Billy Squier – a mainstay of AOR radio in the first half of the 1980s. A stellar guitarist in his own right, and more heavyweight than contemporaries like Rick Springfield, Squier was able to balance rock cred, stylish looks and great music seemingly effortlessly. Although he was over thirty when he hit the big time, he had a five-year winning streak that netted platinum albums, sold-out arenas and soundtrack contributions to some of the most iconic 1980s movies.
An ill-conceived video, changing musical tastes and, let’s face it, plain bad luck ended his golden age, but despite all that, he still managed to pump out quality albums on regular basis. His eight albums on Capitol Records range from good to classic, not a clunker in there. Naturally, some are better than others, and as is the case with every other “worst to first” list, those albums near the bottom aren’t necessarily bad, it’s just that the artist has released some better ones. I’ve left his post-Capitol release Happy Blue, the King Biscuit live CD and any anthology collections off of this ranking.
So here we go – Billy Squier albums ranked! Enjoy!
CREATURES OF HABIT
Produced By: Godfrey Diamond and Billy Squier
Release Date: April 9, 1991
Highest Chart Position: 117
Standout Track: Hands Of Seduction
Why is this ranked in bottom place? Because this is the most “pop” of Squier’s albums. Considering what was happening in the music world in 1991, this record didn’t fit in anywhere. Production-wise, it’s strong sounding (he used the same team as his previous album), but the songs just don’t hold up. “She Goes Down,” really? Plus, the cartoonish cover art is out of step with the times. An artist ten years past his greatest achievement.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Produced By: Peter Collins
Release Date: September 27, 1986
Highest Chart Position: 61
Standout Track: Love Is The Hero
The production for the follow-up to the “Rock Me Tonight” album fell to Peter Collins of Rush and Queensryche fame. Although Enough’s predecessor, 1984’s Signs of Life sounds dated today with its synths and other 1980s flourishes, at the time it was Squier’s most cutting edge sounding album. The follow-up? Not so much. The sterile production here is below average for the era (not to mention for a Billy Squier record), and to be frank, the songs weren’t up to the level of his earlier work. Considering the quality of his previous three releases, it’s no surprise that this one came and went rather quickly and the tour plans for Enough were scuttled.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Produced By: Billy Squier and Eddy Offord
Release Date: May 1980
Highest Chart Position: 169
Standout Track: Calley Oh
Not a bad record by any stretch, but it sounds like an artist trying to find his way. (Which it is.) Eddy Offord, a producer/engineer whose resume included Yes, Rory Gallagher and Emerson, Lake and Palmer seemed a rather odd choice to helm the board, and the results, although decent, aren’t anything to write home about. Plus, the “band” wasn’t in place, something that was to become an important part of Squier’s sound moving forward.
EMOTIONS IN MOTIONS
Produced By: Mack and Billy Squier
Release Date: July 23, 1982
Highest Chart Position: 5
Standout Track: Learn How To Live
Purists might scream about this low ranking, but for the follow-up to his breakthrough album, it’s justified. Again, a very good/borderline great album, but it’s only in the fifth spot because there are others that are better. Stacked up against Don’t Say No, it’s a step down. The production (and songs as well) seem bit “flat” when compared to Don’t Say No, and worst of all, it suffers a little too much from a problem that haunts most Billy Squier albums: It’s too “top heavy” – with the popular (read; better) songs stacked toward the first half of the album.
HEAR & NOW
Produced By: Godfrey Diamond, Billy Squier, Jason Corsaro
Release Date: June 14, 1989
Highest Chart Position: 64
Standout Track: Mine Tonight
A much more focused (not to mention better-sounding) album than its predecessor, Enough Is Enough, Hear & Now sounds like a lot more effort was put into it. We hope that’s true, because it came three years after Enough, a long time, especially considering he didn’t tour for the previous disc. It garnered some airplay for him, a good thing, because it was the first time in five years the world heard old Billy over the air. But five years out of the radio and concert circuit is a long time in any era, not to mention that tastes changed (most of his contemporaries in the “Class of 1981” – REO, Styx, Journey, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Loverboy, etc.- had either peaked or broken up by this late date, and hair metal – and Guns n’ Roses – were the big news of the day) and sadly, commercially he was too far in decline by this point to ever make it back to the top.
TELL THE TRUTH
Produced By: Mike Chapman
Release Date: April 27, 1993
Highest Chart Position: Did Not Chart
Standout Track: Break Down
Squier’s last Capitol album was an overlooked gem. For a 1980s AOR artist, the Spring of 1993 was a lousy time to release a new album. This time around the songs (not to mention the cover art) were all first-rate, and Squier took some chances too: He mixed and matched musicians (his core band members along with others) for different songs, giving many of the songs a fresh sound. Sublime production by Mike Chapman certainly didn’t hurt, but Capitol Record’s refusal to promote the album led to Squier’s retirement from the music business (for the most part). Students of psychology will note that the lyrics here quite often reference psychotherapy.
SIGNS OF LIFE
Produced By: Jim Steinman and Billy Squier
Release Date: July 1984
Highest Chart Position: 11
Standout Track: (Another) 1984
Squier’s 1984 album was the last of his big hits. The “Rock Me Tonight” video debacle aside, Signs of Life was his most “contemporary-sounding” record, and probably should’ve been his biggest seller overall. Originally-slated producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange (riding high due to his work with Def Leppard and The Cars) pulled out for reasons that were more personal than professional, and Steinman, notable mostly for writing hits for Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler and Air Supply, ended up being the pinch producer. No worries, this album is one of the few Squier albums to maintain consistency throughout the entire disc, most likely due to Steinman’s “pushing” Squier’s songwriting to new places. Still a great listen today. More than any of his other records, Signs of Life accurately captures the sound of the era.
DON’T SAY NO
Produced By: Mack and Billy
Release Date: April 13, 1981
Highest Chart Position: 5
Standout Track: My Kinda Lover
What can you say here? This is the breakthrough album that made Billy a household name. Miles better and more focused than his debut, Squier released an instant classic album that, along with Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Rush, Pat Benatar and Foreigner, ruled AOR stations for 1981 and continues to be played all these years later on classic rock radio. There is no way that this could be ranked anywhere else but in first place. Killer from start to finish.
Billy Squier also released some non-album tracks on popular soundtracks. Plus, a 1981 Christmas single.
Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
And of course, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!