I used to dishwash at this bar/burger joint down the street from where I went to high school, down the street from where I live now. The radio would constantly be on the oldies station, which used to play stuff like Motown and “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane,” but now is more the David Bowie – “Modern Love”, “Ballroom Blitz” type fare. If you go into this place on a Sunday night, you’ll see the same people — one, a very agreeable fellow, sometimes with his wife, always getting a burger, drinking six beers and smoking six cigs, and another, a dude who sometimes works there, but on Sunday nights gets a pizza with extra cheese and drinks enough to render him powerless, head down on the bar. He’ll always glare at me when I go in there, which is why I haven’t been there in over a year, even though it’s a brief, commercially sparse mile away from me.
But he’s still chasing fantasy. He’s still driven by his inner boy, and he’s sensitive. Billy Squier is just the music for him.
“Lonely is the Night,” which came on Don’t Say No, the album from ’81, is like Flan ice cream. It’s like too much victory. You just don’t need it. “Everybody Wants You,” the opener and smash hit from Emotions in Motion, doesn’t even need a key change to achieve the same inertial prowess. This is because the instrumentation is angular and airtight, playing like a perfect time capsule from 1982, which sometimes you need, to go with the “hipper” Bowie, XTC and maybe Blondie.
Billy Squier has vocal chords of cellophane lava. They’re like a microwave, they could warm a cranky waitress’ soup in 15 seconds. It’s the type of stuff that makes having your head down on the bar, cranked from drunken exhaustion, seem like the thing to do, because it all fits: you had FAITH in this night, in the limitless possibilities of this small town bar on a Sunday. Except Emotions in Motion is better than Don’t Say No because, rather than perfectly soundtracking such debauchery like “Lonely is the Night” would, grounded, tough-love armories like “Everybody Wants You” and the Alice Cooper/Almost Famous-harking titled track will HIT you, will fully give you the realization of where you are, courtesy of someone who’s BEEN up in his own lear jet going overseas to perform, but also who has risen from your exact spot, and just wanted you to know. And then, what comes next is anybody’s guess.