Friendship, it is a remarkable thing. Ask yourself: Where would you be without “a little help from your friends,” as Ringo Starr sang?
Throughout U.S. history, there have been certain friendships that stood above the fray. Take, for example, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, or the tight bond between Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
In contemporary times, there are famous bro-bonds between Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, or Toby Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio. There are also many famous female friendships, such as Kate Hudson and Liv Tyler, and Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts.
Then there is the unlikely affinity shared between Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart.
But one friendship stands above the rest as the greatest friendship in American history, and that would be the bond shared between rocker Billy Squier and me.
So maybe I’ve never actually spoken in person to my buddy Billy, and maybe we don’t have each other’s numbers, and we’re not connected on social media, and we’ve never actually met.
But true friendships transcend these pedestrian forms of communication, which is the case with Billy Squier and me.
You see, roughly a year ago, I wrote a column for Manchester Ink Link about my deep admiration for my friend’s music while I was trying to find a vinyl copy of his monster 1981 album “Don’t Say No” in a used record store. I also touched on how unhinged homophobia surrounding an ill-advised video for “Rock Me Tonite” torpedoed his music career in a matter of months.
My editor then forwarded the column to my friend Billy Squier’s publicity people, who sent it to the man himself. And, as friends are wont to do, Billy responded with a gift for me. He mailed me a signed picture—now framed and displayed proudly in a Man Cave—as well as a vinyl copy of “Don’t Say No.”
That, my friends, is friendship.
So to celebrate our first year of friendship, I’m composing a Billy Squier playlist that circumvents some of his overplayed radio tunes. Everyone knows “The Stroke.” I get it. It was featured in “Billy Madison” and the lyrical connotations are fun to giggle at, but it’s not—in my humble opinion—one of my friend’s better songs. Same goes for “Everybody Wants You” and “Lonely Is the Night,” both of which also receive generous amounts of airplay on classic rock stations.
So here is my playlist for those of you who might also like to celebrate my friendship with Billy Squier.
“My Kinda Lover” (“Don’t Say No,” 1981): I know, this is one of the songs that is still overplayed on the classic rock radio, but deservedly so, in this case. The song opens with a two-chord verse with only an electric guitar and Billy’s smooth vocals, which gives way to a powerhouse chorus then a popping bridge. Musically, it’s one of Billy’s better tunes.
“Rock Me Tonite” (“Signs of Life,” 1984): As aforementioned, the music video for this song crushed Billy’s career because a bunch of his homophobic male fans feared pastel colors and crawling on floors, subsequently jumping ship on him. But the song itself is solid, start to finish. Find me a song that uses finger-snapping to such a melodic effect.
“I Need You” (“Don’t Say No,” 1981): This is a bit of a sleeper on the second side of Billy’s breakthrough album, but it’s also one of the best of the bunch. It has a solid rock n’ roll riff and another exceptional bridge, and lyrically, it is entirely relatable. Who hasn’t been so smitten with a person that the simple thought of them lifts them up when their “amps they blow”? I didn’t think so.
“She’s a Runner” (“Emotions in Motion,” 1982): My top-two songs are from Billy’s follow-up album to “Don’t Say No”. While it didn’t produce as many charted hits as the former, it’s a dynamic album with some low-key gems, such as “She’s a Runner”. Again, it’s just a good rock n’ roll song, and it speaks to anyone who has ever been blown off by someone else—meaning just about everyone.
“Learn How to Live” (“Emotions in Motion,” 1984): This might be my favorite song by my good friend. It contains all of the essential Billy Squier signatures—a soft acoustic introduction with an electric overlay, a simple-but-solid riff and a banging bridge. Lyrically, maybe it’s not Descartes, but it does have something to say, and some wisdom to share. I imagine if Billy and I were to go camping, he’d play a softer acoustic version of this song by the campfire, and when he finished, I’d nod my head and say, “Well done, my friend. Well done.”