Billy Squier is now a staple of classic rock radio with such songs as “The Stroke”, “My Kinda Lover”, “In The Dark”, and “Everybody Wants You”, and the reason is because he was one of MTV’s darlings during their first three years of existence. The songs were a mixture of hard rock and pop, and without guilt he became a personal favorite at a time when new wave was a dominant sound. For a lot of fans, it was Squier’s first album that made him the artist he would become, an album that unfortunately gets little to know attention in classic rock circles. Not a surprise to hip-hop archivists, it was the 1980 album The Tale Of The Tape that became the source of inspiration for DJ’s who wanted to rock a party.
For them, it was drummer Bobby Chouinard who was the true king of rock and with a funky open drum introduction that was nothing more than a bass drum and snare. It was that beat that would be used by Jam Master Jay in their performance of “Here We Go”, and that beat that would become used at countless freestyles in order to start and rock the party. There’s a generation who have no idea what happens after that beat, but now fans can now get familiar with one of the most underrated rock albums of the 80’s.
The album begins with “The Big Beat”, and in retrospect set Squier’s career off to a flying start with the kind of chorus, vocals, and power riffs that made him famous. Much of the playing in this song, from the slide guitar to that big booming sound of Chouinard’s drums, would become Squier’s trademark sound and it is great to hear it before it became too pop. A lot of hard rock and heavy metal fans have always debated over the merits of a power ballad, and while it’s difficult to say where it started, back in 1980 Squier was doing his best in “Like I’m Lovin’ You”, beginning as a power ballad but occasionally moving back and forth with a bit of gritty hard rock. The album flows very well between the harder tracks and mellower tunes, and 27 years later it still sounds as powerful as it did.
Looking back, one can hear the rootsiness of the music and pride of playing American rock’n’roll. While it sounds nothing like Bruce Springsteen, Journey, or REO Speedwagon, there was something in the air where bands were going back to get in touch with the music that perhaps a lot of Americans had forgotten, or had willingly given up to Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. The Tale Of The Tape is not only the story of the dawn of a lot of great rock in the 80’s, but the kind of music that was still genuine before videos had changed the way people heard these sounds. In that search to find the perfect beat, the early rap scene looked to this Squier record for inspiration, making Chouinard a king alongside other percussive monarchs such as Clyde Stubblefield, James Black, and Idris Muhammad. Get on down.