nick's corner
squeeze, the monkees, and me 
by Nick Di Biasio
 
    I think it's a well-known fact among Squeeze fans that Glenn Tilbrook is a huge fan of the Monkees, so when I found out that both Squeeze and the Monkees would be in town on the same night, August 1, 1996, the wheels started turning. I immediately tried to reach Glenn by telephone. I rang up his number only to be told by the woman who answered that Glenn had moved, and she could not give out his new telephone number. I then tried 45RPM, Glenn's recording studio, and when I couldn't reach him there, I telephoned Chris Difford. I explained to Chris that the Monkees would be performing at 7:30pm in Warwick, RI on the same night that he and Glenn would be performing in Providence, RI at 11:00pm, and could he please get in touch with Glenn to ask if he would like to go to the Monkees show? Chris' response? "I know he would like to go, and I want to go as well!"  I was off in a flash to the Warwick Musical Theatre Box Office! "Four for the Monkees, please." was my request to the young woman at the window. I was handed tickets for four of the worst seats in the house. "Are you familiar with the band Squeeze?" I asked. "Yes, why?" was her response. I explained the story to her: Squeeze would be in town on the same night, and would be attending the Monkees' concert, and could she possibly set us up with better seats? "Just one moment." She returned with four tickets in the fourth row! "Thanks very much!" I said, and went merrily on my way. On the drive home I had another brilliant idea: wouldn't it be great if I could arrange for Glenn to actually meet his heroes? Upon my return home I phoned the theatre, asked for the production manager, and told my story for the third time. She told me to fax a letter of intent, and then see her on the day of the show. Later, while record shopping, I found a bootleg CD of Monkees rarities, which I quickly scooped up with intentions of giving it to Glenn as an early birthday present. 

    A few days later I received a phone call from my good friend Jennifer G. from New York City. Jennifer and I met on Nantucket, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, in 1992 when Squeeze played 2 nights at a little dive called The Muse. That version of the band included Steve Nieve on piano, Pete Thomas on drums and percussion, Keith on bass, and Glenn on guitars (and blue banjo!). Chris was not here for that tour, and I'll save our island adventures for another story. Anyhow, Jennifer called to inform me that Squeeze were to play in her dad's home town of East Hampton, Long Island, NY at a little theatre called Guild Hall. The tickets were $60.00, and did I want her to get one for me? Of course I did!  Expensive, but well worth it. Guild Hall was a beautiful little theatre, 350 seats and perfect acoustics in one of the wealthiest towns on the east coast. And so the adventure began. 

    East Hampton, Long Island is approximately 100 miles from where I live in Rhode Island, but only if you take a ferry from New London, Connecticut to Long Island. I headed out very early in the morning on Saturday, July 27, 1996, through Connecticut to New London, drove onto the ferry, and we set sail for the 90 minute trip across Long Island Sound on a picture-perfect summer day. Upon my arrival, I telephoned Jennifer at her dad's house, and started my drive from the Northern tip of the island to the south coast. Approximately one hour later I arrived in East Hampton, a town which resembles our own Newport, RI, had a lovely dinner with Jennifer's family and friend Amy, and then it was off to the show. 

    We ran into Suzanne Hunt, and arranged to speak with Glenn and Chris after the concert. Our boys sounded wonderful, and we later found out that Billy Joel had been in attendance. We were escorted into the library, where Glenn and Chris held their "meet and greet" session, and I presented Glenn with the Monkees' bootleg CD, and informed him that there was more to his birthday gift. I wanted to surprise him with the tickets to the show when they arrived in Providence on the following Thursday, but the suspense was killing him, so I told him about the Monkees concert. "Brilliant!" was Glenn's response. We made our plans to meet at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, said our good nights, and we were off. Fast forward to Thursday, August 1: 

    I arrived at the Biltmore at 6:00pm with Mike and Jennifer Harris in tow, and met Glenn, Suzanne, and Chris in the lobby. Mike and Jen were going to have dinner in town while the rest of us went to see our heroes, the Monkees. Glenn made sure he had his little instamatic camera with him, and we piled into my rented Oldsmobile. Glenn up front with me, and Chris and Suzanne in the back seat. Although we had known each other for years, we had never "gone out" together, and we were all a bit nervous, so we made some small talk during the 20 minute drive from Providence to Warwick. Chris asked if I had worked earlier that day, and I told them about a rude comment a radio DJ made that afternoon about how if you were 18 or under you probably wouldn't know who Squeeze was. Jerk! 

    When we arrived at the Warwick Musical Theatre, Glenn spotted his friend Ron from Boston in the parking lot. We were directed to VIP parking, and Ron came over to tell us that there were four backstage passes waiting at the box office in my name. I got the passes, and headed for the stage door. We were let in, told to help ourselves to the huge buffet that seemed to surround us, and were genuinely treated like royalty. We each had a bite to eat and some drinks, and we were then escorted onto the Monkees' tour bus. As we climbed the stairs, there to our left was Davy Jones strumming an acoustic guitar and just relaxing before his show. He was the perfect gentleman host, and made us feel very welcome and at ease. As I turned to my right, up the stairs walked Peter Tork looking much thinner, but just as charming and witty as his TV persona. Davy joked about all the children of the band that were on tour with them, and about how all the ex-wives had been at the show last night! And then up the stairs came a shirtless Micky Dolenz looking very sleepy. I jumped out of my seat, held out my hand and said, "Hi Micky!" to which he responded in a snotty tone, "Hi, I'm Micky Dolenz." Feeling shot down, I sat and said, "Yes, I know." Micky was not the most friendly of the three, but sat and posed for pictures with Glenn and Chris and then left. Peter was the next to leave explaining that he would love to come see Squeeze at the Strand, but was going to drive up to Boston that night to visit his brother. Davy entertained us a bit longer, and then said he needed to get ready for the show. We said our good-byes, and made our way to our seats. 

    From the aisle it was Glenn, Chris, Suzanne and me. The lights went down, and the show began. Glenn and Chris were like two schoolboys at their first rock concert, elbowing each other and pointing to the stage. Midway through their first set, Davy announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have some special guests in our audience tonight. They'll be playing at the Strand later this evening, we're going to see them, and you should as well! Please give a warm welcome to SWEET!" The bass player walked up, tapped Davy on the shoulder and said, "Davy, that's SQUEEZE!"  "I know, that's what I said, Squeeze." 

    After the Monkees first of two sets, we had to head back to Providence. We were like little kids all jacked up on sugar as we talked about the Monkees, their TV program, and other TV shows that we watched in our youth, "Like the Banana Splits!" exclaimed Chris. We pulled up to the stage door of the Strand Theatre, and there was a wooden saw horse blocking our way. Chris, who was in the front seat for the ride back, jumped out and moved the barricade so that I could drive through. We made our way up the three flights of stairs, which were like a metal fire-escape, to the dressing rooms. The stairway overlooked the stage, so I watched Nick Harper's set from the landing on the third floor, and then it was time for "Acoustic Squeeze". I made my way down to the front of the stage, and rejoined Mike and Jennifer as we danced and sang along with Chris, Glenn, and Nick. For their first encore, Glenn came out alone, and announced that he was going to play a song made famous by "the band we saw down the road tonight". "Thanks, Nick, for the Monkees experience!" and went into "I'm A Believer".  After the show, Chris made a beeline for the hotel which was one block away, but Glenn, Nick and I sat around and had a few beers while talking about the Monkees again. What a wonderful experience. I had a tough time getting to sleep that night. 

    Two days later, I met Jennifer G and Liz from Pennsylvania in Providence, and we drove for 2 hours to Hampton Beach, New hampshire to catch the last east coast show on the "Squeeze Unloved '96" tour. While killing time before the show, we strolled up and down the strip where we ran into Glenn and Nick doing the same!  After the show, Chris was off in a flash to drive to Boston in his rental car. They were flying out of Boston to L.A. the following day. Glenn, Suzanne, Jennifer, Liz, Ron from Boston and his wife, and I hung out and had a few drinks while Glenn opened more early birthday presents. And then it was time to go. Big hugs and sad faces all around. "Cheers, Nick. Thanks again for the Monkees experience!"  And then we all drove off into the fog in silence.


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