The Stroke

Album: Don't Say No (1981)
Charted: 52 17
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Songfacts®:

  • Well, this one sure seems to be about masturbation: "You put your right hand out give a firm handshake." But, according to Squier in an interview with VH1, the song is actually about the music business.
  • Squier admits a Queen influence in this song, and Queen's guitarist Brian May was at one point slated to produce the album. When May backed out because of scheduling conflicts, Reinhold Mack, who produced Queen's album The Game, stepped in. In a 1982 interview with Sounds magazine, he said: "I've listened to Queen ever since their first album, I've known them for ten years, and I think they're very innovative and done a lot of things that I like – in the same way that Led Zeppelin has. I don't think I'm making surrogate Queen music. I don't think their albums sound like my albums, I don't think the lyrics are the same, I don't think I write the same way. I think there are elements of similarity you could find in it to a certain extent. But I could probably do that with just about any band given enough time."
  • This was Squier's first hit, and it came when he was 31 years old and already a 12-year veteran of the music industry, which helps explain the song's meaning. He was in bands called The Sidewinders and Piper before releasing his first solo album, Tale of the Tape, in 1980. Don't Say No was his most successful album, selling over 3 million copies.
  • Squier released a radically different version of this song on his 1999 acoustic album Happy Blue.
  • According to Squier, the distinctive drum sound was created by recording the snare drum backwards and playing it just ahead of the real drum.

Comments: 17

  • Stephanie from Rocky Mount, NcDoes Kiss’s Paul Stanley sing backup on The Stroke? Definitely sounds like him!
  • Squier Fan from SwedenI used to think the lyrics to the "Stroke" was aluding to Lucifer in some aspect;
    "Put you right hand out and give a firm hand shake", which would imply the left hand of someone else is shook.
    And I always thought he sang
    " ... grab your violin" - the Devils instrument - not " ... vile/vile "
    Furthermore there's the sentence heard while playing "Stroke" backwards - "Devil save us". You can look it up on youtube.

    In the song "Angry", an album produced after "Don't Say No", which by the way is one of the greatest of all time - ah, hell, I love everything he's produced and hope he will continue to do so for a long time - he sings:

    "Get your master key, open up your doors
    Set your servants free, they won't come no more (?)
    Wrapped my life in chains, gave my everything
    Learned to feel no pain, now everyday I wake up
    Angry ... angry I said ..."

    The rest of the lyrics speaks for itself:

    ... "Your mantle's 'bout to fall ... "

    ("This phrase originates from the biblical story of the prophet Elijah and his apprentice Elisha. After Elijah ascended to heaven, his cloak or “mantle” fell behind him. His apprentice, Elisha, picked up the cloak and wore it, symbolically suggesting that he would assume Elijah's role as a prophet.")

    " ...Your grips gonna come undone
    Nobody hear you call
    No flowers from anyone
    I'm getting down off the rack
    I'm taking this _baby_(?) back
    Your mantle's 'bout to fall
    No heaven after all
    No heaven after all ...

    I'd like to hear what some of you think about this? I'm not sayin' he sold his soul, but some of his lyrics definitely is about both the dark and the light, good and the bad - Lucifer and G.O.D. - Pun intended.

    But so are a lot of musicians lyrics. Just a thought.

    Billy 'The Man' Squier
    Long live!
  • MikeThe song is clearly about selling drugs. " keep your contributions by your side " (guns) "spread your ear pollution " (drug deal)
  • Rucknmaul from NcAt first, it does sound like a song about pulling the goalie, but after a second take, it's clearly about business; business execs doing the 'stroke' on artists, producers, etc. to make deals happen. Applies to the music industry of the 80s as well as any other industry of today.
  • Crumble from Cape Cod, MaThe phrase “giving someone the stroke” is a sexual inuendo to replace brown nosing. You’re “stroking” them like a seductive woman would on your shoulder. I believe it’s about the business and finding the way to please people put through a sexual lense of metaphor. It’s not just pleasing the crowds. But I’ll be damned if the song doesn’t work in a sexy environment
  • Classicrock from WorldwideThe song isn't about any sexual activity.
  • Sebastian from Columbus, Ohio Billy Squier was a top performer in the 80's. He topped many charts during his career. His song lyrics and instrumentals were outstanding during the time. His music videos were also very well done.

    If you didn't grow up in that era around an age where you can understand and comprehend life, then you have NO clue what you're even talking about !!!
  • Sebastian from Columbus, Ohio If you look & read the lyrics, it is clearly about the music business...stroke is also a word for gentle persuasion. Like saying you have to stroke the business. If you take the perversion from your mind you would see that. Lyrics say you finally bled me......meaning taking almost all the money.....let my backbone slide......basically bending over backwards to get where they are in the music business. So put your mindset on if you were a musician trying to be famous, then read the lyrics & you'll understand.
  • 420osis from CanadaEverybody is at least bi. Pupil dilations. Muh he no gay muh nothing is gay except for when everything is "crap". Muh he bi. Muh feed me boobs and so forth and so on. Many songs and artists best ones are same as here so let alone your "you killed his career why don't you know anything amongst this gong show?" type crapola. He is in the industry everybody is overanalysing and crying about. While he sings the way he wants and describes how most-all men talk about boys or men or their daddies or whatever and like this song does. This is what confuses and angers people. Nobody's problems but theirs.
  • Dianesss from Simi Valley, CaThe Stroke is an intensely graphic commentary on what it used to take, repeatedly, "behind the scenes," for young artists to break into and survive within the music industry.
    Now give it a listen.
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaIt's comparing the music industry to masturbation. . .
  • T2 from OhioThis song is ABSOLUTELY super gay. You don't need a degree in reading comprehension to discern that.
  • Don from Sevierville, TnI think the part where Squier sings "Don't you take no chances" resembles the Queen song "Dragon Attack" (from "The Game"), where Mercury sang "She don't take no prisoners..."
  • Benjamin from DelawareI think the first item listed in "song facts" should be slightly revised to appeal as more objective: "Well, this one sure seems to be about masturbation. . ." It seems to convey the author's opinion, not that of a third party.
  • Kelly from San Luis Obispo, CaI grew up on 80's music and always liked Billy Squires music and still do. A few years ago before the internet was everywhere, (like it is today) I was listening to the rock radio station at lunch time. It was a big, well known station in southern Ca. the theme for the hour was bi-rockers, they played Joan Jett (lets not debate her as well) and others. When they said Billy Squire was in that category I was shocked. So that's what I was basing my comment on. So I just watched the "Rock me tonite" video and agree.
  • Andy from Santa Clara, CaBilly Squire is not gay, he's not even bi. He made a bad video for Rock Me Tonight and then the rumors started. It became urban legend, like the Rod Stewart story or Mr. Rodgers being a marine sniper in Vietnam. It's just not true and basically ruined his career. It amazes me that this day in age with internet and all the info at your finger tips, and people still buy into these urban legends. To put it quite simply, your an idiot Kelly.
  • Kelly from San Luis Obispo, CaWhy no lyrics available for this song? If you read the lyrics it is easy to tell he is talking about the lowly music execs. The deal always starts with a firm handshake. The other meaning isn't a far stretch either. Squire makes no bones about being bi-sexual.

    Now everybody have you heard
    If you're in the game, then the stroke's the word
    Don't take no rhythm, don't take no style
    Got a thirst for killin', grab your vile...

    You put your right hand out give a firm hand-shake
    Talk to me about that one big break...
    Spread your ear-pollution both far and wide...
    Keep your contributions by your side and stroke me,
    stroke me
    Could be a winner boy, you move quite well...
    You got your number down...
    Say you're a winner but man you're just a sinner now

    You put your left foot out keep it all in place...
    Work your way right into my case
    First you try to bed me you make my backbone slide
    But when you found you bled me-- skip on by...
    keep on---stroke me, stroke me
    Give me the business all night long...
    You're so together boy...
    Say you're a winner but man you're just a sinner now

    Better listen now (said) it ain't no joke
    Let your conscience fail ya, just do the stroke
    Don'tcha take no chances keep your eye on top
    Do your fancy dances you can't stop you just stroke me,
    stroke me
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