Aug 012011

A Billy Squier song came on the radio last night and while it wasn’t great, it was a darn good serviceable rock song that Boston might have done. Of course it got me thinking about this video. I know his audience was female, but at the time, my wife and her friends thought this was the most ridiculous video ever — and any thought of Squier as a credible rocker was forever lost. Still cracks me up. You can do a million things right to build a career…and then one thing wrong. Not sure he ever recovered after this.


  40 Responses to “Video Killed the Radio Star?”

  1. cliff sovinsanity

    Yeah, but it’s his own damn fault. There’s nothing in the first half of the video that tells me Mr. Squier was forced against his will to “dance” around like it was a sultry Friday night. I bet you this video was his idea. Or perhaps we was warming up and the crew didn’t tell him the cameras were on.
    Also, the kicking with the lavender colored guitar at around the 4:15 mark is probably the sissiest thing I’ve seen from male hetero-rocker in 30 years of rock. He is straight, right?
    Have we discussed the Rock Crime of wearing your own band t-shirt ?

  2. sammymaudlin

    I have long said and believed that this single video is responsible for his downfall. Yes the song is bad but he wouldn’t have been the first to survive a bad song. And yest the video is bad but he wouldn’t have been the first to survive a bad video either (see Mick/Bowie Dancing In the Streets). There is a single item in this video that puts it over the survival edge and that is…the deliberately torn t-shirt. Not that torn t-shirts are taboo but this one in particular does not rock in any sort of way and in fact causes me to shrivel. It takes a certain type to pull this kind of torn-t off it is more someone like this-

  3. Wait, Squier’s audience was female? I know he was pretty and all, but my memory of Northeast Junior High circa ’81-’83 is that only dudes liked Squier, specifically the same dudes who liked Van Halen.

  4. tonyola

    As bad as the torn t-shirt is – and it is bad to be sure – it’s nothing compared to the two-layer pastel tank-top he puts on afterward. Was he trying for a Richard Simmons look there? Is it any wonder that he was sleeping alone?

  5. Yup, this video killed it dead. It’s a shame because Don’t Say No and Emotions In Motion weren’t bad albums. Not ground breaking in any sense, just decent, entertaining rock albums at the time. Up until a few years ago, I had a Billy Squire Night once a year where I would play both albums back to back. Full disclosure: I was usually the only person in attendance during Billy Squire Nights.

  6. tonyola

    That probably changed to dudes who liked Boy George and Frankie Goes to Hollywood after this video.

  7. machinery

    I really respect the drum part here. Pretty in the pocket

  8. misterioso

    Yeah, I think this has come up here before. It may be true, as Cliff S. said, that no one forced him to do the video–I mean, unless the label forced him to do it and to have it be directed by the guy who choreographed the Xanadu movie, Kenny Ortega. It is possible that Squier was an innocent victim.

    Funny thing is I was in a cd store earlier today and saw the Squier section and picked up a copy of the Don’t Say No 30th anniversary edition. (I mean I picked it up and looked at it, not that I bought it. No, no.) Then I thought of this video.

    Actually, what I thought about was his SNL appearance when he performed this song. See, I’m not sure we even had MTV yet in my town when this came out–video watching was limited to local shows (anyone remember Hot Hit Videos on Channel 7 in Boston?) and national shows like USA Nightflight. So what I remember everyone talking about (I was in high school at the time) was the SNL appearance and how (forgive the expression) totally gay it was.

    Interesting now to watch it again: see He seems rockin’ enough until he chucks the guitar around 3:20 and then really doesn’t tart it up until around the 4:00 mark. So, I don’t know.

    Then there’s the more complicated ethical issue of how I know it is wrong, absolutely wrong, to be ok with the fact that Squier’s career flamed out (er, you know what I mean) because he seemed to act in a way that is stereotypically supposed to be “gay.” It’s wrong, dead wrong. I know that.

    So, what I am suggesting is that someone should have taken him aside at the time and said: “Billy, here’s the thing. In a better time and place a heterosexual man or a homosexual man will be able to prance around in a two-layer pastel tank top and it won’t be any big deal. For all I know, Billy, some day, everyone will be doing it. But Billy, this day has not yet dawned. May I suggest you make take that video, burn it, then bury the ashes, and make a new video in which you act a little more, uh, how to put this, kick-ass?”

    Billy never got that advice, I suspect.

  9. The pastel colors were just an unfortunate byproduct of the times. I recall lots of folks sporting pastel colors in the “New Wave” era. Even Ry Cooder appeared on the cover of Bop Til You Drop in a pink suit with a powder blue guitar. Of course, Ry had the good sense not to take a video of himself mincing around his lonely, lonely room.

  10. I just watched him on that SNL clip and his stage presence in general is very awkward.

  11. For better or for worse (mostly worse) anyone who had a hit video in the 1st few years of MTV is now forever frozen in time to this era. Not that many of them didn’t benefit (greatly) from this exposure at the time, but I bet many of them cringe at the phrase “video artists” If you were forced to use your 7th grade class picture as your avatar for the rest of your life wouldn’t you wish that you had stayed home that day?

    Billy Squire was a poor man’s Van Halen / Sammy Hagar / Robert Plant / Bad Company but he had a few decent pop hits and might have made it through the 2nd part of the 80’s if it were not for the video revolution that he got swept up in.

  12. cliff sovinsanity

    Corr: lavender satin pants and pink guitar

  13. For the record, I like Billy Squire better than Van Halen / Sammy Hagar / Robert Plant / Bad Company, but that’s damning him with faint praise.

  14. Billy was a darling of KQ92 in Mpls — the station of Led Zep — probably because of his remotely Plant-like yowl on Lonely Is the Night, which is why I suspect they played him to death.

    I actually saw Billy once in Mpls — but I really don’t remember much about the show. I remember buying his first band “Piper” in the cut-outs, just to see what it sounded like. It was not good

  15. Piper’s “Can’t Wait”
    Now a $24 eBay item. Note cutout in right lower quarter of album jacket. Beautiful.

  16. ladymisskirroyale

    What year was this video? Before or after Flashdance? That it was directed by the choreographer of Xanadu makes it all come together. Same artistic director as well, I would guess, what with all that white and pastel finery.

    My observation – dude needs to wear a dance belt or a jock. Free Ballin’ Squire! Mr. Royale’s observation – he is well familiar with that dance as it is the one he performs in front of the bathroom door if the room is occupied.

  17. BigSteve

    Checking the dates of Squier’s career in wikipedia, I found this:

    “On the VH1 show Ultimate Albums …. Squier blamed the end of his career as a chart-topping rocker on the release of the “Rock Me Tonite” video.”

    I don’t know, the theory being proposed here seems at odds with the fact that Queen was still enormously popular at this time.

  18. misterioso

    I believe this is where the letters TMI are generally deployed!

  19. misterioso

    Hard to say, BigSteve. Seems to me that Queen had fallen on hard times in the U.S., anyway, by this point. I am not qualified to say that it was because of the “I Want to Break Free Video” with Freddy in drag, but I wonder if that did not make too apparent what had previously been implied in ways that were not seen as ok in the U.S., at least, in the age of Reagan. At any rate, they were effectively done as a top 40 band in the U.S.

    Squier, perhaps, could have gotten away with those moves if he had not been pegged as a “hard rocker,” a real man, as it were. You know, like the singer for Judas Priest. What can you say: it was a weird time. The mainstream tolerated certain things in certain contexts and definitely did not in others. Fascinating, really.

  20. Wow, Van Halen is in my top 10 favorite bands, Billy Squire is not in my top 100.

  21. Queen was already out of the US’s rock radio favor when Body Language and Calling All Girls were released as the singles for Hot Space (’82?). Rock AOR radio had Under Pressure, Crazy Little Thing Called Love and were ok about the “disco” Another one bites the dust. Hot Space was all disco beats and synths..too much.

  22. 2000 Man

    Wow, I don’t own a record by either one of them!

    I’ll come clean, though. Billy was the opening act at a show I wanted to see (don’t remember who), and my friend gave me a free ticket if I’d wear a Sroke Me Stroke Me promo shirt that was a small when I wore a medium. I had more chicks offering to trade shirts with me, but if I took it off I had to pay for my ticket and I was very poor! He wore the shirt to a show after that, and only guys asked him where he got it. I told him he was doing it wrong!

  23. cliff sovinsanity

    I don’t think hard rock audiences have ever come around to any band or singer with even the slightest gay nuances.Queen being the rare exception. If this girlish prancing about is what killed Billy Squier’s career how do we explain mid 80’s hard rock fans embracing the makeup, leather and lace flash metal of Poison, Motley Crue and Cinderalla.
    Dee Snider made a great comment in Metal: A Headbangers Journey about psychologist looking into straight male audiences watching other males on stage looking like women wearing make-up and spandex

  24. tonyola

    Right. Queen had only two real hits from 1980’s The Game. “Another One Bites the Dust” came just in time to catch the last gasp of disco and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was the type of retro-oldies throwback that would be soon done more “authentically” by the Stray Cats. Queen’s days as a huge rock headliner were over. “Radio Gaga” was a minor hit in 1984 but that was pretty much it for the 1980s.

  25. tonyola

    It’s funny that Rob Halford dressed onstage with Judas Priest like a Tom of Finland cartoon for a decade without anyone so much as batting an eye.

  26. Mercury was stylish in his homophobia-inducing outfits. He was his own man. He was a pioneer of outlandish rock ‘n roll stagewear. Squier’s sin was dressing in that trendy Flashdance outfit, which was bound to go out of style 5 minutes after the release of that video.

  27. Yes, I’ve seen Halford say things in interviews like “I had short hair bleached platinum blonde, I was wearing leather and studs, and I played with a whip on stage. NO ONE twigged that I was gay?”

  28. …Well, that, AND his awful music!

  29. I remember some kid in my 8th grade art class arguing the relative merits of he-men Judas Priest over those “fags”, The Rolling Stones, by stating, “If Priest ever got into a fight with The Stones, Priest would kick their asses!”

  30. I bet just as many people think that’s an actual Led Zeppelin song as think “Love Is Like Oxygen” is by ELO.

  31. One Vison got airplay here in Atlanta (theme to Iron Eagle movie) in 1986? and radio still played BoHo Rap and Fat Bottomed Girls, but it was like 1982 – 1985 did not exist. I think they played Innuendo (1990) a few times, but NOT Radio Gaga (the video did well though)

  32. alexmagic

    Agreed with the general take, including Squier’s, that this video killed him. The big difference between Squier in this video and the various video/clip appearances of Freddie Mercury and the later hair metal-era bands is that Mercury and the hair metal guys (and somewhere in the middle, Diamond Dave) were completely aware of what they were doing and in control of it. Even though they were approaching camp from opposite ends with opposite goals in mind, they owned it and it fed back into their images.

    Squier, musically, sounds like he’s coming from a Def Leppard kind of area. Solid, perfectly acceptable workman-like arena rock stuff. To my recollection, that’s pretty much the image Def Leppard tried to project for most of their career (up until that CGI cartoon video that I think coincided with their fall from being a hit machine). Squier just looks like a goof here, completely out of line with his “future lesser classic rock radio staple” material. He didn’t have nearly the outsized, theatrical hyper-presence that Mercury and Roth had to get away with/excel at this kind of video. “Rock Me Tonite” would have been a great ’80s Queen/Van Halen/Solo DLR video.

    Now, you put Billy Squier in that Firm video that we analyzed a few years ago, he easily gets another two, three months on added to his shelf-life.

  33. Watching that video again I’m thinking Squier should have moved to Boston (if he’s not already from there – I know nothing about him) and recast himself as a hard-workin’ member of The Neighborhoods.

  34. misterioso

    He is from Boston. Last I remember reading, he was living in some fab place on Central Park–the same building where Bono lives. There was a story a few years ago where Bono was clashing with several fellow residents, including Squier. (See

    Anyway, it seems pretty clear that he saved his money, at least.

  35. Maybe I’d retained that information about Squier, but for some reason I was thinking he’s got a “Boston mug” and musical sensibility.

  36. Man, reading that NY Times piece I’m reminded of the struggles of Frasier Crane! Surprising, too, that by going by the name “Bono,” that the man escapes the Times’ dedication to addressing everyone by a title. Are stories referring to “Mr. Loaf” apocryphal, or did Meat Loaf also get a pass on a title?

  37. misterioso

    I am tempted to take that as an insult, but I won’t.

  38. alexmagic

    “Mr. Vox”

  39. misterioso

    According to the New York Times: “The notion that The Times referred to Meat Loaf as ‘Mr. Loaf’ is more or less apocryphal. As my colleague Merrill Perlman explained when she took questions in this forum, our one use of “Mr. Loaf” was as a joke, in a headline for a review of a movie about him. The headline was, ‘Is He Called Just Plain Meat Or Should It Be Mr. Loaf?'” (Talk to the Newsroom:
    Deputy News Editor Philip B. Corbett, Published: October 29, 2007)

  40. Thank you for clearing that up. Are you reading this, world?

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