Following the massive success of 1984’s Signs Of Life, Billy’s next album was Enough Is Enough. I was a huge fan of Billy’s albums, but Enough Is Enough was a bit of a let down at the time (even worse now). It seemed to be a step back after the controversial video for “Rock Me Tonight” (which despite so, was his highest charting single). Enough Is Enough featured a darker, simpler cover, less ‘artistic’, as the Andy Warhol Emotions In Motion cover or the colorful Signs Of Life cover. And although SOL was a bit more keyboard/pop driven (w/ Jim Steinman co-producing), it still featured plenty of great songs and hit singles. Enough Is Enough, produced by Peter Collins was marred in ’80s pop production, stripping back much of the guitar hook driven pop-rock Squier was known for. But Squier, as well as the label weren’t blameless is the album being a flop – frankly, there just wasn’t as strong material through EIE. A bit of filler (at least), and not to mention the Freddie Mercury vocal intro to “Love Is The Hero” being left off the album (finally being included on 1996’s Reach For The Sky compilation). I didn’t like much of anything Queen did in the 80s, but they were still a huge international band who made hit singles, and surely having Freddie Mercury’s voice and name attached to (perhaps the album’s strongest track) could’ve helped the album’s sales!? Regardless, between the creepy video for “Rock Me Tonite”, and a bit of a lackluster follow-up album, my interest in Squier was less enthusiastic, and although I would still get his next few albums, I was never in a rush. But in retrospect, it is his 1989 album Hear & Now that would’ve made for a far better ‘next’ album to Signs Of Life.
First improvement is the cover – a black & white shot of Squier, but with a bit of color added for the bigger titles, making it stand out a lot more.
Co-produced by Godfrey Diamond & Squier, Hear & Now included longtime keyboard player Alan St John, as well as bass player Mark Clarke – who’d played on Don’t Say No (ex Uriah Heep, Colosseum, Tempest, Mountain…), drummers Anton Fig (Kiss, Frehley’s Comet), and longtime drummer Bobby Chouinard, longtime guitarist Jeff Golub, and in-demand guitarist John McCurry (who’s lengthy list of credits include Cher, John Waite, Julian Lennon, Alice Cooper). This album really went back to Squier’s Don’t Say No sound – with more focus on guitars, a harder edge, and great catchy songs. “Don’t Say You Love Me” was an excellent single, got a lot of radio air-play, and would be the last Billy Squier single to hit the top 100. This album really has no duff tracks, with classic Squier rock tunes like “Stronger”, “Tied Up” (a radio hit), “G.O.D”., “The Work Song”,… Favorite tunes have to be side 2 opener “(I Put A) Spell On You” – this one sounds like it would’ve fit perfectly on Don’t Say No, and would’ve been an outstanding choice for a single here.
Other favorite track is 2nd single “Don’t Let Me Down”, somewhat of a ballad, great chorus, love the use of mandolin on this song as well; this one should’ve been a big hit. Solid production on this album, which also features plenty of backing singers, saxophone, horns .. all the while making this album more rockin’ and memorable.
Although I really enjoyed Signs Of Life, Hear & Now is just as good, and possibly the best album Squier did since Don’t Say No. Godrey Diamond (best known for his work with Lou Reed), would go on to produce the follow-up album – 1991’s Creature Of Habit. Despite 2 decent follow up albums Hear & Now wouldn’t turn Squier’s fortunes around at the time, but for me (and many fans) it is an underrated classic in Squier’s catalogue that should’ve done better.
I hope to write more on Billy Squier’s albums in the future; a great catalogue of work dating back to the mid 70s with New York band Piper. Rock Candy magazine (UK) recently did a major feature on Squier’s career, well worth checking out. A shame Billy Squier retired from the music industry and that he’s no longer making music, the guy wrote great memorable tunes throughout the ’80s & into the ’90s, and put together a superb list of hit singles and a number of classic albums. It would also be most welcomed if someone would reissue Squier’s catalogue – in full, along with anything else (live recordings, outtakes..) – because aside from a few, most of his CDs are either hard to find online – or at a sane price.