Uncle Donnie apparently had a short-lived career in producing music videos, back in the early days of MTV. Lev let that one slip one night while we were doing shots of Dubra in Cassie Pashenka’s dorm room (Cassie was that rare Russian exchange student who only drank cheap American vodka). Immediately, he tried to pretend he hadn’t said it, but it was too late Á¢€” I wanted (no, really, I demanded) to know what videos had borne the honor of being produced by the one and only Don Skwatzenschitz. Lev refused to say, except to note that his uncle hadn’t been at it very long when he quit doing it altogether. I forgot about the whole thing, until I came across these two memos from early 1984. -RS
TO: Billy Squier
FROM: Don Skwatzenschitz
RE: Career/Video Advice
Bill, I just heard the test pressing of Signs of Life your guy sent over Á¢€” what a record! Even with all the keyboards and the effects and the overall smaller sound (would it have killed you to let Bobby Chouinard have a damn solo? He’s a monster, man!), it still rocks. You were really able to rein Steinman in, to get to his best essence without all the pomposity and orchestral flourishes. He had a good effect on you, too, particularly on the songwriting front Á¢€” let’s just say it’s a relief to hear an album of yours without a line like “I can see you comin’ on me.”
The first single has got to be “Rock Me Tonite.” Got to be. It’s got that new-wavy vibe the kids dig, plus there’s enough guitar in there to keep your old fans from throwing Schlitz cans at you when you play the Texxas Jam this year. One thing you need, though Á¢€” a video. And I’m not talking just the performance clip-type things you did for Don’t Say No and Emotions in Motion. There needs to be a set, with furniture, and something of a concept, all the while giving you the opportunity to swagger, strut, and sashay.
Yes, sashay. You have to learn to dance. It’s a new world out there, Billy-Boy. You’re a rock and roll maniac , but you have to get on the floor and you’ve got to dance like you’ve never danced before. I’ve got just the guy to work with you, though Á¢€” his name is Kenny Ortega. He choreographed Xanadu. Xanadu, Billy! Gene Kelly! Olivia Newton-John! He’s great, totally perfect for you.
Kenny and I have sketched out a storyboard for a “Rock Me Tonite” video, which I’ve sent along with this memo. Just to give you a little taste, here are some things you’ll be expected to do:
- Wake up naked. The chicks will go NUTS! Plus, we’ve got you in satin sheets Á¢€” so smooth on the legs and belly, don’tcha think? Of course, you’ll put on some clothes Á¢€” pants first, then a shirt, one with one of those fashionably torn sleeves. I think Mitzi still has one of your Emotions in Motion t-shirts. I know what you’re thinking, and you shouldn’t worry Á¢€” nobody will be able to tell it’s one of Mitzi’s shirts. She’s washed and dried it probably ten times, so it’s shrunk at least three sizes; it’ll fit you fine. And even if it’s a little loose, it’s not a problem Á¢€” you’ll be ripping it off yourself pretty quickly.
- Snap your fingers. It’s part of the choreography. Kenny can show you how to do it in a forceful, manly, rockin’ fashion, so you’ll look like you really mean it. In fact, your entire routine in the video will likely be built around your finger-snapping prowess, so I suggest you start practicing. Each time you snap your fingers, throw your arms down, like you intend to loosen your elbow sockets. See what I mean? That’s how a rocker snaps his fingers. We’re even going to have you crawl on the floor on your elbows, so you can keep snappin’.
- Preen. You’ve got that fluffy Kevin Cronin hair, and you need to work it a bit. In front of a mirror. Probably like you do every afternoon, when you get out of bed.
- Rock the pastels. Pastel colors are everywhere Á¢€” peaches and pinks and powder blues. This video will be bathed in the stuff. It’ll look great, let me tell you.
- Get the band in the video. There will be a performance aspect of this, with your band. It’ll be fun Á¢€” you’ll get to run into each other and mug for one another, just like you probably do in rehearsals. Couple things to keep in mind Á¢€” we’ll need the keyboard player to exaggerate playing every note. We’ll also need the bass player to show off his shoulder toward the end of the video Á¢€” Kenny said he has great shoulders.
So take a look and let me know what you think. If you say it’s a go, Kenny will hook up with you and the boys in LA next week. I’ll be out of town, at the Rod Stewart Impersonators convention in Atlantic City (no, I’m not competing this year Á¢€” three consecutive wins is enough), so I’ll just see the finished video when it’s done. I know it’ll be great, Bill.
All the Best,
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TO: Billy Squier
FROM: Don Skwatzenschitz
RE: Kill the video
Bill, I’ve been trying to call you all weekend, but you’re not picking up the phone, so I’m sending this urgent message via overnight delivery, at considerable personal cost to myself.
Billy, you can’t possibly release that video out into the public. Holy mother of God, what was I thinking? It’s an obscenity, and not in a good way. Offer to pay the record company whatever they want to destroy all copies of it. Do you understand? ALL copies. Every last one. I’ll lend you some money, if you need it.
Please call me. Jesus, Billy, just call me.