:||“Reach For The Sky” anthology released on PolyGram|
|1997:||King Biscuit releases “Billy Squier Live in Concert”|
|1998:||releases “Happy Blue,” a solo acoustic record which he records live without overdubs…tours book and record stores, as well as several large venues…”Big Beat” (from “Tale of the Tape”) is most sampled song in hip-hop history|
|2001:||the “8101” tour visits 42 cities between May 10–July 15|
|2004:||awarded a Grammy for JayZ’s 99 Problems…dubbed the King of Hip-Hop by an over-zealous press corp|
|2006:||first tour of duty with Ringo’s All-Starr Band…it doesn’t get much better than this|
|2007:||performs at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame to raise money for educational programs…participates in (soon to be released) anthology devoted to the life and music of Delta bluesman Eugene Powell|
|2008:||the All-Starrs are back!|
|2008:||recorded his first new collection of songs since 1998 following the Ringo tour|
|2009:||first major solo outing since 1991|
|2010:||several blues dates with James Montgomery, the Uptown Horns and blues legend James Cotton…special guest at “James Cotton’s Blues Summit” at Lincoln Center, with Taj Mahal, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and other blues luminaries.|
|2011:||more blues dates with James Montgomery and James Cotton…featured performer at the Little Kids Rock benefit in NYC, which included Little Steven and Lady Gaga (October)…featured performer at his high school’s closing ceremonies (November)|
|2012:||guest appearances at New Orleans Jazz Fest…continues charity activities on behalf of Little Kids Rock…headlines fund-raiser for PBS documentary on legendary rock radio station WBCN-Boston|
|2013:||surprise guest appearance with Joe Bonamassa at New York’s Beacon Theater…plays full-length solo show at Great South bay Music Festival (LI)…scheduled to perform at Voodoo-Fest (NOLA) in November|
From Scene4 magazine —July 2019
Perfect Album: Don’t Say No
By Patrick Walsh
Some people they treat me kind . . . some drive me away . . .
Some people they blow your mind . . . it’s not easy today –
Don’t say no.
I live on the borderline . . . you come from the void . . .
I beg you to cross the line . . . you take good care of your boy –
Don’t say no.
Don’t Say No began enriching the world on April 13, 1981–a Monday, no less. Billy Squier’s second album would go on to Triple Platinum status, embedded in various categories of the charts for 111 weeks.
So much for the sophomore jinx. If anything, Squier’s curse was that he couldn’t replicate an album as pure, as shimmeringly perfect.
You know what? When you make a record that great–with that much mythos–you don’t have to.
I remember when it first hit the streets, Valley Stream streets soon to become shimmeringly perfect in their own right with the savage heat of a Long Island sun and, like a slow-motion scene straight out of Hollywood, the equally savage friction of the legs of Italian-Irish-blend girls swooshing by in terry cloth shorts to the beat of “The Stroke.”
Have you heard?
If you’re in the game,
then stroke’s the word….
“The Stroke” may be a song about shaking hands and schmoozing to get ahead in show biz, but its relentlessly martial thump commands a kind of carnal obeisance. Squier even toys with a mock-Russian march toward song’s end, but all the goose-stepping Soviets in Red Square are no match for those power chords, that deep basso keyboard, and Billy’s bravado vocals.
Don’t Say No was an incredible musical gift for this 14 year-old and his friends, unforeseen yet instantly assimilated, devoured at once for its fresh jolt of the new while understood in the context of its antecedents, as Wallace Stevens puts it, “as an inevitable knowledge, / Required, as a necessity requires.”
In those early days of the album’s release, he was often referred to on the radio as “guitarist Billy Squier,” as if he was some kind of six-string mercenary. It’s an elite title for a guy who seemed to come out of nowhere and who, paradoxically, sang lead vocals. On television, Squier harnessed the nascent dynamo of MTV with what we view now as fairly primitive videos. On the merits of Don’t Say No he’d have done well without MTV; with it, guitarist Billy Squier reached an audience who may not have ordinarily tuned into FM Rock stations.
With decades of listening, something that may not strike our ears today as distinctly as it did when Don’t Say No debuted in 1981 is just how deeply Zeppelin its sounds and textures are. Like a decade before when The Beatles broke up, Led Zeppelin permeated the artistic air. Their last album, In Through the Out Door, was not yet two years old; their “bricklayer of a drummer,” as Robert Plant once described John Bonham, had died less than a year prior. Cue up “In the Dark” and imagine you don’t who the artist is; the drums, the guitar, the vocals–uncanny! It’s either new Zeppelin or solo Robert Plant.
A big part of that familiarly Zeppelin sound emanates from Bobby Chouinard’s drum kit–and it’s no coincidence. The depth of those booming toms, that bass drum’s pleasing thud, the delicious metallic tones and textures of his hi-hats, crash, and ride cymbals . . . Chouinard used big Ludwig drums and Paiste cymbals, the same gear as John Bonham. (Sadly, another thing Chouinard shared with Bonham was the Rock drummer’s propensity to exit the stage early: Chouinard died of a heart attack in 1997 at the age of 44.)
But it’s also Chouinard’s approach–and not just his fills but the way he lays down a beat: like a bricklayer. I’ll cite one song for two examples. His steady pounding on “Lonely is the Night” reminds this drummer very much of the iconic beat of “When the Levee Breaks;” the fill which Chouinard drops at the first guitar-then-drums break (at 1:36) could have been plucked right out of “Royal Orleans.”
For many years I listened to Don’t Say No and then, in my early 20s, I started living it. The album nails a young guy’s perspective–starting out on one’s own, settling into a solo stride. Its themes are the proper concerns of a newly-minted American male: drinking with your buddies (“went to see a friend just the other day / had a drink or two and we blew the night away”), taking home a paycheck then blowing it downtown (“spend all my money tryin’ to have a good time”), and, of course, chasing tail (“you got me runnin’ baby–you give me something way beyond revenue.”)
The ten songs of Don’t Say No comprise a catalogue of a young man’s moods and modes:
- Euphoria and Self-reflection: “I may get around, I may laugh a lot, now you’d think that I’d be happy with the life I got, / Nobody knows, nobody sees, ain’t nobody really knows the inner side of me….”
- Swagger: “There’s danger out tonight, the man is on the prowl….”
- Doubt: “Never knew it could take so long–never knew it could feel so wrong without you.”
- Highs and Hangovers: “Takes the morning after to forget the night before” and “I can’t remember the things that we said / Now all I got is this achin’ in my head.”
- And being dealt those first retina-searing sexual experiences, those lapidary moments of lust and love: just listen to “My Kinda Lover.”
Side 1 crashes on your ears with “In the Dark” and its first line sets the tone: “Life isn’t easy on the singular side.” The album’s most signature song (and maybe its most Zeppelin-esque), “Lonely is the Night,” chases that theme to its essence:
Lonely is the night
when you find yourself alone,
Your demons come to light
and your mind is not your own.
Lonely is the night
when there’s no one left to call,
You feel the time is right–
say the writin’s on the wall.
I spent my early 20s in the Army as an infantry officer assigned to the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks…. That’s on Oahu, folks, as in Hawaii.
Uncle Sam shipped my shiny white ’83 BMW 320i to the island. In that Teutonic traffic scalpel, stick-shift in hand, Honolulu’s glittering lights and its lovely-tourist-lined avenues were little more than 20 minutes away–and sometimes under 20 minutes.
On those magical Friday and Saturday nights driving down to Waikiki (“the Keys,” as we used to call it), Squier’s Don’t Say No took on new dimensions of meaning and mythos, a soundtrack that seemed to inform the night as much as it complemented it. How many evenings threading the needles of H1’s vehicular slaloms with “Whadda You Want From Me” cranking? How many mellow mornings with “Nobody Knows” providing wise and soothing serenade after the night’s excesses?
One of Billy Squier’s most inspired touches on the record is the way he sets up the album’s last song, its title track. The earnest repetitions of “I need you,” the refrain of the penultimate song of the same name, have diminished almost to the point of the inaudible when a new vocal, accompanied by the cleanest acoustic guitar strums, starts to fade in with ever-increasing volume:
We live in confusion times—my world is a vice…
Nobody gets out alive…but you can break through the ice—
Don’t say no.
Oh man, the way he titrates that song into your ear, setting you up for the hammer blows of drum and guitar as it kicks into gear! It’s a move that goes way beyond novelty. To have had that song at the start of the height of one’s powers, to have breathed it in as fully as the sweet-scented tropical air or the perfumed nape of a lovely neck, to have lived that song as much as one loved it . . . life can attain to no higher sweetness and, . . . truly, I feel sorry for all the young guys out there now who will never know such exquisite American joy.
From the East Hampton Star —August 31, 2017
By Christopher Walsh
A Musical Portrait of Billy Squier
“Portraits” offers a rare opportunity to see and hear a renowned artist in an informal and intimate setting
As summer winds down, one of the South Fork’s many “must” events happens tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Guild Hall in East Hampton when the musician Taylor Barton and the guitarist G.E. Smith present the next in their “Portraits” series, featuring Mr. Smith in performance and conversation with Billy Squier.
“Portraits” offers a rare opportunity to see and hear a renowned artist in an informal and intimate setting. Mr. Smith and Mr. Squier, who has released more than a dozen studio and live albums including 1981’s “Don’t Say No” and, the following year, “Emotions in Motion,” will sing, play guitars, and talk about the latter’s career in music.
Those two albums and 1984’s “Signs of Life” are not only Mr. Squier’s most successful releases, each was among the biggest of the decade, marrying catchy hard-rock riffs and guitar solos with a pop melodicism in a way that saturated radio and MTV for several years with hits like “The Stroke,” “In the Dark,” “My Kind of Lover,” “Emotions in Motion,” “Everybody Wants You,” “Learn How to Live,” and “Rock Me Tonite.” Thirty-six years later, “Lonely Is the Night,” from “Don’t Say No,” remains an irresistible and anthemic 4 minutes and 40 seconds that still conjure, to this listener, an undiscovered treasure from Led Zeppelin circa 1976.
Taking in the early evening stillness with Mr. Smith in his Amagansett house last week, Mr. Squier, who lives in Bridgehampton and New York City, recalled a recent listen to “Don’t Say No,” of which he is planning a vinyl reissue. “I was listening to the test pressing,” he said, “and what struck me was that this thing starts, there are all these hits on it, and I’m thinking, ‘This is really good.’ But then it shifts into the non-hits, which have the same sensibilities, and I thought, ‘Now it’s getting really good!’ It struck me in a very different way, because I’m thinking, these songs may not be hits, but the performances! They’re bigger and more exciting.”
“ ‘Too Daze Gone’ is a big-sounding record,” Mr. Smith said of the deep track on “Don’t Say No.” “Can you remember, at the time, did you like them all, like they were all your babies?”
“Oh yeah,” Mr. Squier said. “That’s a one-song record to me, front to back. No filler.”
“Don’t Say No” was, he said, the culmination of a years-long effort to forge a unique identity, during which he honed his guitar, vocal, and songwriting chops while playing in bands based in Boston and New York. “I was trying to figure out where I belonged,” said the native of Wellesley Hills, Mass. “I had a lot of influences, ranging from AM radio growing up, through the Beatles and the Stones and the Who, which were very pop-oriented, and into Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin and heavier, more blues-oriented things. I was trying to make it a style that was somewhat broad but also identifiably me, as a guitar player.”
But before stardom as a solo artist, “I had always wanted to be in a band,” like the groups that had exploded on the scene in his youth. “A band was the gang I always wanted to be in, and I saw myself on stage left as the guitar player. But long story short, I could sing, and the bands I was in, the singers weren’t that good, or didn’t care that much.”
The late Bill Aucoin, who managed the hard-rock group Kiss, wanted to sign Mr. Squier, and acceded to the artist’s desire to assemble a group. That band was Piper, which released two fine but underappreciated albums in the mid-1970s.
“As we started to get attention and do better, some of the other guys wanted to be more involved, which is understandable,” he said. “But I felt, because I had a few years and a little more experience on them, that they had not progressed to the point that I had. I felt that to start doing some of their songs, and letting them do stuff, was going to be a step back. No disrespect, because they were very good, and we came very close to cracking it, but I just felt it’s not going to go in the right direction if we make this a democracy. So I dissolved the band.”
Then, he said, “I found myself in the ironic position of realizing that in a sense, I had been trying to do the wrong thing. Really, what I was going to have to do to be successful was be a solo artist.”
Mr. Squier’s recordings nonetheless sound like those of a tight rock ’n’ roll band, with the guitarist Jeff Golub, the keyboardist Alan St. Jon, the bassist Mark Clarke, and the late drummer Bobby Chouinard as its core players. “In a sense, nothing really changed,” he said, “except it was now clear that nobody had to worry about who was who in the band. But I always wanted great players who could play together and could be part of the sound that I wanted to create, and that worked for a long time.”
The front man, however, managed to fill both the lead vocalist and lead guitarist role in his band, to a large extent, performing many of the guitar solos. “Everyone always assumed that it was the other guitar player, that I was the rhythm guitar player, but that’s where I started,” he said. “Because I’m a songwriter too, I’m not doing 5-minute solos; I’m doing 30-second solos.”
His favorite of them all, he said, is the 17-second solo in “Whadda You Want From Me,” from “Don’t Say No.” “It says what it needs to say,” Mr. Smith observed.
Mr. Squier’s many talents will be heard tomorrow. “Not to give our show away, but Billy’s going to be playing some serious lead guitar,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s kind of like when we are sitting here and there’s no one here. We’ll play two songs and then stop and talk for a couple of minutes.”
“But there’s plenty of music, and it’s loud,” Mr. Squier said. “It’s not two acoustic guitar players sitting around talking about lyrics and stuff like that.”
The musicians grew more animated as they contemplated the show. “This is really good, it’s worth seeing,” Mr. Smith said. “The guy’s got great songs! Come to the show!”
Tickets for “Portraits With Billy Squier,” at 8 p.m. tomorrow, are $55 to $150, $53 to $145 for members of Guild Hall.
“Squier: Long Island’s other Billy”
Originally published: July 17, 2013
Updated: July 18, 2013
By David J. Criblez
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.”
“I’m with the band”—or how do you eat a steak n’ cheese after 1 am?
In the years this site has been running, I’ve had many highlights. From beginning as graphic support and handed the reigns (still grateful for that Jim!), to developing a working relationship and friendship with Judy (soon to be referred to as Schemer 1) and then Billy. Going from a fan site to the official site when someone asked B to make another and he answered “I already have a site.” Then seeing Billy’s interest in the site grow to the point where he began contributing to it himself and giving me more responsibilities to tackle. It’s been a series of highs for this fanboy–hooked ever since hearing the opening riff to Lonely Is The Night at age 11…back when radio stations played more than what was in the standard rotation.
Late last year, when word of a new tour came up, aside from being ecstatic at the possibility of seeing Billy rock again live, I asked if I could submit a design idea for a t-shirt. Shortly after getting an affirmative, I had knots in my stomach when I sent off my submission. After getting a reply of “Actually, I think this is…REALLY COOL!…It’s a very unique idea (to me anyway)…This is definitely worth pursuing.”, I was elated and, in March, work began in earnest to design Billy’s tour merchandise. With many iterations and ideas back and forth…and new products seeming to come weekly, I didn’t think it could get any better. I had a blast working on each design trying to come up with things Billy would like and what would be cool to see for me as a fan. With each new positive comment, my heart just leapt. This was the most fun design-wise I’ve had in years. That it also coincided with a busy time at my regular job where some good items were also being produced in which I was getting accolades was icing on the cake…even if it was chaotic from time to time.
Back to Schemer 1…and now Schemer 2 (also known as my wife). After giving much playful grief of there not being a more local show, I resigned myself to going to Atlantic City once again to see Billy, as we did for the Ringo shows, since this was the closest he’d be. Like many other fans, keeping my fingers crossed that he’d add more shows closer, I began to think about plans to go back to the Jersey shore…not knowing that plots had been developing behind my back since April.
I got a call from Judy on Wednesday, July 9th and for some stupid reason thought it was about a package I’d just sent out to her that morning. After it dawned on me that it was too quick for that call, it started to sink in what she was actually telling me and I was FLOORED! I had emailed her earlier in the week to see if any plans for the show had been solidified as I was anticipating Schemer 2 to start asking me questions regarding the trip. I being a ‘go with the flow’ kinda guy naturally married an “Anal Planner” and was surprised that she hadn’t started asking about it yet. So I guess after that exchange it was decided to let the cat out of the bag.
As a thanks for all the work I’d put in over the last few months, Schemer 1 and 2 had arranged with my work for me to be off on Friday (unbeknownst to me) so that I could travel up to Big Flats, NY for that show. Better yet, once the show was over, I was to go with the band on the tour bus down to Atlantic City where I would then meet up with Schemer 2 again and enjoy a second show! All the while, I was given full access to be able to take as many photos for site (and other) uses as I could! Needless to say, as I waited in airports for flights to get me to Big Flats, the whole thing was still sinking in. All the while my schemer was proud that I never caught wind of any of this planning.
Anyways, enough with the rambling. Following are some notes from the weekend’s events:
July 10, 2009
After a morning of airports and puddle jumpers…
- Arrived at the venue about 3:30—set in the valley of some small mountains. Makes for a great view.
- Met the production manager Doug who made me feel instantly welcomed. Explained he had a crew of 8 that did all the set up/tear down. I was to be considered the 9th member.
- Stage backdrop is made up of a ‘web’ of LEDs that come off in 5′ sections. Can be arranged in multiple ways to fit various venues.
- Found an out-of-the-way spot to sit so I wouldn’t be in the way. Amazing to watch the crew work. No wasted energies by anyone.
- Wandered over to the merchandise stand, helped Matt set things up.
- Was surprised to see shirts I hadn’t worked on, but all bore some of my design elements. Either the revamped BS logo or the ANL handwriting (here’s a hint…it’s not Billy’s).
- B and the band arrived later, foregoing a sound check as they “didn’t want to arrive in the afternoon then sit around all day” …HEY! 😉
Pre-show, had a nice chat with Billy. Proved to be sometimes comical as he was wearing noise reducing ear plugs. (Won’t go into the why as to not offend anyone.)
- B realizes going out on his own and not as part of a ‘package tour’ he won’t play the bigger venues, but it’s not about that. He wanted to do something he could get excited about.
- As its been so long since he’s been out, he wanted to put out a show for the real fans. Couldn’t do this kind of show as a package tour, it’d have to be just the hits.
- After sharing a tale of my son giving himself a hair cut because he wanted a “buzz cut,” got tips from B on how it can be done and how he did his.
- He hates being on the road, but loves performing and being on stage.
- Mark Clarke played this venue with Davy Jones.
- “Chicks dig the plastic.” Had a couple of young ladies come up and ask how I was doing at one point. Surprised at their tone, I stated “fine” then became aware of the lanyard around my neck. It’s all about the backstage access. 😉 I learned if meandering about that I should probably tuck in my lanyard. Couldn’t help but think ‘where was one of these when I was young and single,’ but then again I still would’ve been too shy to acknowledge any advances.
The show starts gearing up as the opening act ends. Various songs play through the sound system, including When She Comes To Me and Somebody Loves You. A few times I hear “Who’s on in 15 minutes.” At first I’m thinking its an Abbott and Costello ‘Who’s on first’ type of act…hey it had been a long day. The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” starts playing through the speakers and the guys gear up to go on stage. The trek is made to the back stage area and they break off in groups to chat as the song winds down. Billy jogs a bit to get worked up. I take a few photos then go out front to get ready. There’s a barricade between the front row of seats and the stage. Making it easy for me to shoot the band, but putting the crowd…mostly those not in a small seated section…back a distance. The opening drum beat to All Night Long starts and the band comes out. Billy starts out with the opening strings to my all-time favorite, Lonely Is The Night. I half expect him to launch into another song as has been his habit in shows through the years. I was delighted that he went into singing it and forgot to start shooting pics for a minute.
- Billy and the boys played and sounded awesome! Its great to hear B in full-out ROCK mode.
- Fans still sneak weed to shows up here. Could smell it stage right once it got dark.
- Had another moment where I forgot to take photos when Billy sang Freddie Mercury’s intro to Love Is The Hero. Proved to everyone that he’s still got the chops and I’m sure Freddie would approve.
- Lady in the front row who, judging by her stack of empties, was probably pretty happy asks whom I’m taking the pictures for. I answer “Billy Squier, I run his web site.” To which she replies, “really? Cool. What’s his address?” …Um… Later on the bus, it was suggested I start rambling out his street address.
- It was great to hear G.O.D. and The Girl’s Alright live! G.O.D. is probably my favorite song off of Hear And Now and seeing it live really kicked ass! Its inclusion probably helped lead to my voice being a bit rougher after the show.
After the show, the guys had a band meeting, unwound then started to make their way over to the bus. Billy stated that he hoped I wasn’t disillusioned by the reality of it. How could I be?! I was just happy to be soaking it all in. Before boarding, he handed me a cup, apologized that it was a bit watered down and stated that it was his summer drink and I was welcome to finish it off as he went over to sign autographs for about 30 fans who’d waited. One girl wanted him to sign her butt. He declined.
- Only rule of the bus: Number one is fine, NEVER number two!
- The band was pretty much settled and eating by the time Billy finished with the crowd and we made our way on board. They handed me a huge steak ‘n cheese I ordered back when I was considering “dinner”, not thinking about when it would be served. I couldn’t quite figure out how I’d eat the thing at 1:30 am when my body was telling me I wasn’t hungry. I decided against the whole sandwich and ate the insides with a fork.
- Again, not wanting to be intrusive, I sat down and just observed. The camaraderie of the band reminded me of my old hockey days and the locker room banter. Jokes abounded and pretty soon I felt right at home and took part in the conversations.
- Marc Copely is a great guy to talk to. Realized we’re the same age. Demonstrated how he can eat so late and we joked about a ‘before and after’ effects of early morning dining…man gotta get rid of my gut.
- Pear vodka and lemonade makes for a great summer drink!
- One of the guys (I’ll protect his anonymity) admitted to signing the girl’s cheek that Billy declined. Mark described how he would do so…a straight line up the crack!
- Mark Clarke is definitely a comedian with a story on just about everything. Had everyone laughing.
- Conversation quickly turned to the abundance of bugs in the lights of the outdoor arena. Nir stated his snare drum looked like a war zone and how he felt bad splattering a certain large bug who had an unfortunate landing underneath a drumstick.
- Yogurt?! YOGA. Yoplait? Less sticky.
- Gotta rent The General.
- Gotta visit “New F-land.”
- Nir Z brings along his own expresso machine.
- Great to hear Billy, Alan and Mark share stories from through the years.
- Hope Dave got the printer working.
- As the guys started turning in, Billy, then Pops, then Marc, I started to take notes to help recall the day. Nir noticed and said to ‘make sure you write good things.’ Mark and I stayed up a bit longer, watching the intermittent Satellite TV and chatting/writing. As Mark went to give Dave a coffee refill, I decided to turn in. I had thought Nir had gone to bed, but he was studying film from the show, shot on his camera from the mixing board. It was pretty cool to see it replayed again. He offered advice that the bottom bunk was best as the top ones are bouncy.
Crack of dawn–July 11, 2009
The bus pulled in to the Hilton Hotel as the sun was rising. I stirred as it stopped and Billy and Mark were making their way forward. Billy stated “there’s life in the bottom bunk” as I was getting out. Room assignments were slow-coming from the hotel but we eventually made into the hotel, seeing the advertisement for Billy’s show right next to the main desk. I spent the morning resting up, getting breakfast, walking the boardwalk and beach…and waiting for Schemer 2. My wife got stuck in traffic, turning the normal 3-hour drive into 6! So I hung around until sound check and decided to go on over to see if it had started. As I left the lobby, low and behold, there she was chatting with the valet! Good timing. So we hurriedly took her bags up and made our way over to the theater. It was great to have her on board sharing the fun, even if it was later than planned.
- Billy asks if I saw the poster, to which we both replied simultaneously, “they flipped the picture.” Always been a pet peeve of mine when that happens. Totally throws off a person’s ‘look’ as humans aren’t symmetrical creatures…and Billy doesn’t play left handed.
- In scoping out the venue, I could see there wouldn’t be a bad seat in the house. The merch stand was set up perfectly at the entry/exit point.
- Sound check was LOUD! Sounded great and Michael told me that the guitars were just coming from the amps on stage, not through the board!
- Amp levels were distorting Billy’s earpieces. This show’s gonna rock!
After sound check, the Mrs. and I headed back up to the room to chill a bit before show time. We go back down with time to chat some more, meet Billy’s agent and observe as some VIP ticket holders come back for their meet and greet. After a bit, we head out around the theater, the wife sits at the mixing board, I start to get ready, scouting positions for photos as the venue’s seating is right up to the stage, it’ll take more planning on my part to get shots. The music plays over the sound system and we await The Who.
- The crowd seems MUCH more Squier-centric. Tonight as the new tunes play, cheers go up around the place. It was great to hear them being recognized.
- I stay out front for the opening since I missed the beginning the previous night. The place erupts to the drum beat to All Night Long and the guitar strings of Lonely Is The Night.
- Immediately Billy and the band seem to warm to the intimacy and proximity of the crowd. Billy sits at stage’s edge to open Lonely.
- Band seems energized by the crowds reaction. While not to downplay their participation the night before, it seems like they’re having much more fun as the show goes on.
- Billy once again was a show stopper with Freddie’s intro. Brought one girl to tears.
- G.O.D. again rocked the house and kept up the intensity up to and through the encore.
- Shared a laugh with Billy and Marc. I was taking shots of them playing side by side when a girl asked if I wanted to use the seat next to her. At first, I said ‘no thanks’, but then thought better of it as it would’ve been right center of the action. I took the seat, raised the camera, fingered the button…and the two of them split. ARGH! They saw it as they were leaving and had a good chuckle. Later stating it wasn’t on purpose. 😉
- Theater was getting really hot! Most of the front section was out of their seats for the majority of the show.
- Lingered a bit afterwards, talking to Michael as tear down began. It was amazing to watch how quickly the crew got to the task and the pace at which things were cleared. A large crowd remained at the merchandise stand. It was nice to see stuff I’d done being passed to the crowd!
Stayed around a bit after the show, Billy worried about Schemer 2 who was showing the effects of a long day in traffic followed by an exhilarating evening. The price you pay for keeping secrets…KIDDING honey! Billy signed a poster for the kids which they loved, but of course wanted a couple more things…order forthcoming. 😉
Long after the crack of dawn–July 12, 2009
We took our time getting up and about on Sunday morning. It’d been a long weekend for the both of us. Housekeeping tried to come in twice while we were lounging around. Before we went out, we had one more visit with the gang.
- Chatted more with Michael about Newfoundland…taxes and proximity to amenities. Made me want to visit more!
- Good thing the handcuffs were left back in ’82!
- Good-byes and heartfelt thanks exchanged.
- Discussed some ways I could help some of the guys.
- B asked after things and family. That was really touching. Talked about future project needs. Can’t wait to get back to work! (Yeah I know I should be doing so now, but wanted to get this tome finished!)
- After goodbyes and making our way back to our truck we see the bus start to leave and then hear its horn blowing. We wonder if its meant for us and stop, but it keeps blowing a few more times. Enter Mark, running across the courtyard almost getting left behind! We joked that we might’ve had to have driven him to the next gig, but as it ended up with traffic, we caught up to and passed the bus on the A.C. Expressway. One last wave to Dave and we were on our way.
To end, I’d just like to express my thanks to Billy and the boys, Schemers 1 and 2, the crew…all made me feel welcome and helped with a weekend I won’t soon forget! It was a grand time, more than I could’ve thought. And don’t worry Billy, I was far from ‘disillusioned.’ Thanks again.
September 1–8, 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.
Gearing up with Billy Squier
Rich Tozzoli (for Premier Guitar)
July 21, 2009
Billy Squier talks about his gear, playing with Ringo, and touring.
When you hear the name Billy Squier, a collection of early MTV hits usually comes to mind: “Everybody Wants You,” “In The Dark,” “The Stroke,” “Rock Me Tonite,” “My Kinda Lover,” “Lonely Is The Night,” and so on. But you may not realize what an accomplished and diverse guitar player he is, and that he’s also done several tours with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Having worked with Squier on several projects, I found him incredibly passionate about both his work and his instruments. Recently, I caught up with him at SIR studios in New York while he was preparing for his own upcoming summer tour.
So, tell me about the Ringo tours.
Playing with Ringo is just great. It’s one of the greatest gigs in the world for many reasons. Obviously, you’re playing with a Beatle, which puts you in rarefied territory right off the bat. You get to play with great musicians doing great music that you normally wouldn’t do, and it’s always nice to play new stuff. You travel in Beatle class, so it’s really not like touring in the traditional sense.
You’re just hopping around the country and playing some shows, and it’s really enjoyable and very supportive. I feel good about who I am—kind of like an elder statesman, in a way. You know, you’ve spent your whole career doing your music, and you end up on stage playing with Ringo, and it feels good. I feel like, “I really got somewhere after all.” It’s a win situation on all fronts. And Ringo is just one of the band; he doesn’t come on like a Beatle at all. He asks you what you want to do with your songs, and he really just likes to play. He appreciates the band and really makes you feel like he’s glad you’re there.
What did you bring out on that tour?
Well, I always have my ’59 Les Paul burst. My ’58 never goes out, because it’s mint. People think I’m crazy to take the guitars I take out now, but I don’t collect guitars, I play them. If I didn’t have my ’59, I would take the ’58 out. I also take out my ’58 goldtop with PAFs as a backup for my burst. The main guitar I use with Ringo is actually my ’57 Strat. I also bring my Nocaster and ’56 Les Paul Special and ’56 Junior.
How about your amps?
With Ringo I use Bogner Ecstasy Customs. I got them originally because my Marshalls would just be too loud. My Marshalls are great for what I do as a solo artist, but they’re not as versatile as the Bogners. Those have three channels, so I can set them up for, say, a country sound for Ringo, an overdrive channel, or a plexi channel. It’s a great amp, but it doesn’t sound like my Marshalls.
Tell me about those amps.
I’ve got 10 or 12 of these heads that I’ve had since the early ‘70s. I have a few that are a bit later, but the ones I use are the old Super Lead 100s. Frank Levi reworked these for me over the course of many nights of creative abuse. He’d start out with an idea and I’d try it, and then we’d just keep going until we got what we wanted. I love the way these sound because they don’t compress. They have the classic Marshall tone, but don’t compress into that midrange ‘box.’ I set the volume around 2, but they sound like they’re on 12—they’re incredibly powerful.
As for cabinets, I use a 4×12” that has two Celestions and two old Altec silver cones, which haven’t been made since 1952. I have a bunch of those that I pair off. The Altecs give me the bright, clear sound without being brittle. They have a really nice balance—really clean with some warmth, too. The Celestions of course give me that classic breakup.
So what’s in your rack?
It’s the ‘59 burst and a ‘58. I also have two guitars made by James Trussart, a great French guitar builder out of Los Angeles. I discovered one of those in Chicago last year when I was out with Ringo. I never buy new guitars, but I had to have this. I met him out in LA, and we designed another one, which is basically a Strat in a Les Paul-style body. It’s got single coils in it, because I like Strats so much. All my other guitars have stock pickups.
I also have a ‘56 Les Paul Special, which has been in my collection the longest—I’ve had that since 1974. That was my first single cutaway Paul. I usually use it for slide, but with Ringo I tuned it down for songs where I wanted to play a certain position in a lower key. I haven’t used it for a long time as a main guitar because I have these other great ones, but when I was doing the set list for this tour and trying to minimize guitar changes, I started playing it again. I tell you, it’s one of the best sounding guitars I’ve ever played in my life. I had all my amps tweaked to go out on the road, and this one amp came back and something happened to that too, and that amp and the Special were amazing—classic P-90 tones and virtually unlimited sustain anywhere on the fretboard. Gibson also wired this out of phase, so in the middle position you get that skinny Peter Green sound he made famous. So I use that on the first part of the show, then the burst, then ’57 Strat for “The Stroke” in drop- D. I also use the Trussart/TV Jones.
How about that Telecaster custom?
I actually haven’t taken that out for a long time; it’s the “Don’t Say No” guitar. I love that one, but I haven’t used it that much lately because it’s not versatile enough. I wanted to bring it out because it has an iconic status to me. So I’m taking out eight guitars this time: the ‘59 burst, the ’58 goldtop and the Special, the Tele Custom, two Strats—my ‘57 and ‘63 rosewood—and the two Trussarts. It’s more than I need, but that’s ok.
How do you protect your hearing?
Actually, I don’t. Probably the best way to protect my hearing is that I don’t play that much. I don’t go on the road all the time, so that’s helped, and at home I never listen to loud music. When I play, I play loud—I’m not doing myself any favors. On this tour, we’re using in-ear monitors. At first, I was a bit skeptical, but I’m actually getting used to it. It’s a total change, and when you’re used to doing something your whole life it’s like, whoa.
So how do you “connect” with in-ears?
There’s definitely a learning curve. I’ve only been using them for two weeks, and it’s totally different from wedges. When you’re normally on stage the sound is all around you and it’s very open, but when you put these on it’s right between your ears. But I have to say, they’ve been great for singing.
Why is that?
The reason is, you can put your voice on top of everything. You’re never battling the rest of the mix. You don’t have to sing as hard, and you have more control. Yesterday, I was singing like a big fat gospel singer in church.
So that aspect is great, but the thing I don’t like, which is sorting itself out, is that the guitars don’t sound as big. You don’t get the sound that develops away from the amp. But now every day that I play, I find I’m forgetting what wedges were like, simply because I’m not using them. So this is becoming my new consciousness, and I’m not comparing them to wedges. On a lot of my records, I used a stereo delay on my voice. I’d figure it out for each song, but it would generally be 25–50 ms and split them left and right. I remembered that idea when I started with the in-ears, and now I have that spread. My voice sounds big in my ears, and instead of it being pinpointed in the center, it’s spread across my mix, but not affected and processed. It sounds pretty much like me on my records.
Rich is a producer, engineer and mixer who has worked with artists ranging from Al DiMeola to David Bowie. A life-long guitarist, he’s also the author of Pro Tools Surround Sound Mixing and composes for such networks as Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon and National Geographic.
“I’m Hopelessly Inactive In Terms Of Promoting My Own Career”
Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2008 to bravewords.com
Special Report by Martin Popoff
BW&BK recently got in contact with singer, guitarist, and successful solo artist BILLY SQUIER for a little chat about happenings in the Squier camp. Capping off a long chat about PIPER’s Can’t Wait album for the upcoming fourth edition of the Ye Olde Metal series (Ye Olde Metal: 1977), Squier had this to say about reviving his career at a relaxed and controlled pace…
“I would say that career-wise, I’m not career-oriented at all. My career now kind of evolves around people coming to me with ideas, and I’ll do it if it’s something that sounds interesting to me. If I can enjoy it without being sucked back into the vortex of the music business, then I’m happy to do it. The most recent thing like that was playing with RINGO (Starr) a couple of years ago, in the ALL STAR BAND, which, I’m looking forward to doing this year too. Rumour has it (laughs), that we’re going to go again. So if you say that, you have to say rumour has it, because it’s not official yet. A lot of us would like to see that happen again, including Ringo. But that’s a fantastic gig, because you play with these great musicians and you do each other’s songs, and you end up having a great band. We did that two years ago and it was one of the best things I ever did; I really enjoyed that. But I’ve done some odd bits and pieces here and there. I did something for a blues history, a Delta blues history, which is going to come out any time now, which is just me playing acoustic guitar and singing, just like the guys back on the porch. But I really like that style and that kind of music. And I write the odd song once in a while. It’s usually just because I hear it and I want to do it. I’d really have to say that I’m hopelessly inactive in terms of promoting my own career (laughs).
There is also some reissue news, is there not?
“Yes, Capitol put together a new label called American Beat, and they’ve re-released Emotions In Motion and Signs Of Life, which is a start. Tale Of The Tape was re-released a couple years ago in England, on a label called Rock Candy, and that is a spectacular re-release. And it sounds amazing; John Astley remastered it and did an incredible job. I did the book along with those guys, and it’s one of the best pieces of Billy Squier that you can ever get. So I highly recommend that. Also, after years of having nothing to do with my website, I’ve got much more involved with my website. There are some great people who run it, but I came up with an idea to get more of my catalogue out. We’re getting more of my catalogue up, and right now we’re in the process of putting up everything I’ve ever done. We do it release by release, one at a time.”
Do you mean to sell via iTunes?
“Yes, you can buy any of the songs individually, or you could buy them as a package and get discounts, the usual stuff. But it’s not as much of a moneymaking venture, as it is… because Capitol put so much of my catalogue out of print, it’s basically… you go to a store, all you can get is Don’t Say No and Greatest Hits. And for me, whether people buy my catalogue or buy my music, it’s up to them. But I’d like to have people have a chance to buy it. We’re making it available so you can listen to it. And I also write liner notes for each one. I try to write stuff that you haven’t heard about before. It’s kind of an autobiographical chapter of what happened during the making of those records. So that’s something that… I mean, I promote it to Billy Squier fans. I think if you’re a Billy Squier fan, you should go to the website, because you’ll get a lot of stuff out of it. So yes, American Beat have re-released Emotions In Motion, and they’ve just released Signs Of Life, and hopefully they will do more. So at this point we kind of have my first four solo records out, and then we still have four more to go (laughs). But a lot of that stuff now, like I said, you can get, selectively or collectively, through Billy Squier.com.”
“There has been more and more talk about taking the band out again,” adds Billy, who’s got to know fans are starved for hearing that voice of his on stage again. “I think we’re getting close to that. I’m waiting to see how this year lines up – if Ringo wants to go, I want to go with him. Because it’s an experience that doesn’t come around that often, and I want to do that. And I would say after that, I would be seriously thinking about doing more shows. Whether or not that happens this year, it might not happen ‘til ‘09. But it’s definitely… enough people have thrown it my way. It’s definitely on my radar now. It feels like, yeah, it’s been a while, I should go out, it would be fun.”
Legendary KISS manager Bill Aucoin (also Piper, STARZ, and recently LORDI) has made it known that he’d love to be a part of reviving Squier’s career.
“I talk to him every once in awhile,” notes Billy. “I know if I wanted to make a record, he would love to make a record with me. He’s always been a real supportive fan, so I know that he would like to do that. I figured, I haven’t had a manager for years, because, you know, what do I need a manager for? I’m not working. I have my publisher and my agent. I mean, if I went out, I might need someone to help me out. Because handling managerial duties is not something that I really aspire to. I don’t know, a lot of it remains to be seen, going out, you know, who would be involved in it, because a lot of the old band members aren’t around. So we would get who we could, and then we would fill in some slots. So it’s still to be determined. But I think yes, I think it would be good to go and do maybe something like I’ve never really done. I’ve really been thinking a lot about doing an idea of A Night With Billy Squier. And really doing it for the fans, doing it in smaller venues and doing a long show – and doing the whole history. Not just going out and doing the ten songs that you want to hear. There is so much more that I would like to do. There is so much of my music… songs to me are like my children, I love all of them. There is so much of my stuff where I go, ‘Why don’t people listen to this?’ But I know the fans do. So I’d like to go and make the show not just a greatest hits revue, but do something where people go, ‘Wow, he did this, he did that, wow, he did an acoustic section!’ I’m always looking for something to keep it interesting for me. And that’s about the only thing I haven’t done, as a touring artist, is to do something really comprehensive.”
And the voice is good?
“Fine – better than it used to be. It seems to be. Whenever I go out to sing… and I think a lot of that is because I’m very relaxed. I’m comfortable in my skin. Because it’s been a long time, and you suddenly realize gee, I guess I don’t have anything to prove anymore. I guess people DO like me. I guess I am good, you know? (laughs). So when that happens, you feel a lot more at ease.”
For a Squier-penned history of Signs Of Life (the latest reissue), plus the above discussed downloads, please visit http://www.billysquier.com
Recollections, Guitar Collection
Ward Meeker (for Vintage Guitar)
Much has been written and said about Billy Squier and how his 1981 album, Don’t Say No, provided the spark in the gap between 1970s hard rock and ’80s heavy metal.
Indeed, when he rose to fame in the early 1980s on the strength of “The Stroke,” his mega-hit ode to glad-handing record executives, Squier had something for every fan of hard-edged melodic rock and roll; girls dug his hair and sensitive-guy balladry, while guys were into his badass guitar tones and the heavy rock riffs that garnered comparisons to acts like Led Zeppelin.
Squier emerged from the East Coast pop music scene in the late 1960s carrying all the tools to become a star, from his knowledge of rock and roll to the influences shared by so many guitarists at the time and ever since – Clapton, Hendrix, Page, et al. And he was bolstered by an undeniable talent for songwriting that brought him a string of hit singles, platinum-level album sales (some 12 million units total), and a fan base that made him a stadium-filling entity on par with Queen and Def Leppard.
These days, Squier’s life is downright bucolic compared to the ’80s. After tending to his daily affairs, he helps tend a 20-acre garden plot in New York City’s Central Park. And when the mood or inspiration strikes, he’ll pick up one of his vintage guitars, strum a few bars, and see what becomes of it. We spoke with him recently about his past, what’s up now, and of course, his modest-but-notable collection of guitars and amps.
Vintage Guitar: At what age did you start really paying attention to music, or realize it had significance to you?
Billy Squier: Around age 13. I’d had various exposure to music; I started piano lessons at nine, financially motivated by by my grandfather, and I was singing in church and school groups. Then I had an “American Bandstand” routine with a friend where we’d set up in my garage and one of us would be Dick Clark, the other would be the artist. I remember doing a mean Jimmy Jones on “Handy Man,” miming and dancing to the record.
I took up ukulele as my first stringed instrument – my uncle was a bit of a player. Then I moved up to guitar, at first playing folk music – Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary tunes – then going electric when the Beatles hit. And it built from there.
What pushed your interest beyond merely listening?
Like many other people, I was blown away by the American debut of The Beatles and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” first on the radio and soon after by their Ed Sullivan appearance. I had a guitar at the time, but that was when I started paying attention to the instruments these guys were playing, and thinking about how those instruments and amps were contributing to their sound.
What was your first electric guitar and amp?
My first rig was a two-pickup Danelectro with a little Supro amp. I got it from the older brother of a friend who’d gotten tired of it. Cool guitar, although I didn’t know just how cool until many years later.
Did you take lessons on guitar?
No, I taught myself. I’d draw up chord diagrams and pick songs by ear. Later, when I worked up to doing lead stuff, it basically happened the same way. I’ve always had a good ear for stuff, and I’d visualize the fretboard and figure out where notes go. I had pretty good retention back then [laughs].
When did you first play in front of people?
Around 14, I got my first band together – The Reltneys. One of my bandmates found out it was a Cockney expression for the dominant feature of the male anatomy [laughs]! Anyway, we’d rehearse in the basement and our parents would chauffeur us around to play school dances or church gigs. We played Beatles, Stones, Kinks… mostly British stuff.
Was was your first experience with a record label?
My first flirtation with the record business was with a band called Magic Terry and the Universe. This was the brainchild of another schoolmate, an eccentric poet who tapped me to write music to complement his epic poetic journeys. We threw the idea around during the end of our high-school years, but it didn’t really take shape until we got to college. He went to N.Y.U. and got heavily into the scene. After a couple of months, he rang me up in Boston and said, “Billy, it’s time to do the band!”
I went down to see him, and he’d just gotten signed by Jac Holzman, at Electra – he had a real buzz going around him. The Electra deal fell through for one reason or another, but we went on to record at Atlantic and Columbia before ultimately self-destructing in the way that befalls many 19-year-olds.
And then came Piper…
Yeah. Piper was basically a veiled solo effort inspired by a relationship I struck up with Bill Aucoin, who managed Kiss. Having grown up with bands as my primary influence, I gravitated toward that sort of presentation, but I was writing all the songs, and singing them… as well as playing more than my fair share of guitar. I wanted to explore the three-guitar lineup, an idea I got from seeing Fleetwood Mac when Danny Kirwan joined with Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer – what a band that was!
Anway, I’d done demos with Danny McGary, a bass player I’d known from my early New York days, and his buddy Richie Fontana, who played drums. I liked that unit, so we set about auditioning guitar players and settled on Tommy Gunn, a native New Yorker who’d played on Broadway, and a kid from Kansas named Alan Nolan, who was kicking around the Aucoin office, trying to get a gig.
Under Bill’s tutelage, we secured a deal with A&M, and went from there. The band gave me a vehicle to start focusing my songwriting and overall direction. Ultimately, though, it wasn’t enough. We were close, but friction was developing between band members, and I was getting more confident and precise in my vision. One day I just decided that success for me would lie in becoming a solo artist, which came as quite a surprise, I must say.
Your first solo album, Tale of the Tape, garnered a good bit of attention nationally. Most artists have a special affinity for their first albums. Is that the case with you and Tale?
Yes, it was a major milestone for me. It was when I started getting comfortable in my own skin. The Piper records had a lot of good bits, but they weren’t cohesive. Side one of (Piper’s second and final album) Can’t Wait hung together quite well, and gave me a sense of what I could do. But Tale of the Tape pretty much ran start to finish. Everything started to come together with that record, which, by the way, was re-released on Rock Candy Records in the U.K., with remastering by Jon Astley, two bonus tracks, and a lot of input from yours truly [laughs]!
Who was in your touring band at the time?
I had Bobby Chouinard on drums, Mark Clarke on bass, Alan St. Jon on keyboards, and Cary Sharaf on guitar. Bobby, Mark, and Alan went on to become regulars.
After Tale, you wrote and recorded Don’t Say No, which is today regarded as a classic hard rock/power pop album. Did you have a sense at the time that the songs on it, which are now ubiquotous classic-rock material, were any different from other songs you’d written up to that point?
I did, actually. First off, I had a lot more confidence as a result of Tale of the Tape. I felt that I was in a position to make a major statement, and that people would be listening. I remember making two conscious decisions: one was to narrow the scope of my writing – I wanted the songs to really hang together as a body of work; the other was to stretch out as a lyricist, to try to create a unique voice.
As the album came together, did you have any sense that it was going to be such a success, either in terms of sales or its impact on pop music at the time?
I knew it was the record I’d always wanted to make. I didn’t know how the public would react, but I remember saying that if it wasn’t a hit, I would quit the business because I really believed it had everything on it that I had to give. So in that sense, I had a lot of faith in it.
Which guitars and amps do we hear on the album?
My 1960 Fender Tele Custom was really the guitar of record, excuse the pun… It’s the one you hear on “In The Dark,” “My Kinda Lover,” “You Know What I Like,” “Too Daze Gone,” and “Lonely Is The Night.” On “The Stroke” I played my ’57 Strat, and on “Whadda You Want From Me” it’s my ’56 Gibson Les Paul Special.
I don’t remember what I used on the solo for “Nobody Knows” because I tracked it a bunch of times, so the resulting sound isn’t tone-specific. It was definitely a Paul, however, and my guess would be my ’58 ‘Burst. These days, I play a ‘Burst when we do “I Need You” and “Nobody Knows,” so that makes me think I did the same on the record.
And as for amps, it’s all Marshall Lead 100 with a single cabinet with a combination of Altec and Celestion speakers. I’d put one mic up close and one out in the room, wherever it sounded best to my ear. This is a deceptively simple trick that I learned from (the album’s producer) Mack – find the spot where the amp sounds the way you want, and put a mic there. It usually works.
How do you view the album, in retrospect?
Well, 25 years is a long time… It almost seems like another life, in many respects. But I think the album holds up very well; it doesn’t sound dated. There’s magic to it, and magic isn’t something you can quantify or manufacture. The stars were aligned around that project, and you can hear it! When that happens, you have to feel very fortunate.
What was your reaction at the time to its sound being compared to Led Zeppelin or Queen?
I was very humbled by the “one-man Led Zeppelin” comparisons. They were a band of staggering proportion and incredible vision. And the Queen comparisons also made me very proud. To be mentioned in the same breath with any of those guys is a huge compliment. People do have a tendency to exaggerate, but who am I to correct them (laughs)?
After touring behind Don’t Say No, you released Emotions In Motion in 1982. That album did an excellent job of keeping you on top of the game with hits like the title track, “Learn How to Live,” “Everybody Wants You,” and “She’s a Runner.” Do you have any specific memories about the challenges of making that album?
Emotions was a very spontaneous album. Don’t Say No came out in May of ’81 and we went back in to cut Emotions in February of ’82 after being on the road through December. That means I basically wrote the record in January.
In those days, I’d catalog bits and pieces of riffs, melodies, song titles, and lyrics, and then pull them all out and cobble them together in one concerted effort. But mostly what I remember about writing those songs was not second-guessing myself. I saw what worked on Don’t Say No and decided not to mess with the formula. I was very confident at the time, and I think that shows in that there’s a bit more swagger to Emotions. You might say it was the sequel to Don’t Say No.
Do you view any particular album as your best work?
That’s a tough one – they’re all important to me. If pushed, though, I’d name three – Don’t Say No, of course, Tell The Truth, and Happy Blue.
For those who may not be aware, Tell The Truth was your last album for Capitol, and though its material was viewed favorably by critics and fans, the label did little to support it. So, what it makes it so significant to you, personally?
Truth was a pretty spontaneous record, and a return to the basics, in a way. I felt there was a unique chemistry on it, not only between (producer) Mike Chapman and myself, but the various players; I put together different groups for each song, combinations I thought would work. As a result, each track had its own particular energy, as opposed to a more uniform vibe you might expect from using the same band from start to finish. And, Mike was very supportive of my songwriting, so I pushed myself in a few different directions. In the end, everything hangs together quite well; the project had a real momentum to it, which like you said, was not carried on by the label.
And you did Happy Blue, a solo acoustic record with no overdubs, in what is now “way back” in 1998. What was motivating you by then?
(pauses)… It was unlike anything I’d done before or have done since. It came about because I just was not impressed with the trend where people who knew very little about music were making records – in droves. I wanted to make a record that required actual musicianship, and for that, I thought, “What’s more challenging than throwing away all the studio tricks, jettisoning the band, and trying to do it all myself? After all, my gifts are my voice, my guitar, and my songwriting – maybe I can put that all together in a way that calls attention to the notion that this sort of thing can still happen.”
Plus, I’d never really devoted any time to acoustic playing, so that was a challenge in itself. And when I started to throw in different tunings, it really took on a new significance; I was going places I’d never been before, and that’s the ultimate high. I really dug that!
Everything on that record is live – no overdubs, no effects – just me and a guitar. It was the most challenging record I’ve ever done, and I found myself going places, musically, that I never would have imagined. I’m very proud of it because I broke a lot of new ground by not adhering to the constraints of any particular format. I just let the songs go where they wanted to go.
And I really stretched out on the lyrics, as well. Everything has to be top-drawer when you’re working in such a minimalist environment.
What guitars did you use on the album?
A Collings dreadnought OM-size, a Lowden, a Martin D-42, and my 1918 Gibson. And a lot of the inspiration came from the guitars.
I’d never given acoustic instruments much thought, aside from the occasional rhythm double or an odd bit of color here or there. So when I looked deeper, I really started to appreciate the nuances and characteristics of different makes and models. I shopped around to acquaint myself with acoustics, and each time I found a particularly striking guitar, it would motivate me in a specific way. I’d think to myself, “This’ll sound good in some sort of alternate tuning.” So I ended up using specific guitars for specific tunings that I created based on intuition. The fact that I hadn’t played in many of these tunings before was a bit tricky, but that, too, became part of the inspiration. I’d explore and come up with stuff as I went along. Nothing was preconceived.
Your website says that after you recorded Tell The Truth, you underwent a “less than harmonious” breakup with Capitol, then turned your back on the music business. That sounds a bit dramatic. What was going on?
Well, I always took my music very seriously and poured my life into it. As time passed and the business became more about the business than the music, I felt that music became less and less important to many of the people running the industry – the focus was on having hits and making money, not on nurturing artists and fostering creativity.
I went through four presidents at Capitol, and the last one decided I didn’t fit into his plans. So he went out of his way to drive me away. I woke up one day and said, “I don’t need this s***.” So I walked.
The whole thing was just too painful to continue my commitment to my music, when it became subject to the whim of someone sitting across a desk, determining whether I met his standard of hipness.
When did you last play a concert?
The band went out in 2001, the 20th anniversary of Don’t Say No. We played it pretty much straight through, along with a couple of other crowd favorites. And I did a couple of acoustic shows last year, based around Happy Blue. The last one was at B.B. King’s at the end of November.
Do you still play out?
I’m doing a bit more these days, and this summer I’m doing something I haven’t done since I was a kid – I’m gonna play in a band [laughs]! Ringo Starr has been gracious enough to invite me to play with his All-Starrs, so I’ll be doing that in June.
I like doing the acoustic shows a lot, too. It’s a whole different energy from the shows with the band. It’s very intimate, and as such can be a bit scary at times, but that’s also the payoff – there’s nothing between you and the audience. It really gives you a chance to communicate on a high level.
You’ve said in other interviews that these days you’re not all that involved in creating music, but “just doing things you like to do.” What would that be?
Well, I’ve become a nature fanatic. I often prefer the company of trees and plants, and I tend a fairly sizeable plot in Central Park, which is a responsibility I take very seriously. I’m very grateful for the chance I’ve been given to be a part of this community.
I also find myself taking the time to do all the things I never had time to do when I was in the rock-star biz; not necessarily big things, but everyday bits and pieces that teach me something and put me more in touch with the real world.
What are your thoughts on “The Big Beat” (from Tale of the Tape) being sampled by hip-hop artists?
That has been totally unexpected – and mindblowing. Obviously, I had no idea what lay in store when I recorded the song back in ’79, but it has taken on its own cult of personality, and I’m kind of like the Robert Johnson of hip-hop [laughs]! I think it’s very cool, but I don’t think I can claim all that much credit – after all, I just gave them a beat, and in the end, if they’re happy, I’m happy.
Let’s talk about your guitars. When did you get the first guitar that would now be considered collectible?
I had a Gibson ES-335 in 1965 that I bought new. I don’t remember who or what influenced me to get it, and I subsequently traded it for something else – I used to do a lot of trading, depending on what I thought was cool at the time. And while I was never able to get a Les Paul Standard in those early days, I did follow Clapton’s route through the SG and from there into the double-cutaway Les Paul Special, of which I had two. After Derek & The Dominos, was released, I tracked down a ’57 Strat without a tremolo. It was then that I came up with what I believe to be the original expanded wiring design for this guitar. What happened was, I didn’t like having to jockey the toggle switch into those in-between positions for the out-of-phase funky sounds that Clapton was using, so I went to a couple of hot-shot guitar techs to see if they could help. The catch was I didn’t want to alter any of the original knobs or introduce anything new that would disturb the integrity of the instrument. When they couldn’t sort me out, I came up with the idea of converting the second tone control into a volume control for the neck pickup. I then wired the middle and lead pickups to the toggle switch in a normal two-pickup configuration. This enabled me to play any combination of pickups – seven in all – with no alterations to the body or pickguard. The Strats I have today are wired this way.
The guitar that’s been with me the longest at present is my ’56 Les Paul Special, which I bought in ’74.
When and how did the others come along?
My next move was to swap my ’57 Strat for a similar one with a whammy bar, in ’76. I acquired the Tele Custom for Tale of the Tape around the time I hooked up with Richie Friedman at We Buy Guitars on 48th Street. After Don’t Say No, he got me my first ‘Burst – a ’58.
I picked up my ’56 Les Paul Junior in Red Bank, New Jersey, and in ’82, Richie got me my ’51 No-Caster. Next was my ’63 Strat, which I believe came from Perry Margolof. In ’83, I was given a ’58 Burst by my merchandiser and friend, Peter Lubin, at the start of the second leg of the Emotions tour. After my original ’58 was stolen, I eased the pain by buying a ’59 from a guy in the Midwest. I also went back to Richie and picked up a ’58 goldtop that had previously belonged to Henry Gross, who previously owned my ’58 Burst. I found the ’58 Rick from a collector named Richard Heyman, in the East Village; he had a bunch of them. That must have been around 1990 or ’91. During a photo shoot in L.A. for the Truth album, I borrowed a ’52 goldtop that had been refinished in green and black, and I liked it so much that I went back to the shop and bought it. That was in early ’93.
Did you ever consciously say, “Yeah, I collect guitars,” or did you acquire them as you needed them?
If only [laughs]! I don’t consider myself a collector – I have a player’s collection. I buy the guitars I love for the music I make. They go on the road with me and are an integral part of what I do… they’re very personal. So I’ve never bought a guitar simply as an investment. If I buy something – not just guitars – that I truly feel passionate about, and it’s a quality piece, it will invariably appreciate in value. So in that way, I recognize their investment potential, but it’s strictly a bonus.
Ever trade off or sell a ‘Burst?
Who in his right mind would ever do that?
Are there any vintage pieces that have left your collection, and maybe wish you had back?
The 335 I had back in high school would be quite highly regarded today. I wouldn’t mind having that one. Of course, I still tell myself that one day my ’58 is gonna turn up.
You’ve always been a Marshall guy. Any particular reason ?
Well, Clapton has influenced pretty much all of my gear decisions. Of course, with Marshalls, you also had Jimi and Jeff and Pagey playing them, which gave them iconic status.
What amps did you use to record with back in the day?
In the studio, I used my Marshalls almost exclusively. I had them wired by this mad genius named Frank Levy, here in New York, in the ’70s. We’d hang out in the shop and tinker with them, he’d stay up all night and come in the next day and say, “Whadda ya think of this?” We’d mess around until we got what I wanted, and that has worked to this day. I also split up my cabinets with Celestions and Altecs, which gave me a bit more punch and definition without sacrificing the warm distortion characteristics of the Celestions. When I ran out of Altecs, I switched to EVs for the 2001 tour.
What are your most straight-up collectible amps?
I got my first Marshalls at Manny’s in ’69, before I even knew what a plexi was. I got my next batch in ’76, when I was putting Piper together. Dave Pastore hooked me up with those, and I still have most of them, along with some newer stuff Marshall throws my way from time to time, like the JCM 800s. But I stick with the originals almost exclusively. I’ve also got a Bluesbreaker combo that’s really fine – warm and sweet, just like the record. I’ve also got a nice Fender Deluxe from around ’52 that I keep at home. And I just picked up a Bogner Ecstasy Classic with the oversized 2×12″ cab, which I expect will be very collectible.
How did the gig come about with Ringo’s All-Starrs?
Well, Ringo first approached me back in 2001, but the timing wasn’t right for me. I didn’t really expect him to ask me again, and I didn’t want to turn him down again…
Who else is playing on it?
It’s an eclectic mix: besides me and Ringo, there’s Edgar Winter, Rod Argent, Sheila E, Hamish Stewart, and Richard Marx… whadda you think that’s gonna sound like (laughs)? Rehearsals start in June, and I’m very curious to see what we come up with.
And after it’s done, what’s in the works for you, music-wise and otherwise?
After this, it’s back to the garden – thanks for the inspiration, Joni!
November 13, 2005
“Genius of “Stroke”
Rock icon Billy Squier’s ’80s anthems are still in heavy rotation.
Maybe that’s why he has so much time for gardening.
By James Sullivan
Retiring rapper Jay-Z’s farewell anthem, “99 Problems,” booms with a big beat. In fact, it booms with “The Big Beat,” the lead track from Tale of the Tape, Billy Squier’s 1980 solo debut. The Wellesley-born rock icon’s bombastic pop-metal songs, which went on to define the hard sound of the ’80s, have been routinely sampled by rappers from Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane to British newcomer Dizzee Rascal. “The Stroke,” Squier’s suggestive signature song, popped up in the movie The Longest Yard, and his “Everybody Wants You” was reworked for the television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Now 55, Squier spoke with us about the excesses of the ’80s and trading his ax for pruning shears.
You’ve been asked to appear on “Where-are-they-now” shows but turned them down.
Without a second thought. I think those things are horrifying. These are desperate people. I’m not trying to cast aspersions, but I would like to hold onto whatever integrity I still have.
Your rock song “The Big Beat” just turned up on a new compilation called “Hip Hop Roots.” What do you think of the reference?
It’s the most sampled song in history – they said that on MTV, so even if I’m wrong, I’m not making it up. The intro of the song is me with my hands in a trap case, beating on the side of it. I just walked around the studio banging on stuff, looking for a sound. . . . People sometimes write that Billy is the king of hip-hop. I didn’t even know what hip-hop was then.
How many times has “The Stroke” been remixed?
I think if I had one more version, I’d put out a Stroke Volume 1 album. I’ve got probably eight or nine, which are all really different. Actually, someone approached us about doing that with “The Big Beat,” too. I wouldn’t want to end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the “Master of Hip-Hop Samples,” but you take what you can get.
Have you done better financially than some of your peers from all these samples?
Well, I wouldn’t lie. I’m the publisher of the songs and the writer. I do very well from that.
At the height of your popularity, you were one of the biggest rock stars around. You were hanging out with Def Leppard and Queen. How crazy was that?
I like to think that in my case it was relatively controlled, if decadence can be. I stepped up to the edge of the cliff a few times, but I never went over.
In hindsight, what was the worst thing about the ’80s?
MTV! It completely changed the face of music. For me, music is this incredibly cerebral trip. You turn on the radio or put on a record, and it’s your song, it’s what you see. When MTV came along, you didn’t have your story anymore.
Andy Warhol did the cover for 1982’s Emotions in Motion. How did that happen?
Andy was at the height of his popularity. So I called him up, and he said, “Sure.” He asked me what colors I didn’t like.
You grew up in Wellesley Hills?
Yes. My father worked for Converse Rubber. He was a regional sales manager back in their glory days – the Celtics, Bill Russell, and all that.
The Psychedelic Supermarket was the first nightclub you played regularly in the ’60s. What was that like?
It was just outside Kenmore Square, down an alley, no windows, not particularly high ceilings. Not a magic place like the [Boston] Tea Party, just a very industrial place. But I had a lot of great times there. We’d open for the Grateful Dead, the Moody Blues, Steve Miller. I spent six nights at [Eric] Clapton’s feet when Cream came there.
Your Berklee experience was short?
I went there for a year. I’d gone to New York at an early age, and I got beat up a little bit, emotionally. So I thought I’d go home and go to music school. Berklee’s a great school, but what Berklee teaches you is not what Billy Squier is about. I remember the last straw was when I did a recital for the head of the department. He said, “You played it fine, but you’re not playing it the way we want you to.”
Since dropping out of public view, you’ve immersed yourself in gardening and screenplays. Why?
Well, I got out of the business because I went from being the biggest artist on my record label to someone they didn’t even want to have around. I woke up one day and said, “I don’t need this.” I was walking down the street, and I saw this advertisement for writing screenplays. The first one I wrote ended up being a Sundance finalist for writing. I got into it for a couple of years, and then I realized I was talking to the same people I’d been talking to in the music business. I’m a huge garden and landscape fanatic. That happened when I bought a house on Long Island, back in 1988. The house was nice, but the land was terrible. Now I take care of 20 acres of Central Park, right in front of my place [as a volunteer for the park’s Conservancy]. I walk out to the park, and it’s like my garden. I’ve come across other things which have enabled me to learn about myself and what it is to be alive. Which is certainly not all about fame.
When you’re working in the park, unrecognized, does anyone ever say anything?
Yeah! When you’re getting adulation from 10,000 or 20,000 people, it’s pretty powerful. But getting thanked by one person is just as important.
James Sullivan’s book on the history of blue jeans will be out in 2006.
A few reviews of Billy’s new music:
Holy Shit! Just when you think it can’t be done again or any better.
Downloaded your 3 New Tunes. “Somebody loves you” and ” When she comes to me” are my favorites. “What If I told you is hauntingly beautiful” as well. You are an amazing musician, writer and such a poet. They really blew me away. Your music & words have meant a lot to me, so glad you continue to write, play & sing them.
Got tickets for July 24th, I do hope you play those new songs, and some tunes from Tell the truth & maybe Too daze gone too?
New music from Billy Squier is always cause for celebration. And the latest trio of “single” efforts from Billy are no exception…although it may come as something as a double-edged sword for Squier fanatics…yes, there’s new material….but we’re gonna want more!
When She Comes To Me is a classic Squier rocker. It’s a tight, completely confident little number that defies you not to rock along with it.
What If I Told You is most likely the gem of the new threesome. It’s a heartfelt and honest song…the writing, both lyrically and musically show that Billy continues to grow by leaps and bounds as a songwriter. And the same is true of his performance. Listening to this song is a moving experience.
Somebody Loves You continues to fully display Squier’s song writing chops in a very inspirational way.
Three new classics from Billy. Don’t miss them
Below we compiled a few reviews for Billy’s 2009 All Night Long Tour:
September 14, 2009—Ogden Theater, Denver, CO
Saw Billy Squier last night…and it was awesome!
He’s got a ton of great songs, his voice is still fantastic and his band rocks. Killer guitar sounds as well, Squier and the other guitar player both played an assortment of cool guitars (LPs, Strats, Teles, etc…) and both were plugged right into what looked to be old Marshalls. They were LOUD and sounded soooooo good. A lot of guys give lip service to the idea of plugging the guitar right into old non master volume Marshalls………but very few guys actually do it. Most guys end up with a boost pedal, maybe a few overdrives, an echoplex and on and on it goes………not these guys though, the only effect I heard all night was a wah for about 10 seconds during the intro of one of the songs. When they wanted the guitars louder and dirtier they played harder, when they wanted the guitars cleaner they played softer, when they wanted feedback they turned around and stood in front of their amps………no delay on the leads, no chorused out clean sounds………just great rock guitar sounds. Awesome awesome awesome.
All the best,
July 31, 2009—Fraze Pavillion for the Arts, Kettering, OH
Well, this was THE show I had been waiting on for YEARS…Billy at my local concert venue, The Fraze.
And it was worth the wait to be sure.
I almost called 9-1-1 because Billy’s guitar was on fiy-ah!
It sure felt like Billy elongated some songs in the set from just two weeks earlier. And since he started 15 minutes earlier and finished at the same time, the clock seemed to agree.
The guy who was sitting next to me—who is more of a regular concert goer—had constant praise for Billy and the band.
“Man, his bassist is good.”
“His drummer is freakin’ awesome.”
But the highest praise was left for Billy. He told me he was a guitar player himself and he’s always felt like Billy was underappreciated as a guitar player. “He’s clean, he’s aggressive…” I don’t remember all the adjectives he used to pour praise on Billy, but I just kept nodding my head in agreement.
I’ve thought for well over 25 years now that Billy has THE voice in all of rock-n-roll, and one of the qualities I’ve appreciated over the years is how good and clean his voice is live. And where most rockers of his age (sorry B) have half the voice they used to (which was never as good as Billy’s to begin with), Billy’s voice is still impressive and strong…arguably as strong as ever. If there’s a difference, it’s not noticeable to my ears.
There’s another aspect that I love about Billy’s shows that I’m not sure I’ve heard mentioned in previous reviews. And that’s the way that Billy performs his songs live. He maintains the integrity of the song…especially in the lyrics and how he sings the words…while kicking it up a notch to make it something special and unique in concert.
And make no mistake…Billy is special and unique in concert.
My biggest disappointment with the show had nothing to do with Billy or the band, but the crowd. My Dayton area brethren came out fairly strong…about 85-90% capacity…but it sure felt like my friend and I were the only people standing for large chunks of the show. From the time The Who’s “Don’t Get Fooled Again” was ending (the last song before Billy hits the stage), my butt never hit the seat. Sadly, some of the crowd may have walked away with hemorrhoids. (Get on your feet people, this is Billy Freakin’ Squier!)
I’m looking forward to more shows on this tour and just want to give a big THANK YOU to Billy and anyone else that had a hand in this tour coming to fruition. Thanks for giving me yet another amazing concert memory.
Personal Stuff from Show:
Earlier in the day, Kenny and I (Kenny drove in from Charlotte to see the show) made a 3-hour roundtrip to pick-up front row tickets I found on eBay the night before. Because I already had 3 seats in the 3rd row, this meant that 2 more people could see Billy. One of those would be my 69-year old dad. Earlier in the week I had “disowned” my Dad because he made a comment along the lines of “I don’t know what all the fuss is about with this Billy Squier.” My dad had grown up listening to country music and had only recently started listening to contemporary music or any pop/rock music from the 80’s. After the show I hesitantly asked my dad what he thought. His response: He held up a hand for a High Five and proclaimed, “Billy Rocks!” He had a blast and I’m glad he now sees what the fuss is about. It’s good to have Dad back in the family! 🙂
And oh yeah, I did walk away with a nice drumstick souvenir from Nir. (Billy is being really stingy with the picks. I haven’t seen a single pick go to the crowd in 2 shows now.)
July 25, 2009—Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel, Salamanca, NY
It didn’t surprise me in the least to see that Billy could still rock the house. The guitar solo he did “with a little help from Marc” or maybe I should say the greatest jam session I have ever heard was fantastic. I think the song that did me in was when he played “More Than Words Can Say” with a dedication to his God children. Brought me to tears!!! I’ll tell you what I’m not a young puppy anymore but I literally couldn’t sit down the whole show. I hope this won’t be the last tour he does I’d love to have the chance to take my Daughter so she can hear what a true musician really sounds like!!! Keep rockin Billy…
July 24, 2009—Capital One Bank Theatre, Westbury, NY
It was a privilege to see the show in Atlantic City, and again in Westbury, where I also got to meet Billy, however briefly. That in itself was a dream come true, though 30 years late!
I had heard that Billy wasn’t feeling well prior to the Westbury show, though it certainly wasn’t evident during his performance. The word “awesome” is one of the most overused words these days, but it absolutely applied both to Billy’s performances and to his incredible voice. (I could listen to Billy read the NYC phone book, but that’s another story…) Billy’s tribute to Freddy Mercury sent chills down my spine, especially when he hit the high notes at the end. It was a very touching moment.
Interspersed with such hits as My Kinda Lover, Rock Me Tonite, She’s a Runner, Don’t Say You Love Me, and Calley-Oh were long jams featuring Billy’s wicked guitar skills and backed up by new second guitarist Marc Copely. Having Alan St. Jon back on keyboards was a treat for the fans and made it feel like old times, and enlisting the talented Nir Z on drums made for a rockin’ good time. Mark Clarke was a demon on bass, and the backing vocals were spot-on. Kudos to the boys in the band. But the show belonged to Billy.
The audience was on it’s feet early at both shows, when Billy opened with Lonely is the Night, and eagerly joined in later on The Stroke. We got to hear a more mellow Billy on More Than Words Can Say off his Happy Blue acoustic album. With talent like Billy’s, it’s no surprise that he is branching out into the blues genre, and is so heavily sampled in rap.
At the Westbury show a fan yelled out “John Lennon – Nobody Knows,” and I have to agree that it would have been fantastic to hear Billy do that one again. But I can’t argue with the playlist for the shows. Of Billy’s many unforgettable hits, how was it possible to narrow down the ones he would perform on tour? Glad I didn’t have to make that decision! Playing everything I would have wanted to hear truly would have taken him “All Night Long” – and then some.
Billy ended both shows with Everybody Wants You, and in my opinion, that’s never been more true. I do hope that Billy adds a play date in NYC before his tour is over. Thanks Billy for an unforgettable couple of nights!
July 17, 2009—Brew Blast, Columbus, OH
All I can say is WOW! The Billy Squier show was fantastic. I knew it would be good but was truly blown away. From the opening riffs of “Lonely is the Night”, Billy and his extremely tight band did not disappoint. All the hits were there as well as some new and obscure songs that went over great. The songs were extended into fierce jams that only added to the magic. Billy is an UNDERRATED guitar player who plays seamlessly off of the other top-notch musicians he surrounds himself with (and I do mean top-notch!). This is a must see show. If you like hard driving, melodic Rock and Roll delivered with impeccable sound…Billy Squier is on tour delivering it !!!!
July 12, 2009—Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe, PA
Since I was a teenage girl watching Billy Squier on MTV, I have dreamt of meeting him and seeing him live in concert and on the night of July 12th, that dream came true! I had the fortune of meeting the lyrical genius in person and watched him perform at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA. Billy and the band ROCKED the house from the moment they all came out on stage until the final bow! He sang all my favorites from every stage of his musical career from Little Miss Intent to More Than Words Can Say. He opened with All Night Long and I wish he could have played all night long! The set included all time greats such as The Stroke, Everybody Wants You, Rock Me Tonight, G.O.D., My Kind of Lover, She’s Got Rhythm, Love is the Hero, L.O.V.E., Calley Oh, and Don’t Say You Love Me.
As I was in the Pit just a few feet back from the stage, I was able to see just how much Billy and the band were enjoying themselves by the expressions on their faces. Audience participation was encouraged for songs such as Rock Me Tonight and Don’t Say You Love Me and we all sang along willingly. We might have not been as loud as he would have liked, but we gave it a try!
This night will live in my memory indefinitely! For all the true fans out there…this is a show you cannot miss!
July 11, 2009—Hilton Hotel, Atlantic City, NJ
The show was great!! Billy seemed to be enjoying himself and all the guys he had with him were rockin also. The theater was packed and everyone was eager for the show to start. The guy in front of me actually saw Billy when he opened up for Queen. That was this guy’s first concert ever. I thought it was cool he was back to see Billy. There was also a very old couple in their 70’s in the next aisle. I was dying to know what brought them to the concert but before I worked the nerve up to asking them the concert was about to start.
The show was up close and personal which was awesome. I sat in the fourth row and to the right if you’re facing the stage. From that distance the stage is literally 10 feet away. He started with Lonely is the night and had the place on their feet singing along. The entire show was worth saying something about but, I’m just going to give you my personal highlights. Loved G.O.D. Billy, I was right there with you man. Word for word. So happy that song was played. Not to many people knew it but i hope they found a new respect for it. Loved the Special intro to Love is the Hero. Billy’s cover of Freddie’s excluded intro to that song. Billy really showed off his voice. I wish he would have done the whole song. I love that song. My Kinda Lover was amazing. It made the crowd go wild. Billy played guitar like a guitar God all night long. She’s a Runner was great to hear as well as Don’t say you love me. Billy spoke to the crowd several times which was cool and everyone totally lost it when he played The Stroke. The women ran out of their seats rushed to the front of the stage and started screaming. Maybe they were taking him literally? lol just kidding He really got the entire audience involved and everyone was shouting stroke me stroke me. From that point on chairs were empty everyone stood for the rest of the concert either in the aisle, in front of their chair or in the aisle in front of the stage like me and my girlfriend.
Billy was very cool about letting us take his picture he would walk to the edge of the stage and let us snap away. He would look straight into the camera for you. He did this many times for many people. Toward the end of the show he played and played and played at the edge of the stage on both sides and always look out across the theater to make contact with those in the back. I have to say Billy still drives the girls crazy. They were screaming and screaming and he played for them. At the end of the show a girl ran on stage to hug Billy before security grabbed her. Something very funny I have to mention. I brought my girlfriend who is I think very pretty but, she knows and likes Billy because of me I’ve been a fan since 1982 when I was 6 years old. Billy would never remember me from the concert but he let my girlfriend take tons of pictures of him some very close. He went away came back to this side again and when she finally gave me the camera I only got to take one shot. Billy likes the ladies LOL.Hahahaha She laughed. I said Who’s the Billy Squier fan here me or you?
Rock Me Tointe brought the house down everyone loved it. Billy had us singing it with hi m and we loved doing that. The show ended with my favorite BS song Everybody Wants You and he and they played the hell out of that that. Amazing. Show stopping. Fantastic. Everyone left happy. I finally asked that old couple what they were doing at the show. They were guests at the Hilton and wanted to see a show. They had never heard of Billy but, they figured they’d give it a try. I asked her if she liked it. She said yea but it was a bit to loud LOL. Maybe if you’re in your 70’s. It was fun. If Billy Plays in your area go see him. It is worth it and you will be happy you did. Oh and the T-Shirts are cool. Check out the all Night long one with the Emotions in Motion Picture on it. I bought one. Billy if you read this I was in the front wearing a fleetwood mac t shirt singing all the words and playing guitar with you. I doubt you will but thanks for the show, and all the years of…wonderful songs. They mean so much to me.
Hey…thought I would share my thoughts on the Atlantic City show…
Well, after months of anticipation the date finally arrived. Billy Squier, back where he belongs…on stage performing his original material. I found myself driving from Philly to the Atlantic City venue on a warm Saturday afternoon. I had an all-new forty-three track play-list of Squier songs (including the three fabulous new ones) programed on the i-pod. As I entered Atlantic City, I was greeted by a huge billboard promoting Billy’s appearance. It sent chills through me. It was only eleven in the afternoon…how the hell was I gonna wait until eight that night for the ‘show?
We were front row- center. I had my chin on the stage at Billy’s feet. Unbelievable. Is it possible to be TOO CLOSE? As for the show? RIDICULOUS. The band was tight and sounded tremendous. And Billy? I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform many times and I have always believed that he has gotten better with each new tour. This was no exception—but I even I have to admit I was surprised by the intensity he played with. Squier was on fire! And it pleased me to close enough to see that Billy and the boys were enjoying themselves. This is the real deal. And the crowd was incredibly receptive. They were excited as all get-out and went wild for Billy…it did my heart a world of good to hear so many people sing the praises of Billy Squier through out the course of the evening.
Concerning the set list…this surprised me some as well. Being a die-hard like myself, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for Billy to cover everything I would want to hear. But
the omissions from this tour were curious: No In the Dark? No She Goes Down? And it struck me as really odd that given that the tour is christened THE ALL NIGHT LONG tour…said song was never played. Again, that’s a minor quibble at best. I was very pleased that Billy pulled out Strange Fire, L.O.V.E., The Girl’s All Right, and Little Miss Intent. The combo of More Than Words Can Say leading into She’s a Runner was an absolute winner too…as was the new intro into My Kinda Lover. But I think the winner of the evening was the jaw-dropping performance of G.O.D. And then there was that Love is the Hero intro…nothing shy of amazing.
My pal Tom has seen a lot of bands play live…up close and personal, Eric Clapton among them. After leaving the show (and once our hearing started to slightly return), I asked him if he was impressed. Tom could only shake his head and mutter in a stunned mumble, “I’ve never seen anybody play a guitar like that.” He then stated he was gonna get us another pair of tickets for another Billy Squier show.
June 30, 2009—Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI
Looking youthful in a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a haircut much more closely cropped than in his early ’80s arena-rock heyday, Billy Squier showed that time has done little to diminish his swaggering rock anthems with a strong set Tuesday at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino Rock Stage.
Largely invisible for the last decade – with the exception of Jay-Z’s sampling of his song “The Big Beat” on his hit “99 Problems”- Squier, 59, could have been sitting in a cryogenic chamber somewhere.
Hits like “Lonely Is the Night” and “My Kind of Lover,” played early in the set, sounded fresh, with Squier’s voice carrying like a bullet.
Even “More Than Words Can Say,” a song off his lackluster acoustic album, “Happy Blue,” sounded great with the benefit of electrification.
By the time he got to some of his biggest and most recognizable songs – “The Stroke” and “Rock Me Tonite” – Squier had proved that his rock ‘n’ roll has stayed big, even if the arenas have gotten smaller.
—Bob Purvis, Special to the Journal Sentinel
June 27, 2009—Northern Lights Casino, Walker, MN
Hello!!!! I just want to say that I have seen Billy Squier in concert 5 times and the show he played on 6/27/09 in Walker, MN was the BEST ever!!!!! I was in 8th row center and what an awesome show!!!!! I heard the new Billy songs over the monitors before the show and they sounded great!!!! I have been Billy Squier fan since sixth grade and I am 41 now, Billy has been and will always be my favorite musician!!!! Everyone at the show was standing and singing for the popular songs and then sat down for the less popular songs like Calley Oh, Strange Fire, The Girl’s Alright, G.O.D., etc., but not me I stood the whole time and sang every word to ALL of the songs!! When everyone in the seven rows in front of me were sitting down, it felt like the 8th row was like the first row!!!!! At one point I was singing along with “The Girl’s Alright” and it looked like Billy noticed me singing along and he gave me a nod of the head like ‘…thank you’. My cousin next to me even noticed that, so that was very cool!!!!
Billy did take a moment to mention his Godson Harrison, and a girl named Victoria (I think) as being important people in his life, that was nice. The intro to Love Is the Hero was really cool where Billy sang Freddie Mercury’s part. Billy did an excellent job with his vocal range on that one, wish he would have sang the whole song though, that is my favorite from Enough is Enough.
I would have gone to the show on 7/20/09 as it was closer to home, but I was out of state due to my job.
I really hope Billy get’s the inspiration to write more material (to add to the three new ones he recently did) from being out on tour!! All in all this was the best show!!! (bought two t-shirts!!) I wish I would have upgraded to the meet and greet I really would like to meet Billy one day and thank him for all the music that has meant a lot to me and reflects my life in a lot of ways!!!!! Thanks Billy!!!!
From your biggest fan in Minnesota!!!!!
June 26, 2009—Dakota Magic Casino, Hankinson, ND
At long last, the exceptionally talented guitarist, singer, and songwriter Billy Squier returns to where he never should have left—the stage. Experiencing his highly anticipated live performances, once again, sent chills through me.
Presenting multiple talents, Billy surrounds himself with top musicians. The legendary Mark Clarke, bassist, exhibited himself in top form with his refined aptitude on bass and vocals. Clarke’s talent can be summed up in one word: “Stunning.” Still hitting the high notes, Mr. Alan St. Jon’s exceptional backup vocals provided the articulate pitch anticipated by the audience. Combine his extraordinary vocals with his stimulating talent on keyboards, St. Jon performed famously. New to the group, Billy adds guitarist Marc Copley. Copley’s superior technique and enthusiastic delivery truly delighted the crowd. Accepting no substitutions for the best of the best, Billy retains drummer Nir Z, a highly in-demand drummer, who exudes a pulsating presence.
Performing songs from every album, much to the audience’s pleasure, the truly gifted Billy Squier satisfied the expectation of the audience who chanted his name prior to his entrance. Appearing at home on stage, Billy mesmerized the crowd with his celebrated guitar playing, and unique voice. Seeming most comfortable in front of a guitar, which happens to be where the fans adore him, he never sounded better! Taking a hike down memory lane, Billy kicked out astonishing performances of “Rock Me Tonight,” “(L.O.V.E) Four Letter Word,” “G.O.D.,” and of course the highly anticipated “Everybody Wants You.”
Unnecessarily apologizing for his inclusion of the intro from a track on his Happy Blue album, Billy seamlessly led into the recognized “She’s a Runner.” His clean performance created a tranquil feel for the audience, and brought tears to some.
The equally dispersed enthusiasm by both men and women of multiple generations displays the timeless effect of Billy’s music.
Listening to fellow audience members while exiting the showroom Sunday at the Northern Lights Casino in Walker, MN, I overheard several rumblings referring to how the culmination of the show arrived too quickly, leaving the audience wanting much more. Not getting enough of Billy and his music myself after attending three shows in as many days, I feel the same. As the title of the tour implies, I could have listened to Mr. Squier and his fabulous ensemble Play All Night Long!
—Teresa Greenwood, Minneapolis, MN
June 23, 2009—Turning Stone Casino, Verona, NY
We had just a SPECTACULAR time at the concert.
Billy is in PRIME form and sounded fantastic. Wow, was it good to hear the old 80’s songs in the true 80’s guitar Marshall crank sound! I’m a guitarist so it gives me chills, haaa.
Billy’s voice is as good as it was back in the day, and what a great band!
Now for the Review……….. absolutely SMOKING CRANKING good ole fashioned rocknroll….. LOVED IT! Re-lived high school and college with classic rock never sounding better!
His voice is as good as it was back in the day (that’s incredible). The light show was AWESOME, and the band is great. The bass player had HUGE vocals and sounded great.
I didn’t realize Billy played so much lead guitar? He jammed all night long playing leads in about every song. I must admit that I relished in it as it was that old 80’s marshall CRANK sound which I NEVER get to hear anymore… so was LOVING it… but about half way through it seemed they cranked it up a couple more notches and it got a bit over the top in volume (which wasn’t necessary, as it was loud at first, but sounded good)
The hall had good acoustics so that helped…. in a hockey arena or something, I would have had to go to the hospital for my ears.
Overall I can’t say enough about how good it was to hear good ole fashioned rocknroll. Still several songs I would have liked to hear including more Piper, and more solo stuff… he didn’t play “Big Beat” and a few others that I would have liked, but his set did include these songs: (in no particular order)
- Lonely is the night (opening song)
- The Stroke
- Don’t say no
- Little miss intent (Piper) … was loving that at least he played 1 Piper song
- Rock me tonight
- She’s a runner
- Calley oh
- She’s got rhythm (that girl is alright) … not sure what that song is, but that was the chorus
- Everybody wants you
By the way, he also played about 3 or 4 new songs or songs that I have never heard, and they were all very good (one especially good)…. classic rock sounding, similar to his other stuff.
What a GREAT night…. thanks to Billy… KEEP ON ROCKIN!
[Note on volume: we didn’t turn up…he’s just hasn’t been able to see enough shows like this, so his ears must’ve given out. 😉 —Billy]
Saw Billy rehearsing at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY.
Saw – heard them play “The Stroke” and “Calley Oh”…. two of my fave’s….. so REALLY excited ot see it tomorrow night.
They sounded spectacular! I was honestly a bit surpised that Billy’s voice sounds as good as ever, including hitting high notes easily! The band sounded fantastic, bringing right back to the late 70’s early 80’s PRIME Billy!
I’m happy to report with a sneak peek that Billy is back and as good as ever…. Wahoooo!
I’ll be at the show tomorrow night and will send a review as well as set list as best as I can produce.