Thursday, March 16, 2017

"Rock Me Tonight" by Billy Squier

Song#:  1975
Date:  07/07/1984
Debut:  51
Peak:  15
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Coming off of two major multi-platinum albums, Squier was sure that his next LP would be his biggest yet. Unfortunately, his grand ambitions cascaded into a debacle that he was never able to fully overcome. There were problems right off the bat when Squier's choice for producer, Mutt Lange (Def Leppard, The Cars), became unavailable. Squier had to scramble for a new producer and somehow the job landed in the hands of Jim Steinman, who had become more known for his big, bombastic songs and productions rather than straight-ahead rock. Steinman would serve strictly as producer, which was a bit unusual since Steinman would typically contribute his own songs. Squier would write all songs for the album. The pair entered the studio and came out with Signs of Life, an album that took Squier in a more contemporary direction with synths and sound layers. This first single was greeted warmly by Rock radio and it became Squier's second #1 on that chart. Although it stopped short of the Pop Top 10, its #15 showing would end up making it Squier's best charting single. The results were leaning towards the positive, but two things happened. When the LP came out, critics were not all that kind. It was generally panned. But what made things worse was the video for this song. Whether really true or not, the video gained the reputation of being a career killer for Squier (see below) and this hit would end up being Squier's last song to get into the Pop Top 50.

ReduxReview:  First off, this is a pretty terrific song. I liked it when it came out and I still do. Although many critics didn't like Steinman adding his flourishes to Squier's rock tunes, I rather liked it. However, I think the album suffered from a lack of solid songs. The first three tracks were all good, but the album lagged after them. I do think that if he had gotten Mutt Lange to produce, the album would have been a lot better. As for the video...well...it's sumthin'. I think it became more of a big deal as time went on than at the very moment it was released, but folks are right; it did not put Squier in the best light. It is pretty cringe-worthy. It's hard to believe that one video totally killed his career, but it certainly didn't help. A rocker prancing around in pink and satin just wasn't gonna fly. Plus, the handling of it all after was bad. He should have just played it up and laughed about it all. But he didn't and it became a cautionary tale to those making videos.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Could an MTV video really ruin an artist's career? It could certainly provide a controversial moment, but could one shoot a star down? Music videos were highly influential at the time and many say the one for this song derailed Squier's career. It all started out fine. Squier and his team secured a world premier video time slot on MTV for the song. Squier already had a concept in mind for the video which was to show both him and a fan separately getting ready for his concert and then meeting there. At first, Squier wanted Bob Giraldi to direct (he was famous for Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and others), however Giraldi's price tag ended up being too high for Capitol Records. Next selection was David Mallet (Billy Idol's "White Wedding"), but his vision did not coincide with Squier's and he was sent packing. With a looming MTV deadline that could not be changed, Squier brought in Kenny Ortega based on a recommendation. Ortega was a choreographer who had recently done video shoots for The Pointer Sisters and The Tubes. Just a few days prior to the MTV date, the video was shot. Each party involved seemed to think they were all on the same page, but when the video was completed, it was not what Squier had wanted. Despite any hesitations, the video went to MTV and got played. Featuring Squier in a pink t-shirt and oddly dancing around a bed with pastel silk sheets, many people began to think it was a statement that Squier was gay. Of course that was not the case, but the video certainly rang wrong for many folks and Squier's image took a direct hit. It was just not something a rocker would do. Blame was passed around (Squier blamed Ortega, Ortega said Squier was in control of it all), but in the end Squier most likely had final say in it all and it changed his career forever. The hits stopped and he was never able to recover.

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2 comments:

  1. I think Billy just ran out of ideas. Emotions in Motion and Don't Say No were loaded with great songs, but after that, this song, Love is the Hero and She Goes Down are the only ones that grabbed me. And I loved this video. It seems cringe-worthy now, but it fit in with the time it was made.

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    1. Yes, you are most likely right. He had a solid output of songs for a while but then his songwriting started to go downhill. The catchy hooks and concise rock tunes became more bland. It happens. Although his career decline was blamed on the video, I think it would have dwindled anyway. Still, he put out some real classic jams that still rock.

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