Gearing up with Billy Squier
When you hear the name Billy Squier, a collection of early MTV hits usually comes to mind:
“Everybody Wants You,” “In The Dark,” “The
Stroke,” “Rock Me Tonite,” “My Kinda Lover,”
“Lonely Is The Night,” and so on. But you may
not realize what an accomplished and diverse
guitar player he is, and that he’s also done
several tours with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr
Band. Having worked with Squier on several
projects, I found him incredibly passionate
about both his work and his instruments.
Recently, I caught up with him at SIR studios in
New York while he was preparing for his own
upcoming summer tour.
You’re just hopping around the country and
playing some shows, and it’s really enjoyable
and very supportive. I feel good about who I
am—kind of like an elder statesman, in a way.
You know, you’ve spent your whole career
doing your music, and you end up on stage
playing with Ringo, and it feels good. I feel
like, “I really got somewhere after all.” It’s a
win situation on all fronts. And Ringo is just
one of the band; he doesn’t come on like a
Beatle at all. He asks you what you want to
do with your songs, and he really just likes
to play. He appreciates the band and really
makes you feel like he’s glad you’re there.
’ 57 Strat. I also bring my Nocaster and ’ 56
Les Paul Special and ’ 56 Junior.
How about your amps?
With Ringo I use Bogner Ecstasy Customs.
I got them originally because my Marshalls
would just be too loud. My Marshalls are
great for what I do as a solo artist, but
they’re not as versatile as the Bogners. Those
have three channels, so I can set them up for,
say, a country sound for Ringo, an overdrive
channel, or a plexi channel. It’s a great amp,
but it doesn’t sound like my Marshalls.
So, tell me about the Ringo tours.
Playing with Ringo is just great. It’s one of the
greatest gigs in the world for many reasons.
Obviously, you’re playing with a Beatle, which
puts you in rarefied territory right off the bat.
You get to play with great musicians doing
great music that you normally wouldn’t do,
and it’s always nice to play new stuff. You
travel in Beatle class, so it’s really not like
touring in the traditional sense.
What did you bring out on that tour?
Well, I always have my ’ 59 Les Paul burst.
My ’ 58 never goes out, because it’s mint.
People think I’m crazy to take the guitars I
take out now, but I don’t collect guitars, I
play them. If I didn’t have my ’ 59, I would
take the ’ 58 out. I also take out my ’ 58 goldtop with PAFs as a backup for my burst. The
main guitar I use with Ringo is actually my
Tell me about those amps.
I’ve got 10 or 12 of these heads that I’ve had
since the early ‘70s. I have a few that are a
bit later, but the ones I use are the old Super
Lead 100s. Frank Levi reworked these for me
over the course of many nights of creative
abuse. He’d start out with an idea and I’d try
it, and then we’d just keep going until we got
what we wanted. I love the way these sound
because they don’t compress. They have the
classic Marshall tone, but don’t compress into
that midrange ‘box.’ I set the volume around
2, but they sound like they’re on 12—they’re
As for cabinets, I use a 4x12” that has two
Celestions and two old Altec silver cones,
which haven’t been made since 1952. I have
a bunch of those that I pair off. The Altecs
give me the bright, clear sound without being
brittle. They have a really nice balance—really
clean with some warmth, too. The Celestions
of course give me that classic breakup.
So what’s in your rack?
It’s the ‘ 59 burst and a ‘ 58. I also have two
guitars made by James Trussart, a great
French guitar builder out of Los Angeles.
I discovered one of those in Chicago last
year when I was out with Ringo. I never buy
new guitars, but I had to have this. I met
him out in LA, and we designed another
one, which is basically a Strat in a Les Paul-style body. It’s got single coils in it, because
I like Strats so much. All my other guitars
have stock pickups.