Sunday Morning: Billy Squier Recalls the Label Woes That Ended His Recording Career
His commercial stock dropped after the early-to-mid '80s, but Billy Squier kept on releasing records into the '90s, and enjoyed a few hits along the way -- until, as he discussed in a recent interview, an underhanded move by his label led to Squier walking away from the record business in disgust.
Talking to Rockpages about the recent reissue of his 1993 'Tell the Truth' LP (newly available via Squier's website), he looked back on how the immense pride he felt after finishing the record quickly turned into one of the bitterest disappointments of his career. "When I did 'Tell The Truth,' I was going through my fourth or fifth label president at Capitol Records. The guy who came in while I was making the album was previously at Geffen and he was somehow involved in the whole grunge movement," explained Squier. "Well, this guy decided that he knew more about music than I did. He had an idea of what he was gonna do at Capitol Records, and he decided that he was not gonna promote Billy Squier."
Squier is referring to Gary Gersh, who rose through the executive ranks at Geffen before resigning to take over Capitol in 1993. "I really don’t know why he decided that," Squier continued. "But I can tell you this: when I finished 'Tell The Truth' and gave it to Capitol, he called me up...it was spring of 1993...he called me up at my home and he said, 'Billy, I wanna tell you something. This is the best record that’s coming out from our label for at least the next six months...and I am gonna make sure that nobody hears it!' He said that...he said, 'I’m gonna bury your record!' And I said to him, 'What are you talking about?' He wouldn’t give me a straight answer...nothing!"
As Squier tells the story, that conversation led to an immediate phone call to his lawyer, who set about getting him out of his contract with the label. "If someone could do such a thing to me, I don’t want to be involved anymore in this business," he admitted. "I knew that I had done my best on 'Tell The Truth'...I was so proud of that record...I remember [producer] Mike Chapman telling me, 'Billy, you are the best songwriter I’ve ever come across in my life!' Coming from someone like Mike, it meant a lot to me. So, after all this hard work, there comes this guy telling me, 'I’m gonna take your best work and bury it'...There wasn’t much that I could do. I left; I walked."
Whatever the reasons, 'Tell the Truth' failed to chart, and started a long hiatus from recording that Squier has rarely broken over the last couple of decades. But even if he's no longer willing to release new music as often as he used to, he remains a staunch believer in that album; in fact, as he went on to argue, he thinks it stands comfortably next to some of the biggest classics in the rock 'n' roll canon.
"Quite recently I put it on and the record blew me away," he continued. "In fact, I was listening to [the Beatles'] 'Revolver'...some people think that it’s the best record of all time...so, I was listening to 'Revolver' and for some reason after that, I put on 'Tell the Truth' and I felt like those two records are completely in good company together. I think that 'Tell the Truth' is one of the best rock records ever made by me or anyone -- I really do. I think it’s that good. I can put on 'Revolver' or 'Led Zeppelin II' and then 'Tell the Truth' and there is no quality gap."