Billy Squier


By Dimitri
(SugarBuzz USA)

SugarBuzz Magazine


...Dimitri Sugarbuzz USA picks up a Greatest Hits CD at the thrift-store by an unfairly derided eighties arena-rock superstar...


Some kids I rode the bus to school with lived in one of those houses that all the fussy, Smilin' Bob-suburbanites disdained for bringing down the property-values of the whole neighborhood. The kinda house you see parodied on all those TV comedies that ridicule poor people and white southerners. Cars on cinder blocks...animal statues...sports apparatus, a seldom used trampoline...maybe a foos-ball table, bits of junk in the unmowed lawn, and deer blanket, and Jack Daniels county-fair tapestries, for curtains.

All the kids wore sports team bubble coats. I naturally, gravitated to them as companions, in spite of their being Hee Haw, rough and tumble football monkeys, because, at least they weren't Izod preppies, and the older brother played saxophone in the school band, and having just discovered 70's Bowie, I was already lookin' to form a weirdo rock group, and get the fook outta the suburbs.

Plus-their Father had these excellent fire-works, and stashes of 70's porn, hidden casually all over the house. Their older sister was a big rock fan, four or five years older than me, and kept hundreds of records in Peaches record-store crates, atop the pool table, downstairs. Her tastes were painfully mainstream, she loved Journey, Frampton, early Van Halen, Loverboy, Triumph, and a little metal. Stuff like Saxon, Krokus, M.S.G., and the Scorpions. Her major heart-throb, though, was Billy Squier.

"Fast Times At Ridgemont High" made a huge impression on all of us, back then. Even the jerk-off sportos and posh country club golf-shirts spoke in fake-stoner, Valley Dude, Spicoli surf-jive. In Ohio! Even I still love Checkered Vans, old Van Halen, and Phoebe Cates. 'Can't help it. All I really know about that Billy Squier guy's history, is that some label signed his band, Piper, instead of Van Halen, back in their club days, and I think he toured with KISS. Looking back on his work, I can see why he was so popular. This cat was like, the REAL Bon Jovi. He had a perfect voice for heavy stadium/radio-friendly pop-rock. Sure, summa his stuff was Sammy Hagar-dumb, but every once in awhile, he could write a tune that was as melodic and rockin' as Cheap Trick, or Rick Springfield. His vocals gave Zander a run for his money, really. "Everybody Wants You", and "My Kinda Lover" had the same kinda urgent new wave energy that both Cheap Trick, and Tom Petty's stuff were infused with, at their respective zeniths. It's ashame that so few seem to remember how talented this guy was. Buck Cherry cover "The Stroke", but mostly, he's sortof an ironic punch-line.

Popular folk-lore has it that what killed his career was some hokey Miami Vice style video for "Rock Me Tonight" where he flash-dances around in a pink muscle t-shirt, maybe even leg warmers, I can't remember. That seems utterly absurd to me, given the era it was in, with David Lee Roth dressing like Ric "The Nature Boy" Flair, and all that MTV gender-bending, but lines were drawn at high-schools, back then. The Square Pegs didn't fraternize with the burnt-outs. The metal kids didn't mix much with the punks. Maybe the Don Johnson-pastels weren't the best idea, seeing as how he seemed to share an audience with Hagar, and Aldo Nova.

I dunno much about the fickle preferences of macho, mainstream, ticket-buying, concert-goers. They seem to see music as merely another sporting-event. The chicks go to hear the bands, supposedly, and the cave-men follow, to reenact the usual sporting-event rituals of obediently forking over all their hard-earned money for overpriced parking, overpriced tickets, overpriced vendors, and overprized merchandise, all in the seemingly pathetic hopes of having some drunk "whoo-girl" climb up on their shoulders in a bikini bottom, so they can feel her hot crotch pressed against the back of their sunburnt neck, while she flashes her corn-fed titties at the band. Those sorta folks don't seem to care that much if they're watching Metallica, or Garth Brooks, the Dallas Cowboys, or Eminem. The ritual is the thing.

The production on much of this collection is like a text-book example of how artists should avoid "cutting-edge" musical trends like the plague. Alot of his songs might not be so painfully cheesey and embarrassing, if they didn't sound so much like Kenney Loggins, Glen Frey, Ray Parker Jr., or Phil Collin's idea of "urban-edginess", back in the days of Eddie Murphy car-chases, and many, many movies about yachts and cocaine dealers. He's about as dangerous sounding as Huey Lewis on a lot of this, so I can see why that might alienate a core fan-base of people who saw him as a Van Halenesque pop metal guitar hero. Just listen to "All Night Long" and try not to picture Miami Vice scenes, in your head.

Anyway, if I still had a radio show, I'd spin some stuff offa this compilation, without being a smart-ass. He could easily make a come-back with a hard-pop hit and the right marketing. If I was working with him, I'd accentuate his Cheap Trick/Van Halen power pop appeal. He needs to write a feel-good anthem, and a sensitive ballad. Maybe get him to cover one of my Babys-influenced originals. He's got a superb voice, is a good lookin' cat, plays guitar, understands pop music, and he definitely deserves to still have a career-especially, if suckass Bon Jovi does.

(-DIMITRI SUGARBUZZ USA respects Billy Squier. Sincerely.)

SugarBuzz Magazine