Music interview – Glenn Tilbrook on the enduring appeal of Squeeze

Squeeze have a new line-up for their 2017 tour. Picture: Rob O'Connor
Squeeze have a new line-up for their 2017 tour. Picture: Rob O'Connor
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SQUEEZE came to prominence during the late 70s punk/new wave scene, but it soon became apparent that this was not just a band thrashing out uptempo songs; they were something special.

Led by the song-writing team of Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, and with Jools Holland on keyboards, the band racked up hit after hit.

Take Me I’m Yours gave them their first Top 20 hit at the second time of asking in 1978.

Cool For Cats and Up The Junction gave the band two consecutive Number Two’s and showed that their observation of life in the lower echelons of society was as shrewd as The Kinks’ Ray Davies a decade earlier.

Another Nail In My Heart was another uptempo, jaunty piece which preceded the departure of Jools Holland in 1980.

New keyboard player Paul Carrack wrote and sang the hit Tempted and Labelled With Love was a yet another Top Five hit.

Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze. Picture: Rob O'Connor

Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze. Picture: Rob O'Connor

Since then, the band have split up and reconvened on a number of occasions but nine years ago the Grammy Award–winning writing team of Difford and Tilbrook relaunched Squeeze and have been touring, writing and recording ever since.

They released the album Cradle To The Grave a couple of years ago and was written as a soundtrack to Danny Baker’s BBC sitcom Cradle To Grave which starred Peter Kay and was based on Baker’s autobiography; and the band has a new album, The Knowledge, which they will showcase on their autumn tour.

“Cradle To Grave was an amazing thing for us,” Tilbrook tells me from his London home. “We’d been selling a lot of tickets for shows, but now it translated into sales as well.”

It was a long slog for Difford and Tilbrook to get their first hit – five years in fact.

I grew up loving music. I had an older brother who used to buy records by The Beatles, The Who, The Stones and The Kinks and they had a big influence on me, the music of the 60s is just embedded in me.

Glenn Tilbrook

“Yes, It was in 1973 and Chris put an ad in a sweetshop window saying that he had a band, record deal and a tour of Europe lined up – none of which he had. But he had some great songs and we started working together.”

He continues: “I’d known Jools for about a year before I met Chris and I brought him into the group. We started a few bands before ending up as Squeeze and in the first two years we were together we had about three gigs.”

As a musician, Tilbrook has influenced many new bands, but his influences were many.

“I grew up loving music. I had an older brother who used to buy records by The Beatles, The Who, The Stones and The Kinks and they had a big influence on me, the music of the 60s is just embedded in me.”

Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have been Squeeze's main songwriters for four decades. Picture: Rob O'Connor

Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have been Squeeze's main songwriters for four decades. Picture: Rob O'Connor

With their songwriting, Difford and Tilbrook became known as ‘the Lennon and McCartney of New Wave’, but this had an adverse affect on them.

“I think it went to both our heads but we soon drifted back to earth.”

The new album is set to continue Squeeze’s position as superb observational writers, as Tilbrook explains.

“We’ve got a whole album of songs for The Knowledge that we’re very proud of. The Rough Ride, for instance, is about the situation we find ourselves in.

“As a family, the Tilbrooks have been living in this area for 150 years and now people are being priced out, essentially my kids can’t afford to live in the area without help from dad,” he laughs ironically.

Does he like touring?

“You have to put yourself in a different place when you tour. I’ve always loved playing live but don’t like being away from home too long.”

And are there any places he especially likes playing?

“No. It’s people who are special, not places.”

Over his career, Tilbrook has many highlights, but one in particular stands out.

“I remember it very clearly. It was playing the main stage at Glastonbury last year for the first time. I thought we’d never get there and it was just a magical moment.”

And the band haven’t yet settled on a set-list for the tour.

“I don’t know yet, it’ll all be sorted during rehearsals. There are sometimes some lulls in the set, but on our Cradle tour, there were no lulls at all – we’d never experienced that before.

“We’ll obviously play some of the hits but not all.”

What about the first hit as it started everything off?

“We may do Take Me I’m Yours as it still sounds very fresh.”

And the band is going to continue being busy, as Tilbrook explains.

“After the UK we’re off to Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Also we’ve got some offers for festivals for next year. We don’t make too many plans, you make it up as you go along.”

And during the tour, Difford celebrates his birthday.

“Yeah,” Tilbrook laughs. “We’ll undoubtedly sing Happy Birthday and he’ll maybe get a cake…. in the face.”

Squeeze play at Sheffield City Hall on Thursday October 26 and Harrogate International Centre on Saturday October 28. www.squeezeofficial.com

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