One man’s search for Billy Squier

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The Billy Squier tribute wall begins, with “Emotions in Motion,” my No. 2 pick.

grazianoI suppose there’s no graceful way of phrasing this—especially to music aficionados, many of whom I’ve interviewed and written about and will likely never take me seriously again[1].

So I’ll just say it bluntly with my shoulders back and my chin up.

I love Billy Squier’s music.

Before I even really understood what I was listening to in the ’80s—as a pre-adolescent trying to seem cool to the older kids in my neighborhood—I was enchanted by his simple riffs and almost-feminine vocals[2].

And it didn’t hurt that Billy Squier—who grew up in Wellesley, Mass.—was also a southern-New England success story[3].

In his prime, after his 1981 album “Don’t Say No” broke out then the follow-up “Emotions in Motion” charted as well, Squier was packing stadiums, a veritable rock star.

Then the ill-advised MTV music video for “Rock Me Tonite” was released in 1984 and torpedoed the Squier’s career.

Objectively, the video was a nonsensical four-minute blast of pastel colors, satin sheets, finger-snapping, exuberant skipping and strange gyrations on his elbows[4] across the floor of a flat in low-key lighting.

But the real reason so many fans turned on Billy Squier was far more pernicious.

In 1984, anything perceived as slightly homoerotic by a performer whose target demographic was largely white male adolescents was PR suicide, and Squier never recovered.

However, loyal fans like me—at 9 years old, I’m sure I didn’t quite understand the sexual innuendos—never gave up on Billy Squier. Throughout adulthood, I’ve never lost my hankering to hear “She’s a Runner” on those certain nights when the moon is right and the mood strikes.

During a recent “Billy Squier Saturday™[5]” at Chelby’s Pizza—where I received no shortage of cross glances—I made the executive decision[6] to seek out a vintage vinyl copy of “Don’t Say No” to hang proudly in my Man Cave[7], despite not owning a record player.

So on an innocuous summer Friday afternoon, my wife and I journeyed to The Music Connection on South Willow Street after reading what one Google reviewer wrote: “This is the greatest record shop in the world. If they don’t have it, no one does.”

The store is nestled in a strip mall near a Japanese restaurant, a computer repair shop and the Girls Inc. headquarters for Manchester. Expansive and yet cloistered, The Music Connection has the vibe of an old bookstore with that old-book scent of nostalgia. There were rows upon rows, stacks upon stacks of vinyl records, cassette tapes and CD’s, as if we stepped back in time to a Strawberries Records without pretensions.

I immediately moved toward the vinyl records but couldn’t find the “Billy Squier” tab buried somewhere between “Carly Simon” and “Bruce Springsteen.” Per my tendency[8], I told my wife that I was slaying windmills as I flipped through the record titles.

Then I saw it. The tab. Billy Squier. “Honey, he’s here,” I screamed to my wife across the store.

Feverishly, I sifted through the titles. There were vinyl copies of “Signs of Life[9],” “Enough is Enough[10]” and “Emotions in Motion.”

But no “Don’t Say No.”

Listless, my wife—likely, at this point, regretting ever procreating with me—suggested I buy an album so we could leave.

So I did.[11] I snatched up the only copy of “Emotions in Motions,” which happens to be my second favorite Billy Squier album, and while purchasing it, the man working the counter[12] told me that “Don’t Say No” typically sells quickly when they get a copy.

I asked him if he’d let me know if one comes in. He nodded and shook my hand, and I left, exuberant, with my new-used Billy Squier record.

But I’m still hunting for “Don’t Say No,” and this story is to be continued.


[1] I’m assuming most of these musicians are far above music-shaming, and I’m saying this largely for its histrionic effect.

[2] Imagine my surprise when I finally understood the double-entendre in “The Stroke.”

[3] I grew up in Rhode Island, less than an hour from Squier’s hometown.

[4] It’s not a terrible song outside of the inane video.

[5] This is an event where I usurp the TouchTunes jukebox at Chelby’s and play consecutive Billy Squier songs on Saturday afternoons.

[6] This was absolutely not related to the consumption of Bud Light drafts.

[7] Much like the magnificent print I purchased on eBay of Leroy Neiman’s painting of Rocky and Apollo at the end “Rocky III,” my wife declined the opportunity to hang it in our living room.

[8] I typically have the patience of a gerbil, and if something doesn’t immediately pan out, I quit.

[9] The album including “Rock Me Tonite” that ruined his career.

[10] The 1986 follow-up after the “Rock Me Tonite” apocalypse.

[11] Honestly, “She’s a Runner” is my favorite Billy Squier song.

[12] We are about the same age, and he was also a Squier fan.


About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: