William Haislip "Billy" Squier (born May 12, 1950) is an American rock musician. Squier had a string of arena rock hits in the 1980s. He is best known for the classic song "The Stroke", from his 1981 Triple Platinum breakout album release Don't Say No.
Other hits include "In the Dark", "Rock Me Tonite", "Lonely Is the Night", "Everybody Wants You" and "Emotions in Motion".
Squier was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a 1968 graduate of Wellesley High School. While growing up, he began playing piano and guitar, but did not become serious with music until discovering Eric Clapton and The Blues Breakers. He enrolled at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in 1970.
Billy Squier's first public performances were at a Boston nightclub in Kenmore Square called the Psychedelic Supermarket in 1968, which is where he saw Eric Clapton and the band Cream. Squier's first original effort was with the band Magic Terry & The Universe in 1969. In the early 1970s, he formed Kicks, which included future NY Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan. He then joined The Sidewinders. Squier left the group to form the band Piper in 1976, which released two albums, Piper and Can't Wait, but left soon after. Upon reviewing the debut Piper, Circus Magazine touted it as the greatest debut album ever produced by an US rock band. Piper was managed by the same management company as KISS, and opened for KISS during their 1977 tour, including two nights of a sold-out run at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Squier signed with Capitol Records to release his solo debut in 1980. The Tale of the Tape (which included work by Bruce Kulick of KISS) got Billy's momemtum going, spending three months on Billboard's album chart. The song "You Should Be High Love" - for which Billy filmed an elaborate music video - got massive radio play. Years later, the song "The Big Beat" became one of the most-sampled songs in hip-hop history.
Squier asked Brian May of Queen to produce his second album Don't Say No. May declined due to scheduling conflicts, but he recommended instead Reinhold Mack who had produced one of Queen's albums, The Game. Squier agreed, and Mack went on to produce Don't Say No. The album became a smash, with the lead single "The Stroke" becoming a hit all around the world, hitting the Top 20 in the US and reaching top 5 in Australia. "In The Dark" and "My Kinda Lover" were successful follow-up singles. Squier became popular on the new MTV cable channel as well as on Album Rock radio. Don't Say No reached the Top Five and lasted well over two years on Billboard's album chart, eventually selling over 4 million copies in the US alone.
Billy Squier's third album for Capitol, Emotions in Motion, was released in 1982 and became nearly as successful as Don't Say No. The album also climbed into Billboard's Top Five and sold just under 3 million copies in the United States. The cover art was by Andy Warhol. The title track of the album, on which Squier shared vocals with Queen's frontman Freddie Mercury and drummer Roger Taylor, was a popular MTV video, but the album's biggest hit was "Everybody Wants You", which held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks for 6 weeks and reached No. 32 on the Hot 100. Squier was the opening act for the North American leg of Queen's 1982 Hot Space Tour. That same year he recorded a song, "Fast Times (The Best Years of Our Lives)" for the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. In the early 1980s Squier did several headlining arena tours—most notably with Foreigner and The Who with a backup band that included Jeff Golub on guitar, Bobby Chouinard on drums, Alan St. Jon on keyboards and Doug Lubahn on bass. Squier brought Def Leppard to USA and broke them on the Emotions tour, in conjunction with the release of their "Pyromania" LP.
Two years passed before Squier's next album Signs of Life. It was his third consecutive Platinum album. The album's first single release, "Rock Me Tonite", was Squier's biggest career hit. It reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit the Top 10 of the Cash Box singles chart. It also returned Billy to #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart in August of 1984. However, the video for the track (directed by Kenny Ortega), which shows Squier dancing around a bedroom in a pink ripped t-shirt (causing some to question his sexuality), was named by Video GaGa as one of "The worst videos of all time". On the VH1 show Ultimate Albums (Def Leppard's "Pyromania" episode), Squier blamed the derailing of his career on the release of the "Rock Me Tonite" video.
Squier's career took a downturn afterward and he began playing smaller venues. His next two albums Enough is Enough (1986) and Hear & Now (1989) sold approximately 300,000 copies each. Enough is Enough featured another collaboration with Freddie Mercury on the songs "Love is the Hero" and "Lady With a Tenor Sax".
Squier continued to perform and record throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He released Hear & Now, which featured the singles "Don't Say You Love Me" (which hit #58 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went Top 10 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart) and "Tied Up."
In 1991, Squier released Creatures of Habit. It peaked at #117 on the Billboard Album Chart.
Squier released his final album with Capitol Records in 1993, Tell the Truth, which featured different sets of musicians performing the various tracks. He called it his finest album since Don't Say No, yet Capitol did little to promote it, and Squier walked away from the music business to pursue other endeavors after its failure to chart.
In 1994, Squier's original screenplay Run To Daylight was short-listed at the Sundance Film Festival. The film itself was never produced.
On February 17, 1998, during the second run of the play Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God – a monodrama about the life of Freddie Mercury – Squier debuted a song that he wrote in memory of his friend titled "I Have Watched You Fly". He introduced the song by saying, "I was privileged to know Freddie as a friend. I'm honored to share the stage with him in the afterlife."
In 1998, Squier released his last studio album to date on an independent label, a solo acoustic blues effort entitled Happy Blue. He embarked on a mini-tour to showcase songs from the album, which included a stripped-down acoustic version of his classic rock mega-hit, "The Stroke".
As time passed, his albums went out of print, save Don't Say No and some greatest hits compilations; however, many of these are now being reprinted.
In 2006, Squier joined Richard Marx, Edgar Winter, Rod Argent, Hamish Stuart, and Sheila E, touring with Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band. A documentary of the tour including a full-length concert performance is now available on DVD.
Shout! Factory released Don't Say No: 30th Anniversary Edition on July 27, 2010, marking the first time that this album has been remastered in over 20 years. It was released in collaboration with Squier, who provided two live bonus cuts from his personal collection.
In October 2011, Squier performed at the third annual "Right to Rock" Celebration at the Edison Ballroom in New York (including Steve van Zandt and Lady Gaga) in support of the Little Kids Rock charity and performed “Lonely Is The Night” with a group of Jersey City students.
In May 2012, Squier joined the Lil'Band O' Gold on several occasions at the New Orleans Jazzfest. In January 2013, Squier offered up one of his most recent compositions, "Somebody Loves You", for inclusion on Songs After Sandy, a charity music compilation to support grassroots community-based relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
- A Rock and Roll Christmas (Various Artists Compilation) (1994)
- 16 Strokes: The Best of Billy Squier (1995)
- Reach for the Sky: The Anthology (1996) (PolyGram)
- Classic Masters (2002)
- Absolute Hits (2005)
- Essential Billy Squier (2011)
- ICON (2013)
- King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Billy Squier (1996)
- Live In The Dark(DVD)
- Official website
- Billy Squier at VH1.com
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