Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stroking Billy Squier

Lonely is the Night - Billy Squier (mp3)

I miss the days when concerts were the cornerstone of great urban legend.

Ozzy bit the heads off live bats. Alice Cooper drank human blood. Prince had real live sex with real live fans right there on stage at his concerts. So did KISS. Zappa ate human turds. These are just the ones I remember vividly. I also recall Styx, 2 Live Crew, Motley Crue, and dozens of other bands and performers being mentioned in rumors of concert insanity. There were even rumors of entire audiences falling asleep during Dan Fogelberg concerts!

To this day I can’t say for certain which of these concert stories are complete bullshit and which ones are based in reality, nor do I know which ones were invented locally in Chattanooga and which ones were viral elsewhere and invaded my hometown circle. More importantly, I don’t want to know. I prefer having to use my own common sense to figure it out while cherishing that golden nugget of uncertainty.

Easily the most disturbing -- and therefore most memorable -- concert rumor of my young life revolved around freakishly girly-looking rock star Billy Squier and his extreme gayness. The specific rumor about him, as I remember it, went something like this: He gave other guys blowjobs on the stage during his concert.

First, I need to clarify something. In 1985, adults did not talk to children about homosexuality. Not in the South, anyways. Dad used the word “sissy” on a number of occasions, and in hindsight that word and its context seem obvious, but at the time I just thought it referred to men who sucked at sports, which is to say, guys like me. So even when adults talked about gay men, I didn't quite connect it to the conversations of kids around me.

I don't remember any teachers talking about it, either in positive or negative ways. It was almost as if the entire queer world existed solely for hidden gay adults and teenage conversations. And Billy Squier, the most openly gay rock star ever.

The singular way I knew anything about being gay, about gay people, about gayness, is from talk with my friends and my peers. If this comes across as defensive, it's intended to be, because attending an all-boys school put us on the defensive about this issue from day one, and adults wanted nothing to do with it. Or else adults just didn't hear it. Either way, Gay Was Bad.

Of course Billy Squier didn't blow men on stage during concerts. He isn't even gay.* But I didn't have the Internet. Catastrophic or unbelievable concert moments couldn't be hunted down on YouTube. So if a half-dozen cool dudes who were three years older than me insisted that Billy Squier was some gay queerbag who blew his drummer on the stage, who the hell was I to argue the point?

It may seem ludicrous that I actually believed this could happen. But we were still emerging from the chaos that was the 1970s, a decade that even in my youthful cluelessness symbolized that anything and everything was possible, particularly regarding sex and sexual positions. Further, when one has attended a single Suzanne Vega concert in his whole life, and when one is as totally clueless about sex as I was -- hell, Kurt Cobain was almost dead before I had sex, and my On Base Percentage in the 80s hovered right about .005 -- who was I to say with any authority or knowledge that some rock star would simply not blow another man on stage at a concert?

Somehow the Village People missed me. I mean, I had two of their albums, but they were never a focal point of any conversation about gay men. Can’t explain it, but it’s true. Same with Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. Don't remember their names coming up much until later. But the Billy Squier stuff, and the stuff about Rod Stewart having to have his stomach pumped? Yup. Those are definitely a part of my pre-teen memories.

I'm glad I went back and listened to Squier's hits. There's nothing earth-shattering in them, but it's comforting to know that "The Stroke" isn't literally about some guy jerking him off, and I get the lyrics to "Lonely is the Night" in ways a virginal naif pre-teen cannot. His music is better than the fate he sealed in my personal history book, and that would be true regardless of his sexual inclinations.

So, from one Billy to another, and speaking for an entire generation of clueless and insensitive bastard teens, I apologize. I can't believe what insensitive and homophobic pricks we were.

But you still shouldn't have filmed the video for "Rock Me Tonite." Talk about stoking the damn fire.



* -- Even as I type these words, having researched it a little to verify what I'd suspected, it's difficult to accept, so deeply has that rumor been ingrained in my memory.

6 comments:

Dik Phat said...

Hey, man, I'm right there with ya. Well explained. I saw him in concert and swore he must wear panties. But, shit, he rocked. And guys that rock can't be sissies, right? (I, too, did not think or know about gayness whrn I was 12 in 1981. I just thought certain guitarists or lead singers were crappy ball players who tried to be rockers but sucked at that, too (like Elton John. He must've ben teased a lot in gym class, I thought).
Anyway, many years have passed and I'm finding that while I still dislike almost all the 80s rock I liked when I was a kid (hello, REO Speedwagon and Great White), I am falling in live again with that nasty, pantywaist Bill Squier. His shit simply rocks, and has officially stood the test of time, I declare.
Yeah. Fuckin' A. Rock me tonite, William.

Coolkayaker1 said...

I agree with this blog post and the comment. I dug Squier as much as the next guy--hell, his cassette was as much a part of my teen car as the pine tree air freshner and the stolen panties under the seat. And sure, I had a rep to keep, and when the guy came out with the famous pink, sleeveless video, I hit the pause button faster than you can say, "wet dream". But, like Dik Phat, I have returned to the Squier man in recent years, and his songs have "legs". They sound fresh and, should i dare say, "ballsy", even today. They're as welcome as stolen hospital linens at a toga party. So, whether Billy deepthroats roadies behind the 7-11, it just doesn't matter to me anymore. He rocks, and for that I give him two hard-ons up.

Billy Bob said...

Dik & Coolkayaker - Thanks for your comments. Good to know that in this current climate, three men can come together and agree that, no matter what Squier did or didn't do with other dudes, his music kicked a kind of ass that endures longer than most of his contemporaries. Our country still has hope!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is amazing and thank you so much for posting it. I especially liked how you touched on the fact that as teenagers and young adults, we really weren't truly taught what homosexuality was. I remember watching the Police Academy movies when Proctor got stuck in the gay male bar where the men were dancing. Granted in 4th grade I thought that was odd, but that is all the further my mind took me was that men were simply dancing with each other. I didn't even know what the word 'gay' meant until way late in my teens and even then i was naive.
Sorry, tangent. :o) I will agree in that Billy Squier is an amazing rockstar. My dad had all his albums and I remember Rock Me Tonite being my favorite song at the age of 7 and loved watching the video and mimicking his dance moves, but yes (ha,ha!) it very well is the video that could have sealed his fate (even though very untrue) of why people thought he was so gay. I love Squier's music to this day. Heck I have his Christmas song "Christmas is the time to say I Love You" on iTunes!! Sincerely, a huge Squier fan!

Billy said...

@Anon - Thanks for adding your thoughts, and I cracked up at your "Police Academy" reference. We are clearly from the same generational range of cluelessness, because I'm right there with ya. Hell, I even thought Steve Guttenberg was funny!

Anonymous said...

Interesting read. I remember rocking out to the Stroke (a song about record company executives stroking the egos of artists) and watching the video of Rock Me Tonight as a young teen. I had heard some of those rumors, then heard interviews with him where he was talking about things and mentioned this girlfriend or that one. As it turns out he dated some pretty hot models. I saw him in concert in 2009 and met him and his wife back stage. So, while he may act a bit gay, he's straight. Oh yeah, and he rocks! Alice Cooper said of Squier "He's the most under appreciated musician out there." His music definitely stands the test of time, he's probably the best rock solo artist of all time.