About the Gig
The 100 Club was filled with fans, anticipation, and for that matter a big stage, as fans waited for Squeeze, one of the great names of British Music and British New Wave, to make their way to the stage, for this special Fred Perry Subculture gig, marking the end of Squeeze's 2010 Tour. With their recent "Spot The Difference" album, revisiting tracks from the bands rich history, it seemed likely that Squeeze would delve into their back catalogue for this gig, and delve they did.
Once on stage, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford immediately captivated the crowd, picking up their priceless looking, matching, Damien Hirst designed, spotted Stratocaster and Telecaster respectively, and with little hesitation launching into their soulful 1982 single "Black Coffee In Bed". This was quickly followed with the characteristic drum loop intro of earlier darker track "Take Me I'm Yours", Difford's vocals becoming more prominent. The sleazily laid-back lyrics and marching beat of "Take Me I'm Yours" sounded as current and potent as ever, before emphasis shifted back onto Tilbrook, slightly, for a rock n' roll-ish, overdriven, energised treatment of "Annie Get Your Gun". It quickly became apparent how much momentum Squeeze possessed, nailing each song in quick succession.
Already three songs into the set, Tilbrook found time to namecheck the band including, of course, Chris Difford and bassist John Bentley, as well as current drummer, Simon Hanson and keyboardist Steve Nieve, perhaps best known as a member of Elvis Costello and the Attractions, another great name of New Wave. The Current line up now clarified, Tilbrook pointed out that "Paul Carrack used to sing this song", before giving his smooth rendition of "Loving You Tonight". With the tempo slowed, Tillbrook informed the audience that "the next song was about drinking too much", and moved onto the melancholy and blue "When The Hangover Strikes" from 1982's "Sweets from a Stranger" album. With the tone darkened "It's So Dirty" followed, sounding growlier and rockier than many would remember it, its subject matter benefiting from the added harshness.
Returning to Squeeze's lighter side, the looped bossa nova rhythm of "Goodbye Girl" signalled the beginning of the middle section of the gig. The heartfelt song with minimal instrumentation showed Glenn Tilbrook's vocals sounding as strong as ever. Steve Nieve also took the chance to shine, adding a playful Melodica accompaniment and ramping up the amount of organ on "If It's Love" which followed. The iconic hit "Up The Junction" came next, pleasing every demographic present in the crowd, telling its story, so evocative of the era of British culture that created it, yet timeless in its emotive narrative. The reaction to "Up The Junction" was typical of the rest of the gig, filling the intimate venue with enough excited mass appreciation to fill a stadium. That said, hearing their material performed in a venue like the 100 Club emphasised the new wave roots of Squeeze, a rare opportunity with the audience numbers Squeeze can pull worldwide. Less Known tracks, "The Knack" and "Model" gave Steve Nieve further opportunity to improvise to the crowd's delight. Then came the well-known sorrowful lament of "Labeled with Love", demonstrating the tuneful, storytelling vocal ability that Glen Tillbrook has used so effectively throughout the bands history.
A breakneck speed "Is that love" raised the tempo before their biggest American commercial hit "Hourglass", adapted well for the current line-up and setting, was made to sit nicely among the band’s earlier, and sometimes darker, work. Tilbrook again took Paul Carrack's vocal part in "Tempted", another of the band's big commercial successes, before throwing over the lead vocal duties to Chris Difford, for "Cool For Cats" which sounded as though it could have been recorded live in 1979, retaining as much urgency and pace now as it held then.
The band thanked the audience and made their way off stage quickly, but despite having played 16 songs, some of their biggest hits were absent, a tribute to the quality and quantity of their work, so an encore was inevitable, with the band quickly returning with the hard synth-heavy intro to "Slap and Tickle", another of the bands harder, darker Difford-driven tracks. Hits from 1980 album "Argy Bargy" then came in to focus, to draw the encore to a close. "Another Nail (For My Heart)" was first up, as tightly executed as the Costello-produced recorded version. An appropriated riff from Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" meandered nicely into the album's other big hitter, "Pulling Mussels (From A Shell)", giving Tilbrook and Difford chance to show off their joint vocals one more time. Veteran fans and youthful new-wave revivalists alike, danced as the 96 minute set drew to a close.
The retrospective nature of the set, as well as being a sure fire crowd pleaser, illustrated how varied Squeeze's back catalogue is. This is, no doubt, partly due to Squeeze having adapted well, to line up changes and the changing face of music in the UK, USA and elsewhere over the last 30 years. Cherry picking from their eras, as "Spot The Difference" does, also acts as a reminder how different yet complimentary the vocal styles of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook are. The varied palette this creates, along with the solidity of their songs, be it the new wave grit of "Slap and Tickle" or the tasteful hook of "Hourglass", helps to explain the broad cross section of fans that Squeeze still attract on both sides of the Atlantic. The comparisons made, of Tilbrook and Difford, to Lennon and McCartney 30 years ago now seem more apt than ever, with almost every song played, through the one and a half hour set, inhabiting its own place and space in world popular culture, much like the Beatles' songs before them. Something very few bands can boast.
Formed in 1973, in South London, by teenage friends Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook Squeeze. Over 35 years later, with their legacy intact and as vital as it has ever been, Squeeze are still touring and reminding fans worldwide just why they have left such an indelible impression on the UK’s music scene.
As teenagers on the South London scene, Squeeze - named after a poorly-received Velvet Underground album, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook were joined by Jools Holland on keys, Harry Kakouli on bass and Paul Gunn on drums, becoming a fixture of the burgeoning New Wave movement. When Gilson Lavis replaced Gunn on drums everything seemed to fall into place, and word of mouth soon spread about the band. It was none other than Velvet Underground man John Cale who caught wind in 1977 and offered to produce their debut EP "Packet Of Three" and much of the following album.
It was their second album "Cool For Cats", released in 1979, which cemented their place as one of Britain's most important young bands. Featuring the classic single "Up The Junction" as well as the title track, it was many listeners' first introduction to the witty kitchen-sink lyricism and new wave guitar music that has become the band's trademark. Difford and Tilbrook would be compared to Lennon and McCartney, with albums "Argybargy" and "East Side Story", the latter produced by new wave icon Elvis Costello.
With their music filling the missing link between the quintessentially british guitar pop of artists, such as The Kinks and The Beatles, and, the then current, new wave / punk scene, Squeeze could do no wrong, winning critical acclaim and loyal fans. Squeeze even started to get noticed in America. A change of line-up would come in 1980 when Paul Carrack (Roxy Music, Ace and Mike + The Mechanics) replaced Jools Holland, going on to lend his unmistakeable vocals to the smash hit "Tempted".
By 1984 Squeeze had disbanded, Tilbrook and Difford, however, continued to work together, and the following record they made together has become the 'lost' Squeeze album for many fans. It transpired that Squeeze could not lay dormant for long, as reforming the next year for "Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti", including Jools Holland (who would eventually leave to pursue his solo career in 1989), Lavis and Keith Wilkinson, Squeeze's longest serving bass player.
Over the next 12 years Difford and Tilbrook remained the only constant element as Squeeze continued to receive critical acclaim, release albums and tour, with the likes of "Hourglass" becoming their biggest ever hit in the USA.
Despite an official Squeeze break-up in 1999, Difford and Tilbrook continued to make music and gig with the same enthusiasm and abandon that they brought to Squeeze's first EP, either with their own solo projects or with each other. Chris Difford has released two solo albums to date, with a third "Chris, That And The Other" set to be the first release from the innovative online label Saturday Morning Music Club later this year. Glenn Tilbrook, meanwhile, has released three solo albums, with 2009's "Pandemonium Ensues" heralding the debut of his other band The Fluffers and saw him recording with Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. Tilbrook has also been an active member of the Love Hope Strength Foundation, which sees him join fellow musicians such as founder Mike Peters (The Alarm), going on treks and climbing some of the globe's greatest landmarks in order to raise money to help treat cancer sufferers throughout the world.
As befits one of the UK's much-loved acts, there is no end of Squeeze fans currently wearing their influences firmly on their sleeve, whether it be Mark Ronson, Kasabian, Supergrass, Lily Allen, The Feeling or Razorlight. With their fingerprints keenly felt throughout the fabric of popular music, it is only right that these songs, with their evergreen and popular sound, continue to be played and enjoyed live. And so since 2007, a newly reformed Squeeze have been slowly finding time to play a series of gigs and festival dates, preferring to reaffirm their abilities as a band rather than follow some of their peers who have come out in a blaze of publicity, only to be met with disappointment. The new Squeeze line-up, is completed by Squeeze veteran John Bentley and Tilbrook's Fluffers cohorts Simon Hanson and Stephen Large, and has become an instant favourite on the festival circuit since reforming with appearances at V, Oxegen, T in the Park and Latitude.
Squeeze's contribution to music has been noted in 2010 with the site of their first gig being awarded a prestigious PRS For Music Heritage Plaque, which has so far commemorated the debuts of Blur and Dire Straits. It joins an ever-increasing list of Squeeze accolades alongside their recent Ivor Novello for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Chris Difford's lyrics and Glenn Tilbrook's music have survived everything over the years, from the ever-changing musical landscape to their own internal reshuffles and acrimonious breakups - but Squeeze are here to stay, still going strong and still loving every moment.
2010 also saw Squeeze release "Spot The Difference" with the bands current line-up re-recording some of the bands best loved songs, and embark on a headline tour of the UK.
In the early 80s, the UK's premier chroniclers of the average person's romantic adventures - along with Madness - were Squeeze. Like the nutty boys, Squeeze were an intrinsically London act. And, as the universal success of the collection, Singles 45s And Under, proved, as a singles band they were peerless. However, the albums could be just as thrilling...
...Argy Bargy (1980), emerged as their crowning achievement. Now reissued along with some of the band's later efforts, it remains a masterpiece of kitchen sink pop, possibly second only to the follow up, East Side Story. Chris Difford, and Glenn Tilbrook, the band's Lennon and McCartney had already proven themselves adept at gritty, witty tableaus like Up The Junction or Slap And Tickle. Added to this was their technical sheen. There's Tilbrook's underrated ability to pull tasty (and apt) solos out of the hat like a younger George Harrison - the solo at 1.46 on Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) is one of the best - and also one of the best drummers in the business in Gilson Lavis. All this briefly made Squeeze world-beaters. Yet it was Tilbrook's angelic tones, undercut by Difford's bass growl that really defined the band's sound. It's used in marvellous ways here on If I Didn't Love You, a song which encaspulates the double-edged pleasures of sexual advances ("if I didn't love you I'd hate you"). The pair's lyrics were by now able to sum up a universe in a couplet. It was their cheeky tendency to use phrases that eschewed poetry but remained English through and through that made them stand out from the crowd. Time and again the subjects amaze with, if not their mundanity, then their refusal to depict anything beyond their own back yards...