Billy Squier Destroyed His Career With ‘Rock Me Tonite’
Today on Rock N’ Roll True Stories they take a look at the horrendous music video Billy Squier did for the song ‘Rock Me Tonite.’ Some credit the song with ruining the musician’s career. Check out the full story below!
I want to thank one of my subscribers for suggesting this video topic. Now have you guys ever done something so cringe-worthy that you regret it? Chances are you probably didn’t do it in front of millions of people on TV but one artist who did do something so cringe-worthy and awful was Billy Squier. What did he do? Well, it was so bad that he fired both of his managers and some credited it with ruining his career. Stay
tuned to find out in today’s video what that was.
So back in the early 80s, Billy Squier was on top of the world and within two years he would release two massive records which would be top five hits including 1981’s “Don’t Say No” and the following year’s “Emotions in Motion”. Combined, both those records sold an astounding five million copies and Squire was soon playing sold-out arena shows. What should have been a huge career for the rest of the 80s came crashing down by 1984 when he released his fourth record Signs of Life. Initially, the album seemed to be a huge hit with the lead single “Rock Me Tonight”, giving Squire a number-one hit on the rock charts and also proved to be a crossover hit peaking at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
If Squire did stop there with a single, he could have possibly had a much bigger career for the rest of the 80s but what came next was what some would consider a disastrous career move. Like with any singles that get released back then and even in today’s world they normally get the video treatment and unfortunately for “Rock Me Tonight”, the video was well awful and cringe-worthy. The video would be directed by Kenny Ortega who’s probably best known for directing the High School Musical films.
The video is linked down below and shows Squire waking up in a bed sporting colourful and satin coloured sheets Squire then proceeds to prance around the room as he
gets dressed and then puts on a pink tank top over a white shirt. By the end of the video, he puts on a pink guitar to join his band in performing the song.
For the 2011 book, I Want My MTV the author focused on the network’s early years. They interviewed over 400 people including artists, managers, filmmakers, record company executives and even employees of MTV and none could agree on the best MTV video of all time but there was a pretty big consensus that “Rock Me Tonight” was the worst music video of all time. In fact, there’s an entire chapter in the book devoted to
discussing the video.
The video would make its debut on MTV and you would have thought that Billy Squire’s manager or someone would have stepped in and said maybe this isn’t a good idea, we’re not putting this video out, but remember guys and girls, hindsight is 2020 because if you look at the music charts in 1983 and 1984, it was full of bands who made cheesy
music videos. In some respects, Squire was just doing what other artists were doing as well. Just take a look at what was popular and cheesy at the time, including Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face”, Paul Stanley and Kiss’ clip for “Heavens on Fire” or REO Speedwagon in drag in “I Do Want to Know”.
Squire’s original idea was to show himself getting ready for a show and he would be
paralleled by younger fans doing the same and then seeing them sneak out to
the show. Originally Squire wanted Bob Geraldi who worked on the Michael Jackson “Beat It” video to direct the shoot. Squire would have discussions with Geraldi who was excited about the idea at first but declined because he wanted a bigger budget for the video. Capitol Records, who was Squire’s label, wasn’t into the idea of spending large amounts of money on music videos at the time, especially when compared to other labels.
With no director on board, Squire and his management team approached David
Mallet, who directed Billy Idol’s video for “White Wedding”. Mallet put together some storyboards but they were flatly rejected. Squire recalled the quick interaction he had with Mallet, telling an interviewer ‘the first thing he showed me was a scene of me riding into a diner on a white horse. I was like ‘get rid of him’.”
Squire and the label were in a jam because they had already set a premiere date for the video on MTV and they hadn’t even found a director yet. It would be director Kenny Ortega who happened to be a friend of Billie Squire’s girlfriend at the time who offered to direct the shoot. He was best known at that time for directing the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” and he’d also worked with David Mallet on some of the choreography in
Ortega would be chosen to direct the video and he would suggest to the musician that the front men do the exact same onstage moves in the video as he does during a live show, just without a guitar. Ortega wanted the video to be in line with what Tom Cruise did in that memorable scene in the movie, Risky Business. Squire turned down the idea thinking it should be a grainy and dark video.
Squire showed up on the video shoot and saw satin and pastel-coloured sheets on
the set and expressed his concerns. Ortega reassured him that the finished video would be what he wanted.
Tom Moeller who was one of Squire’s managers at the time, told Ortega that there
needs to be footage of the band performing the song in its entirety to use as coverage. Ortega promised to do so but at the end of the day, he didn’t do that. Molar took his concerns to the Capitol Records’ president, Jim Massa to scrap the video but the label disagreed and put it out anyways.
Squire was on tour at the time and when he saw the video for the first time he was shocked. His label tried to ease his concerns by telling him that the single was already
successful and not to worry but Squire’s girlfriend said the video would ruin his
Squire would go on to claim that the impact to his career was felt almost immediately when the video premiered saying, “The video had a deleterious effect on my career. The tour before, I was selling out arenas faster than Sinatra and as soon as the video came out I was playing to half houses.” Why was the video so hated? Well remember folks, this was in the 80s when it wasn’t preferred that men act effeminate. Men were supposed to be tough and act a certain way. Squire gave his own thoughts on the matter saying “The video misrepresents who I am as an artist. I was a good-looking, sexy guy that certainly didn’t hurt into selling records but in this video, I’m sort of a pretty boy and I’m prancing around the room and people are saying ‘he’s gay’ or ‘he’s on drugs’.”
So what does the director, Ortega, think of the clip? In 1986, he would say “If anything, I tried to toughen the image he was projecting.” He claims that he and the video’s editor had their names taken out of the credits when they got frustrated over the lack of creative input.
Let there be no doubt “Rock Me Tonight” was a Billy Squier video in every sense. It has damaged his career and he has no one to blame but himself. Squire himself, also claimed the effeminate nature of the video alienated a lot of his base, which were
predominantly teenage boys at the time. Even his peers, including Rudolf Schenker
of the Scorpions, said it best when talking about Squires saying, “I liked him very much but then I saw him doing the video in a very terrible way and I couldn’t take his music serious anymore”.
In every album following Signs of Life, it seemed to show a steady decline in Squire’s popularity even with his last two albums of his career. 1993’s Tell the Truth and 1990’s Happy Blue, failing to even chart.
Do you guys think the video caused Billy Squire’s drop in popularity or did you even care as a fan? Let me know in the comments section. That does it for today’s video. Guys, thanks for watching. Be sure to hit the like button and subscribe and as always, if you have suggestions for future topics, let me know in the comments section below