Thursday, October 13, 2011
THE THURSDAY CORRESPONDENT
Some Fantastic Place
On Friday 6th August 2010 JC wrote a piece on the Dundee band The View’s single Superstar Tradesman and included in the article was a track which was in my opinion the worst ever cover version I’ve ever heard….Up the Junction taken from their Zane Lowe Radio One show session.
Squeeze have been a favourite of mine for too many years to accept the minky Dundonians version as anything other than PISH!!
On a recent episode of the Sky Arts Songwriters series Tilbrook and Difford told of how they met after the nineteen year old Chris Difford placed an advert in the window of a sweet shop, around May 1973, asking for a guitarist to play in a band who had a recording contract and an upcoming tour, the applicant’s musical influences had to be the Kinks, Velvet Underground and Glenn Miller, which Glenn Tilbrook considered quite a strange mixture.
He wasn’t going to answer the ad, but his girlfriend forced him into the meeting. He called the number and a gruff sounding person answered and asked him to meet him at a pub in Blackheath and said he’d know him, as he’d be carrying a copy of the Evening Standard. He felt like he was meeting a spy. Glenn Tilbrook was 15 at the time.
They went back to Tilbrook’s house and played each other songs they’d written, it was obvious to Glenn early on that Chris’ lyrics were far better and outstripped anything he could write.
For about a year they would go to each other’s bedrooms to write songs together, funnily enough the recording contract or imminent tour was never mentioned again!!!
Chris Difford explained that Glenn was the only person to answer his advert; the embarrassing thing was there was no record deal, no tour and no band. He had written 30 or 40 songs.
Tilbrook introduced Chris to someone who had been described to him as an incredible pianist, Jools Holland. They decided on the name Squeeze after their first bassist Harry Kakoulli came up with idea of naming themselves after what they thought was the worst Velvet Underground album.
In 1976 they started playing the vibrant pub circuit in London along with the likes of Dr Feelgood, Kursaal Flyers, Eddie and the Hotrods and The Stranglers.
In 1977 they released their first self-titled album produced by Velvet Underground’s John Cale and without really trying they had turned into a new wave band but they felt they never had the right haircuts or clothes. They were signed to A&M records and were the labels first new wave signings since what they saw as their disastrous signing of the Sex Pistols.
For such a revered song writing partnership they had a funny way of writing together, they lived in the same house, top flat and basement flat, and Difford would leave lyrics out on a tray for Tilbrook to pick up in the morning when he went out to pick up the milk. He’d work on them with the melody during the day.
The greatness of the Squeeze songs to me, are that they are like little screenplays, back in the seventies the BBC showed little one hour dramas called Play For The Day and Difford’s lyrics are similar to these, small self contained stories.
Up the Junction is a prime example of this type of song. In fact the title comes from a novel by Neil Dunn and was made into a play by Ken Loach in 1965 for the BBC.
mp3 : Squeeze - Up The Junction
Between 1978 and 1984 they had 12 top fifty selling singles and 4 top fifty albums in the UK.
The band had seen various keyboard players come and go since Jools Holland had left to pursue his TV career in 1980, also Difford and Tilbrook felt his desire to play boogie-woogie style didn’t fit their needs.
In the States they had built up a very strong following through college rock stations and playing the American college circuit, in the summer of 1982 they played a sell out show at the famous Madison Square Garden, New York. The pressures of touring and recording without a break began to tell and they disbanded in the later part of that year.
At the time Difford said, of his relationship with Tilbrook, “While on tour there were times when we didn’t talk for weeks. We went through a dark period”.
They took a break from each other and then got together to release their own album, Difford and Tilbrook in 1984. The album had moderate success.
mp3 : Difford & Tilbrook - Love's Crashing Waves
A year later they reformed Squeeze for a charity event and this gave them the opportunity to get back in the studios. The line-up saw Jools Holland and Gilson Lavis, the original drummer re-join and the album Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti was written and recorded. It’s an album that received good critical acclaim but the band later looked back at it with some disappointment.
Tilbrook now says “We were all so excited about being back together, that we didn't put all that much thought into album. We were rarely actually in the room playing at the same time.”
From 1987 until 1998 they would produce 6 albums with very little success.
There were some outstanding tracks from these releases and every time I revisit them something else jumps out and hits me.
A few of the singles were outstanding This Summer, Electric Trains and the one that I consider to be the greatest song written by Difford and Tilbrook.....Some Fantastic Place.
mp3 : Squeeze - This Summer
After the album Play, it looked like the end of the partnership; Chris had said that most of his early song writing was written on a bed of a hangover. It was a lovely place between death and the next drink and on the eve of an American tour, he decided he couldn’t cope with six weeks of more heavy drinking.
Glenn went on the tour as the only original Squeeze member.
A few years later, Chris decided not to tour America again.
A rift appeared between the pair. Glenn didn’t know the extent of Chris’ drinking and how he was close to a nervous breakdown he was. Difford checked himself into a clinic in Canterbury, 12 weeks of intensive therapy revitalised him.
It was a very different Chris Difford that got together his long time friend to write songs in the same room, something they’d done rarely since their early days, but they did it when they wrote their last major “hit”, Hourglass.
mp3 : Squeeze - Hourglass
One song had been written while Chris was in the Canterbury clinic.
Some Fantastic Place was written as a tribute to Glenn’s first real girlfriend Maxine, who died in 1992, she was the girlfriend that bullied Glenn into the meeting with Chris.
She contracted leukaemia, but through her illness she never lost her positive outlook and sense of optimism. The house that Difford and Tilbrook shared in their early song writing days was owned by Maxine.
Glenn tells how, “When Chris gave him the lyrics it was obviously about Maxine, although typically he never told me this. I sat down at the piano and the music just came out. It’s such a lovely song and I remember playing it to Jane (Glenn’s wife) when we’d just written it and she burst into tears. It wasn’t a hit but it’s a powerful song and I’ve been told it means so much to many people. It’s my favourite Squeeze song and anything from the heart can’t be beaten”.
Chris explained it was a very spiritual moment when he was told of Maxine’s death. He sat in the garden of the alcohol treatment centre crying his eyes out. When he sat down to write the lyric, he wrote it without the pen leaving the paper from top to bottom. He was given a cup of tea and he remembers the taste to this day as the last thing he wanted to drink was TEA. He wanted to get over the wall and run to the nearest pub to get arseholed.
mp3 : Squeeze - Some Fantastic Place
After the release of Squeeze’s 12th album in 1998 Domino, which both describe as “not a very nice experience”, Chris again decided not to go to on tour in America and checked back into a clinic to fight off the depression that was overtaking him.
When Glenn returned, Chris asked for half of the profit from the tour as he owned half of the Squeeze name. Tilbrook felt he was taking the piss.
Chris called Glenn to a meeting at The Priory Clinic to tell him their 25 year partnership was over. It was upsetting for both parties.
Both had too much respect for each other to attempt to snatch the legacy of the band for themselves.
They continued to work separately. Chris Difford has released 3 solo albums and Glenn Tilbrook has also released 3 solo albums.
I first saw Glenn Tilbrook’s solo show at the Lochgelly Centre Theatre. He put together a great band called The Fluffers (named after the person on porn shoots whose job is to make sure the male penis stays erect!!)
His shows are always great fun. Audience participation is always encouraged and he normally starts the second half of each show coming into the crowd with the rest of the band, and leading some of the paying customers back onto the stage like the Pied Piper as he sings Black Coffee in Bed.
In 2005, Chris Difford appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in a small room playing to around 100 people. He played old Squeeze songs, told stories of his songs and his song writing and played songs from his solo work.
Chris was due to play a solo set at Glastonbury in 2003 and Glenn went backstage to wish him good luck, Chris persuaded him to join him for two songs Is That Love? and Hourglass, the crowd went mad. This was the start of the rekindling of the friendship.
In 2007 Squeeze reformed to play major tours of the UK and America.
In October 2010 they released an album Spot the Difference, which is a re-recording of all their classic songs.
On the Danny Baker Radio Show, Difford and Tilbrook explained, “We re-recorded the songs as a way of empowering ourselves, we never owned the copyrights to our own songs, so now we own a little bit of our own history”.
mp3 : Difford & Tilbrook - Take Me I'm Yours (live)
Other bands have found this a way to be more selective on where these songs end up and how much they can charge for them being used.
Spot the Difference was released as a limited double album in the UK with a live concert recorded at the Fillmore theatre San Francisco on August 1st 2010.
There has been talk of a new album but as yet nothing has been forthcoming.
Mr John Greer, Thursday 13 October 2011