By The Book
Squeeze Founder Chris Difford Looks Back on the Band's Best Bits

By Lee Valentine Smith

Squeeze is currently on the road across the United States with a show known alternately as the Squeeze Songbook or the Difford and Tilbrook Soungbook tour. Either are appropriate because singer-songwriter-guitarists Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook are Squeeze, the only constant members since they debuted the group in 1974. Since the beginning, the group membership has been in constant flux with even one of the two principles occasionally stepping away from the band they created.

Regardless of the lineup, Squeeze has issued a number of instantly recognizable pop hits and some intriguing album projects along the way. The Songbook tour is just as likely to include "Cool For Cats," "Up the Junction," "Tempted," "Black Coffee in Bed" and "Hourglass" as well as lesser-known tracks from 2015's Cradle to the Grave and The Knowledge from 2017, their first two albums of all-new material since 1998.

This March, long before the band had even pondered a tour set, INsite spoke with Difford by phone at his home in the UK.

Last time we talked, A Round And A Bout was new and that was at the dawn of the '90s. It seemed like that album and the decade marked a definite turning point for the band.

It did. I think it gave us the chance to take a break and then reform and come back to being a better band. It was good to take that bit of fresh air.

It's still a few months away but for this Songbook-theme show, how far back are you planning to go?

I'm really looking forward to it but I don't really know what it is yet. We haven't even started talking about which songs we're going to play – which is typical of Squeeze – but once we get into the rehearsals I guess we'll figure it out. We've got 14 albums to pick from and I don't think we can go too far wrong with it, hopefully.

You could do the Singles – 45's and Under compilation and the audience would be happy, but you have some excellent recent releases that some of the audience may not have heard at all.

Yeah, I don't think that'll be an issue. I know we'll do a lot of songs that people do want to hear and there'll probably be some that they might not know.

The Knowledge is a record that definitely needs to be heard.

Yeah, that's a good record. I think we'll be playing some songs from it. I mean, I think we'll be dippin' in and out of all those kind of records that we've got to make it a kind of revolving sort of jukebox, I suppose.

Is this an extension of your current solo tour?

Those are kind of separate from Squeeze, I think. Likewise, when Glenn goes out and does his songs it's his own show. But this year I feel like we're coming together for what will be a long tour so we're embracing both the past and our newer things while staying very much in the style of the band.

That's a big challenge to embrace both halves of life - and present it properly.

It is, but I think we're finally grown up enough now to do it right. But we might still need some psychiatrists to come along on the road with us. Just in case.

A lot of bands are touring with entire album shows, playing a classic album or two in their entirety. That was a novelty at first but with the erratic history of Squeeze, it's probably better to visit the songs as separate entities.

Yeah, we did have an offer to play [1981's] East Side Story album as a tour, which I think might have been brilliant but it never really got off the ground as an idea. I think by doing the Songbook tour, it gives us a wider perspective. Because when you're doing an album, you already know what you'll be doing and the audience knows what's next. With an album, when you're playing it live or just listening to it, there are tracks you skip for a number of reasons.

If you'd played the first two Squeeze records from '78 and '79, you'd be playing two very different visions of pop music. You had two almost diametrically opposed producers on those, John Cale and John Wood.

John Cale was an inspirational choice but we were terrified of workin' with him. He made us sort of sit up and beg for our songs. Before that, we'd just been gettin' away with murder. John Wood was the kind of character who simply understood the simplicity of sound. You don't need 150 microphones on the drums. You just want to capture the feeling of the performance.

You've said in the past that he actually made you throw out some of your songs and basically start over.

He did, yeah. But I think he was probably right to do that. At the time, we had a lot of songs that were very much pop-orientated and I think it would have shown the wrong side of what we eventually became. It probably took us until East Side Story to feel that we were really at home. But I think in many ways we're still learning, even now.

Squeeze plays the Tabernacle on Sunday, September 22. X shares the bill. For more information, please visit tabernacleatl.com.

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