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I first got into Squeeze in the early 1990's, a work colleague had brought in a greatest hits tape and I soon found myself singing along. I had heard 'Cool For Cats' and 'Hourglass', I didn't know who they were by and I would certainly not have put them as being done by the same group. After hearing Squeeze's greatest hits album, I went out and purchased 'East Side Story' (Quite a good album if you get a chance to listen to it). Squeeze are a band I come back to every so often, and the reason I have revisited this album was down to a recent documentary (My brother recommended it) I watched on the song writing partnership of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook and it brought back how great these songs actually were and how underrated this band were.
Chris Difford - Guitar/Vocals
Glenn Tilbrook - Vocals/Vocals & Keyboards on tracks 17-20
Jools Holland - Keyboards tracks 1-7, 13-14
Paul Carrack - keyboards/Vocals tracks 8-10, 15-16
Don Snow - Keyboards/Backing Vocals tracks 11-12
Gilson Lavis - Drums
===Who are Squeeze===
Squeeze were formed in Deptford, London in 1974, they became part of the burgeoning punk scene in 1976 before being signed by A & M records. Their first four albums helped to establish the bands reputation, despite this, they had minimal success in both the singles and album charts. Jools Holland left the band after their 3rd album to concentrate on presenting, and to explore other musical avenues, he was replaced by Paul Carrack. The band released a further two albums with this line up before having a brief two year hiatus, in which Difford and Tilbrook released an album together. In 1985 the original line up returned complete with Jools Holland and released a further 3 albums, including their biggest UK hit album, 'Babylon and On', before Jools, once again left the group. Another 4 albums followed with minimal success on the charts before splitting up in 1999. Difford and Tilbrook have since reformed and are back playing live again. In their career Squeeze released 27 singles, of which only 3 of them reached the UK top ten (a poor show considering the quality and strength of the tracks showcased on this album), and 13 studio albums, with only 2 reaching the top 20, in my opinion, they are one of the most underrated bands to come out of the 80's.
The way Difford and Tilbrook wrote their songs was really unusual, Difford wrote the lyrics as a poem and Tilbrook would then have a look at it and write the music and the melody for it, whereas most people that collaborated on a song, would do so on both the music and the lyrics. Difford still uses this method of song writing today, even on his solo stuff.
The album opens with the bands first single, the synthesizer heavy, 'Take Me I'm Yours', in my opinion this track sounds a little like Depeche Mode, with Difford and Tilbrook sharing the vocal, Difford singing one octave lower than Tilbrook. The lyrics of this song for me conjure up images of Lawrence of Arabia and all those epic films from the 1950's/60's. This is a fantastic tune and a great way to kick start the album, it should have got a higher chart placing than number 19, just inside the top 20 doesn't do the song any justice.
'Goodbye Girl' was the first single released from the bands second album, 'Cool For Cats' and it reached number 63 on the UK Singles Chart. The songs lyrics tell the story from a first person point of you, looking back on how he met his wife and then the reality hits home that his wife has left him and moved to Boston. The song has a nice tune and a lot of imagery that is prevalent in a lot of Squeezes songs.
'Cool For Cats', probably one of the bands best known songs and a rare lead vocal performance from Chris Difford complete with a London accent, is up next, . This track was the title track of the album of the same name and also the bands second single from that album. The single reached number 2 on the UK Singles Chart in 1979, making it the first of 3 top ten hits for the band. The lyrics to this song are quite observational, references to Davy Crockett and The Sweeney (a popular TV show at the time) in the first two verses, before talking about going out, getting drunk and taking a girl home "I'm invited in for coffee and I give the dog a bone" (Sexual innuendo?? Could be interpreted either way, entirely up to the listener). This is a favourite song of mine and I love singing along to it in the best London accent I can muster, a really catchy pop song.
In 1963 a book called 'Up The Junction' was published, which dealt with sexual encounters, pregnancy & abortion, this book was then made into a play for the BBC. Difford liked the idea of writing a song in the style of a play and this is partly where the idea for the song 'Up The Junction' came from. This tells the story of through the eyes of the singer, it is about him meeting a woman, moving in together, getting the woman pregnant, having a girl, and the woman leaving due to the singers drinking. The song has 6 verses in total, a bridge but no chorus and it is one of the best lyrical pieces this band have produced in my opinion. The song was the 3rd single to be taken from this album, becoming their second number 2 in the UK Singles Chart in a row(I think it should have got to number one, although 'Sunday Girl' by Blondie was a great single to compete with).
'Slap and Tickle' is another character song about an unnamed girl and her boyfriend, Michael "She was frigid as a bible when she met her boy named Michael'. Slap and tickle is slang for sexual activity, and that's what this song is basically about. The chorus kind of ruins the song for me with the terrible cheesy line "Never chew a pickle with a little slap and tickle". This was the final single from 'Cool For Cats' and reached number 24 in the UK Singles Chart.
'Another Nail in My Heart' was the bands first single release from their 3rd album, 'Argy Bargy', it peaked at number 17 in the UK Singles Chart in March 1980. The song tells the story of the breakup of a relationship due to the singer being down the pub all the time, and despite all his bravado, the singer regrets it, "and here in the bar, the piano mans found, another nail for my heart" . I love the harmonies on this , it's classic Squeeze at its best. I also love the drawn out way Tilbrook sings the last line of each verse, this is an absolutely great underrated pop song.
'Pulling Muscles (From the Shell)' is another term alluding to sexual intercourse, and is based on Diffords experiences at a holiday camp in his youth. This song is full of imagery, it refers to Harold Robbins (author), Camber Sands(a beach in Sussex), Bingo, coach holidays, William Tell, Maid Marion and having intercourse behind a chalet "But behind the chalet, my holidays complete and I feel like William Tell, Maid Marion on her tiptoed feet". I didn't like the song at first and it wasn't until I actually went to Camber Sands for a day trip that the song came into my head and I love it now (funny how these things happen). This single reached number 44, their lowest chart position since 'Goodbye Girl' two years earlier.
'Is That Love' is the first single release from 'East Side Story', it reached number 35 in the UK Singles Chart in 1981. It seems to tell the tale of an argument where the female keeps calling the singers bluff by threatening to leave all the time, "You've left my ring by the soap, now is that love" and when she does this he knows she's calling her bluff and doesn't rise to this "Beat me up with your letters, your walk out notes, funny how you still find me, right here at home, legs up with a book and a drink, now is that love that's making you think". The song ends with the woman calming down and the couple making up " You've made my bed the finger points, now is that, is that love. The more you more you more you cool down , the easier love is found, now that is love". This used to be one of my favourite Squeeze songs, I liked the catchy repetitive chants of "Is that love", I always felt it was too short though, as it seems to be over before its begun.
'Tempted' reached number 41 when it was released in the UK, but became their bands biggest hit in America, reaching number 8. For a change, lead vocal duties fall to Paul Carrack, although there was a couple of lines in the second verse that Paul could get his vocal around, so Glen and Elvis Costello(he also produced 'East Side Story') step in, before it goes back to Paul again. Chris wrote some of this song on the way back from Heathrow Airport, he went through a lot of the places that he had passed "The church and the steeple, the laundry on a hill, billboards and the buildings memories of it all keep calling". This is one of those songs that grows on you through time, Paul Carracks voice is amazing and I honestly don't know why he didn't take lead on more singles.
A change from the pop of the last nine songs, next up we have a bit of country/folk in the shape of 'Labelled with Love'. This was written after observing an older woman in a bar and he imagined her to have married an American pilot during the war "During the wartime an American Pilot, made every air raid a time of excitement, she moved to his prairie and married the Texan". The tells the story of a widow, who is left to live her life alone after everyone she knows has either passed away or has more or less forgotten about her and all she has left is her bottle of whiskey and her cat. The song is quite sad and the lyrics are sublime, I don't understand why this never reached higher than number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. This would be the last time a Squeeze single would reach the top ten.
'Black Coffee in Bed' is the first single release from 'Sweets From a Stranger', released in 1982, it reached number 51 in the UK Singles Chart. This is another break-up song, but this time instead of feeling remorse, the singer is angry that his partner left him, "With the way that you left me, I can hardly contain, the hurt and the anger, and the joy of the pain" and to cure this pain, he goes out to find someone "Now knowing I'm single, there'll be fire in my eyes and a stain on my notebook for a new love tonight". This tune has a nice melody to it, it is simply a classic ballad with a difference and so underrated.
'Annie Get Your Gun' was the last single release before the band went on their brief hiatus, it doesn't appear on any studio album and it reached number 43 in the UK Singles Chart. It sounds totally unlike anything Squeeze did before or after it, in that it has more of a rockabilly feel to it. The songs title alludes to the musical of the same name. I have no idea what this song is about, as the lyrics are a bit all over the place, all I can say for certain is it's a great pop song, not the greatest on this album, but probably one of the last of the better ones before it went downhill for the band.
' Last Time Forever' was the bands first single after their 3 year break, it reached number 45 on the UK singles chart, but this time, in my opinion it didn't deserve a higher placing. It's a slow number and the intro sounds a little like Midge Ures number 1 hit single from that year (1985), 'If I Was'. This is another break up song, this time over jealousy. This is one of my least favourite songs on this album, definitely the first poor song, and in my opinion, the start of the decline.
Just when I was beginning to think it was over for the group and the quality was beginning to wane, they proved me wrong with this next great pop tune, 'Hourglass'. This is just a pure classic 80's pop song, catchy chorus, synthesizer, saxophone, all the ingredients that were needed to make a great pop song at the time. This song reached number 16 in the UK Singles Chart in 1986 and was their first single released from 'Babylon and On'.
Obviously their output from 1987-1993 wasn't classed as essential enough for this album, so we fast forward to 1993 with the bands second single from the album of the same name, 'Some Fantastic Place'. This is a great ballad and it even has a choir, and when that choir kicks in I get goose bumps, a truly amazing song. This song only reached number 73 on the UK Singles Chart, quite a disapointing show really for a song of its calibre.
'Loving You Tonight' did not chart at all on its release, lead vocals once again return to Paul Carrack and as much as I think he has a great voice, this song sounded too much like a Michael Bolton song for me. It would probably be an OK song to listen to turned down low, when you're having a quiet evening in, but it's not something I would go out of my way to listen to.
'This Summer' is the last great song the band ever put out, in my opinion, and they should have just gave up after its release. The song also was the bands highest charting hit since 'Hourglass' 8 years previously, it reached number 36 in the UK Singles Chart. The song seems to be about how happy the singer is to be in love with someone " This summer there won't be a cloud in the sky I'm so made up I feel I could take off and fly.....I'm so happy I can't get you out of my head This summer I am so in love with you".
' Without You Here' is an album track from the bands 1998 album, 'Domino', it sounds a bit Beatley in parts, especially the vocal, I can imagine John Lennon singing this (I hope I haven't offended any John Lennon fans by saying that). It is quite a mellow song about missing a certain loved one, and it does sound nice in parts, but nice isn't really enough, when all the other tracks on this album, except one, have been great.
The next two tunes, 'Library Girl' and 'Last Call For Love' are previously unreleased tracks, and in my opinion they should have stayed that way, as they bring nothing to the table on this album and I certainly wouldn't have classed them as "essential". The first song is a rocky high paced number that has a similar sound to Deacon Blue and the second track is a melancholy song that just seems to drone on, hence the reason I usually don't play both of these tracks.
All songs written by Difford and Tilbrook
1) Take Me I'm Yours
2) Goodbye Girl
3) Cool For Cats
4) Up The Junction
5) Slap and Tickle
6) Another Nail in My Heart
7) Pulling Muscles (From the Shell)
8) Is That Love
10) Labelled With Love
11) Black Coffee in Bed
12) Annie Get Your Gun
13) Last Time Forever
15) Some Fantastic Place
16) Loving You Tonight
17) This Summer
18) Without You Here
19) Library Girl (Previously unreleased)
20) Last Call For Love (Previously unreleased)
You can purchase this album for £11.99 including delivery from amazon.co.uk, and for 17 quality tracks, this is well worth the money (I know there are 20 tracks on here, but the last three we will call bonus ones, as I wouldn't pay any money for them).
This is a great starting point for anyone wishing to get into Squeeze, it contains a lot of their hits plus some album tracks. I prefer all their stuff from 1979-1985 (Tracks 1-12 on this album), this was when the band were at their peak. After this period their sound just wasn't the same, even after Jools returned for a second brief stint, although 'Hourglass' is a great track. I didn't rate tracks 18-20 much, they didn't have the same oomph about them as the previous tracks. Despite the weak numbers, I am still going to give it 5/5 because there are many great tracks on this, that more than outweigh the weak ones.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Take Me I'm Yours
2 Goodbye Girl
3 Cool For Cats
4 Up The Junction
5 Slap & Tickle
6 Another Nail In My Heart
7 Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)
8 Is That Love?
10 Labelled With Love
11 Black Coffee In Bed
12 Annie Get Your Gun
13 Last Time Forever
15 Some Fantastic Place
16 Loving You Tonight
17 This Summer
18 Without You Here
19 Library Girl
20 Last Call For Love