Top 10 Billy Squier Songs
Above all else, Billy Squier’s career is a story of perseverance and ultimately beating the odds to achieve stardom. Like other classic rock solo artists such as Bob Seger, Warren Zevon and Eddie Money (to name but a few), the Boston-born Squier had to battle through years of relative obscurity, painstakingly honing his songwriting skills with numerous long-forgotten bands, before finally finding his style, hitting his stride, and breaking through to the masses in the early ’80s.
Then, with the timely emergence of MTV, Squier suddenly became one of rock’s first music video stars (and later, one of its first notorious victims), and thus his music helped soundtrack the decade with the very songs we’ve assembled below. So sit back and allow us to “stroke” your memory banks with our list of the Top 10 Billy Squier Songs.
‘The Big Beat’
Squier’s first, small taste of looming success came via this modest hit from his debut solo album, ‘The Tale of the Tape,’ which followed the aforementioned decade of anonymous toil and a disappointing, two-album stint with the band Piper. A much-sampled song by future rappers, ‘The Big Beat’ also laid the groundwork for many of Billy’s most popular hits in years to come with its swaggering marriage of ringing power chords and, yes, big beats.
‘You Know What I Like’
Within a year, Squier would be churning out hits in such vast quantities that even ready-made singles such as ‘You Know What I Like’ never got their chance to roll up the charts. Here, Billy’s punchy guitars get a kick in the rear from drummer Bobby Chouinard’s urgent shuffle and are further augmented by pulsing synthesizers that predict the emerging role of technology in ‘80s rock – not to mention Billy’s prescience for incorporating it into his material, early on.
By decade’s end, Squier had frequently relied on that prescience to keep his songs on the charts, despite the waning commercial fortunes of classic rockers of his stripe. To wit, 1989’s ‘Hear and Now’ LP may have arrived into a world dominated by synth-pop and hair-metal, but still placed three singles in the Billboard 200 – the most successful being ‘Don’t Say You Love Me,’ which topped out at No. 4. But, for our money, it’s the saxophone-spiked ‘Stronger’ that best stands the test of time.
‘Love is the Hero’
The next entry in our list of the Top 10 Billy Squier Songs errs on the side of pop overkill (courtesy of that unnecessarily sleek late ‘80s production aesthetic), but still comprised a historic duet with the one and only Freddie Mercury that we just couldn’t pass up. The standout hit from 1986’s ‘Enough is Enough’ LP, ‘Love is the Hero’ was made possible by Squier’s friendship with Queen and their shared producer/engineer Reinhold Mack – though it was Peter Collins (then also working with Rush) who was tweaking the knobs (somewhat to excess) on this album.
‘Rock Me Tonight’
Hey, we don’t care about the video! OK, just a little, but this list is about music! So close your eyes, listen closely, and then we dare you to question the undeniable infectiousness of this standout hit from Squier’s Gold-certified 1984 platter, ‘Signs of Life.’ Produced by former Meat Loaf Svengali Jim Steinman, ‘Rock Me Tonight’ added a streamlined gloss to Squier’s commercial rock sound, consistent with those oft-bedeviled middle ‘80s trends (thank you, synthesizers), but backed it with enough choppy guitar work to keep fans happy.
‘Lonely Is the Night’
This was the third single spun out from 1981’s career-defining ‘Don’t Say No’ – an album so chock-full of classic rock nuggets you’ll probably tire of hearing about it (though never of listening to it) before this list is through. Something of an ode to Led Zeppelin, or at least Jimmy Page’s inventive mix of hard-soft dynamics, ‘Lonely is the Night’ swings with rock-steady percussion, assorted chunky guitar riffs, and astonishingly musical choruses amid dramatic start-stops that have made it a Billy Squier fan favorite down the years.
‘Everybody Wants You’
The first cut from 1982’s triple-platinum-certified ‘Emotions in Motion’ saw Squier and his band finger-snapping (see video below) their way to the top of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart, where they remained parked for six straight weeks. Moreover, ‘Everybody Wants You’ showed Squier not only flirting with new wave ingredients, but sounding as funky as ever – both testaments to his songwriting versatility and the makings of a surefire Top 10 Billy Squier Songs candidate.
‘My Kinda Lover’
The fourth – that’s right, fourth – hit single from ‘Don’t Say No,’ ‘My Kinda Lover’ possessed the Spartan purity of a Stones tune (see those Keef -like guitar stabs), spiced with processed percussive punctuations, and topped with perhaps the most irresistible chorus singalong of Squier’s long career. No wonder, then, that the song has had so much staying power, still qualifying all these years later as a highlight of Squier’s career, along with its parent album.
‘In the Dark’
A staple of MTV’s glorious freeform programming salad days, the video for ‘In the Dark,’ introduced many a classic rocker to Billy Squier and, needless to say, converted them on the spot, thanks to his band’s charismatic, visually arresting (even if mimed) on stage performance. ‘In the Dark’ in many ways crystallized Squier’s most successful musical template, characterized by muscular power chords, stinging leads, a hypnotic keyboard pattern and, on this occasion, menacing lyrics delivered with gusto by the man himself.
Make it three in a row from ‘Don’t Say No’ to crown our list of the Top 10 Billy Squier Songs, and we challenge anyone to question our wisdom. Simply put, Squier hit the absolute bulls-eye of contagious classic rock perfection with ‘The Stroke,’ a Top 20 single so evenly balanced between pure pop smarts and bona fide rock and roll crunch that not even its vaguely provocative subject matter could derail its success. Just ask any manly man who’s found himself helplessly shouting along, air guitar in hand, and chances are he’s never even wondered what the song is actually about. Then again, maybe neither has Billy Squier.