Written by: Mark Zander
I had the pleasure of running a brief radio interview tour last week with Billy Squier. During the course of the morning's slate of interviews, the interview that my friend Mark Zander (host of the syndicated rock radio program The Rockin' 80's) did with Billy stuck out as one of the really good ones. I asked Mark if I could use part of his interview here and he happily agreed, so I'm pleased to share with you the following discussion regarding the new Shout Factory! 30th anniversary reissue of Don't Say No.
Spring of 1981, finishing freshman year in high school. Girls on the radar, big time. Then all of the sudden, two of the biggest albums to shape my rock n' roll life came out in the same month of April?? No way!
Along with Van Halen's Fair Warning, Billy Squier's Don't Say No is a hard rock soundtrack to a life lived by me in that very important year of growth and change. Lead off unassumingly by "In The Dark," the record tracks (even today!) right through to the finish as a carefree time capsule of rock fashion and attitude. It was my pleasure to talk with Billy about his (ours!) masterpiece...
I have to ask you this regarding the process heading into Don't Say No when you were recording it, which came after Tale of the Tape was released the previous year in 1980. After spending time with Piper in the '70s, Tale of the Tape was no doubt a respectable solo debut, but I'd say that it probably didn't make the impact that you were looking for initially. Once Don't Say No was written, recorded, released and it became a smash, can you honestly say you were ready and were you expecting it?
Actually I think I was pretty well prepared. Going back to Tale of the Tape for a second, I actually was quite happy with Tale of the Tape. It moved me up a notch on the ladder and it got a lot of airplay. "You Should Be High, Love" was the number one top requested song for almost two months in the country on rock radio. It really increased industry awareness a lot. I had a real good tour in support of that record with Alice Cooper. So I felt when I went to do Don't Say No that Tale of the Tape had really positioned me very well for what I was going to do next, if I could deliver - but I really felt good. That was my initial solo album and I felt real good about where I was after that.
So I went into Don't Say No with a lot of confidence and I did feel that it was in a sense, my time. It was my time if I chose to seize it. You know, that I did have people paying attention, that people would be looking for my next record to some degree and that if I delivered, I really had a chance of making a big impact. You know, that being said, what do you do? I decided to more than ever, hone my material and get a body of songs that really hung together [and] not try to do too much. I have a lot of musical influences and I tried to eliminate some of the influences that were on the extremes of the spectrum, so to speak. Try to think about who is Billy Squier - what do you want people to hear of you and where do you really sit in the musical sort of pantheon. I was kind of fine tuning it that way and obviously if you listen to Piper or things like that, there's a lot of times more of a pop influence - you're hearing me go back and forth between my influences.
Don't Say No, although it still has pop sensibilities, I was aligning myself more in the hard rock camp. I said, "that's really who I am." The bands I grew up with that I really liked the most, what do I want to play when I strap on a guitar - I'm playing rock music. I'm not playing Herman's Hermits, I'm playing the Rolling Stones [laughs]. Those factors contributed to how I approached doing the record and I had confidence to go out and do what I felt good about doing. I think there's always a tendency when you're trying to make it and even when you have made it sometimes, you might be aware of what's going on around you and you wonder what you should be doing. If something else is successful, should you be doing that? You're sort of, if not imitating, you're being affected by what's going on around you.
With Don't Say No, I didn't do that. Don't Say No, I really felt like "nope, I'm going to trust myself and I'm going to write the way I want and structure my lyrics the way I want." I'm not going to worry about what else is going on around me. When it was done, before it came out, I felt that this was the record that I had been spending my whole career to this point getting ready to make. I was totally happy with it. I remember saying to people before it came out - I didn't say "if it doesn't sell five million copies," I said "if this record isn't successful, I'm out."
Yeah, because there's nothing more I can do. I'm not making it up - I remember clear as day, this is the best I can do. If this doesn't cut it, I'm gone. Fortunately, I didn't have to do that [laughs].
A lot of people don't know this, but you approached Brian May [of Queen] about producing Don't Say No.
Brian was going to produce Tale of the Tape and then they got drawn out - that was around the time that they were doing The Game and "Flash" and stuff like that. He got a little bogged down and couldn't do it, but he said, "I think you should use Mack, if you can get Mack to do it. I think that Mack would be great for you." Because [Reinhold] Mack was working with Queen as well [as co-producer of The Game]. So although Brian didn't work on the record, he was pretty instrumental in forming that union between Mack and I - Mack was a big part of the success of that record - the sound of that record and the way he put it together, it was definitely important. I could not have done that record without him.
Let's talk about the reissue - there are a couple of live bonus tracks on this 30th anniversary edition that were recorded last year. Were there any initial discussions about going back in the archives to get something that was done around that time, maybe on the initial tour for the album?
We talked about it, but it was my choice to put on the tracks from last year because I felt that to me, I get some artistic prerogative, you know? I felt like that a lot of the stuff that was recorded back then had come out one way or another, either on radio shows or King Biscuit releases, or we had used stuff. I thought that I approached the songs from Don't Say No that I did last year quite a bit differently than I did back then and I thought that it was more interesting. I thought, let me put something on it that's a current reflection of what I did back then. So that was purely a decision that I made and Shout Factory! was magnanimous enough to let me do it.
I really got involved in the process kind of late. They had licensed the album from Capitol and they were going ahead and doing it. They actually contacted me to see if they could get a couple of bonus tracks and that's how I found out about it. When I found out it was Don't Say No, I thought, well this is such an important record to me, I'd like to try to get involved as much as I can. So I sort of jumped in at the end and got the remastering engineer who had done such a great job on the Tale of the Tape remaster. Then I got a friend of mine [former Creem editor Ben Edmonds] who's a great rock writer to do the liner notes, the guy who knows me better than probably anybody. So we were able to at the last minute, put together a pretty good package with those tracks and the liner notes. We got some pictures out of the archives that hadn't been seen before, so that's new. I think as far as reissues go, it's worthwhile. Because by now, everyone should have worn out Don't Say No and you should get a new one. That's a cheap plug [laughs].
What's the story behind “My Kinda Lover?”
Actually when I was writing that one, I was thinking about Tom Jones. Don't ask me why, I have no idea - Tom Jones is not that big of an influence on me, although we certainly would see him on Ed Sullivan and stuff like that. I got the beginning of the song and I don't know why, I had that melody and I was thinking, "God, if Tom Jones did this, it would be like," [imitating Tom Jones singing voice] "You've got me running bay-bay." [laughs] I had this image of him in my head, thinking this would be a great song.
Wow, that really gives it a different spin for me.
But yeah, when I did it, of course I wasn't trying to be Tom Jones, I wasn't trying to do it as a Tom Jones song, but I just remember thinking, "man, this would be great." I remember meeting his manager a couple of years later, I think we were in Tahiti or some place like that, in a bar. I cut this song and he knew who I was and he actually knew the song. At that point unfortunately, Tom had made his foray into country music, so he never did it. That was a strangely Tom Jones influenced track, which you would obviously never hear! [Laughs].zero
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Take that reissue of the J. Geils Band's "Live -- Full House" off your shopping list. Peter Wolf tells The Insider that the group has scotched Rhino Records' plans to put out the two-CD set, which was slated to feature both of the April 21-22, 1972 shows at Detroit's Cinderella Ballroom from which the original 1972 album was culled. Wolf says that the new release "wasn't authorized by us. What we did was pick the best stuff of the two evenings...They were calling it 'Full House,' and we responded by saying, 'Wait a second. First of all, it would be nice if you'd contact us for consideration, artistically. Second of all, it's not 'Full House.' This is not even the original album; it was just from those evenings. To call it 'Full House' is extremely misleading. And to not even ask for our participation and move forward without our participation is just very artistically insulting. So it's been nixed." Neither Wolf nor Rhino would indicate if negotiations are continuing to release the package.
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Hanging out at The Winchester + picking up cheap vinyl = two of my favorite things to do!
Luckily, you can do both at the same place!
Last night, I walked away with the following titles for a buck each...
After watching the excellent Do It Again documentary (I know that Geoff Edgers is still out there somewhere), I decided that I need to have more Kinks in my life...
I assure you that there's no compact disc logo on the actual album...
Probably the score of the bunch (and again, along the lines of what I said about the Hooters album, you can also remove the Collector's Choice logo - it's not on the vinyl).
Hmmm. What to say about this one? Go read my Richard Page interview...more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Kudos to the kids at Slicing Up Eyeballs for alerting me to a cool deal for R.E.M.'s classic Document album, which you can score for the very cool price of $3.99 right now (plus you receive a dollar credit for a free MP3 download at Amazon MP3). We can assume that the price (cut from the regular price of $20.98 will be limited and perhaps even gone soon after you read this, so you might want to act fast.
I'll consider this an unofficial apology for the time I spent this evening trying to get the Amazon UnBox video player to work with Vista and my PC.
Score: Vinyl: 1 Amazon UnBox: 0
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
.....who was on stage?
That's the stumper of a question posed by the ticket stub below.
ATV reader "Cynthia" shot me an email with a question about the stub - would I be able to help? I reached out to all-knowing Bear of Cleveland Rock and Roll and we put our heads together with no results. I also shot a few emails to "people that would know" and they also had no answers. So I'll put the picture up here and invite you to reach into your ticket stub collection, look at 1974 and let me know.more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Leave it to Bruce to make sure that the holidays are just a little bit more special this year with today's announcement that you can celebrate the legacy of Darkness on The Edge of Town with six (!!!!) discs overflowing with more Darkness related material (three CDs and three DVDs) than we possibly could have hoped for!
Conversing with fellow Springsteen author and aficionado Lawrence Kirsch earlier tonight, he remarked that with this project, "Bruce is absolutely delivering on this one - he's been listening to his fans."
My pals over at Blogness have done a great job of collecting many of the news links that have been posted so far regarding the pending release of the set, which will hit stores on November 16th. The box has a retail price of $119.98 and you can pre-order it right now at Amazon for $95.99, with an additional choice of a Blu-ray edition dropping day and date with the regular CD/DVD version. (And there will also be a version coming out on vinyl!)
Dave Lifton has additional thoughts and a look at the trailer for the box right here.
Me? I'll just be over here counting the days until November 16th. You know what I mean, right?
Box set image via Backstreetsmore
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Lately, it seems like I might have been one of the few that enjoyed "Me Wise Magic" and "Can't Get This Stuff No More."
Tonight, while searching for a few Van Halen III tracks (by somebody else's request, no less!), I came across the following "open letter" which addresses the 1996 material and a series of related points:
I'm not opposed to VH making a new album with Roth - I just hope that the resulting material will be better than "Up For Breakfast."
On a side note, would you pay $.10 for Van Halen III on Amazon?more
Written by: Kevin Brennan
Known for writing anthemic and thoughtful songs often sourced in the age-old conflicts of right versus wrong and man's ongoing fight against himself, The Call was well-respected if under appreciated during the 1980s and 90s. Fans and colleagues included Peter Gabriel, U2, and Garth Hudson of The Band.
Known best for 1983's "The Walls Came Down" from Modern Romans and "Let the Day Begin" in 1989, The Call's last release was Live Under the Red Moon in 2000. Been also released an outstanding solo album in 1994, "On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough."
Been's son is Robert Been, bassist for the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The elder Been was on tour with BRMC acting as their sound engineer. The band was performing at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium at the time of his death.more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Summertime is proving to be a lean period for The Beachland Ballroom and they (as many venues are nationally) are experiencing monetary issues that led them to recently reach out via their email newsletter with a couple of messages asking for help. Here's the latest word from Beachland co-owner Cindy Barber:
Dear Beachlanders...Thanks to everyone who responded to our plea last week to buy tickets now and help us with cashflow difficulties in August. The phones were ringing. If you haven't ordered tickets for upcoming shows, our cashflow issues continue, so if you are thinking about buying any fall shows, please call the office 216-383-1124 and order over the phone. Take a minute and look at early Sept. where we have The Breeders, Cowboy Mouth, Donna the Buffalo, Dave Alvin, Acoustic Strawbs, Chris Knight, Tony Furtado and so much more...Buying now will help us cover costs this month. Also please don't forget about Marcia Ball and all our other good shows this week. The air conditioning is cool and the music is hot. Thanks for your support. -- Cindy
Click here for a list of upcoming shows at the club.
In related news, my Popdose comrade David Medsker recently knocked out a nice interview with Squeeze principal Glenn Tilbrook for Bullz-Eye.com and during that chat, Tilbrook gave a nice shout-out to The Beachland:
BE: That’s fantastic. A friend of mine saw the Beachland Ballroom gig that you wrote about.
GT: (Laughs) Well, that’s a pretty special place. And regrettably we played the House of Blues on this tour. (Exhales giant breath of frustration) Cindy [Barber] and Mark [Leddy], who run that place, I put my feelings in the song, they’re desperate to make a living doing something they love, and that’s a position I identify strongly with, particularly at that time.
The Tilbrook interview is a great bit of reading and you can dig into the entire piece at Bullz-Eye right here.zero