in the listening room
Musical Selections By John Stix
from Guitar For The Practicing Musician, April 1988, Volume 5 No. 6
Harnessing the best of pop lyrics and melodies with the swagger of rock, Squeeze rattle the rafters and keep you singing at the same time. Considered by many as the finest songwriting team around, guitarists Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford showed their exemplary taste In The Listening Room.
1: "New York State Of Mind" from TURNSTILES, by Billy Joel/Columbia
CHRIS: That was a drowsy arrangement of a song I've heard better by somebody else.
GLENN: The vocal sounded like sort of a soulful Billy Joel on a very good day.
CHRIS: It's probably the 750th song to be written about New York. There are only two songs that have been written about New York that are any good. One is definitely "New York, New York," by Frank Sinatra. The other is certainly not the one that we wrote.
GLENN: We wrote a song about New York before we ever came here. It's surely one of the worst songs written about New York, far worse than this one.
CHRIS: The other great New York song is the one done by Ella Fitzgerald. It's the Duke Ellington composition "Take the A Train." She sang it with so much street feeling, whereas this song is written basically for the people who go around to restaurants on the top of the World Trade Center. With the lyric on this I wasn't quite sure whether he was saying it was great or he was knocking the city.
GLENN: It was a cliched lyric. I can't remember the exact line, but there was something about movie stars, Hollywood bars and fancy cars. The melody did absolutely nothing for me. There is an increasing gulf between American and British writing, particularly in what has emerged in the states. It's very 60's oriented. I don't think there is much of a progression. The environment in Britain is a little healthier because you are exposed to a lot more. You get a lot of different things coming at you at the same time. Over here, things tend to be categorized so much that you can listen to one sort of music on one radio station and never be exposed to anything else. That sort of thing can't help but influence you as you grow up. I know what inspired me to write different things and it has nothing to do with just the 60's. It could be from the 40's, 50's or 70's. For example "Vanity Fair" and "When the Hangover Strikes" were inspired by listening to Frank Sinatra. Some of the Beatles influence we hear connected with us came from 10cc and not the Beatles.
2: "Second Choice" from WHERE ARE ALL THE NICE GIRLS, by Any Trouble/Stiff America
GLENN: I think it's early Any Trouble.
CHRIS: I thought it was going to be the Four Seasons doing "Sherry." No, I think Glenn might be right saying it's Any Trouble. If it was Any Trouble, it was probably produced by John Wood and I don't think the production was very good.
GLENN: The basic song was boring in the sense it was very traditional. It reminded me of things that had been done before. As a direct line the chord progressions were straight "Louie Louie" and the vocal somewhere between Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. This is by now a very well trodden mold. I don't know how old the track is, but besides that the arrangement left a lot to be desired. Those guys were nice chaps, but nice chaps doth not good music make.
3: "You Can't Hurry Love" from MOTOWN'S GREATEST HITS, by the Supremes/Motown.
GLENN: I think it's Goldie and the Gingerbreads. It's fabulous. The Supremes were extremely lucky people to stumble on a sound like that and to make so many good records with it. It's one of those things that you can't plan. Motown generally had a sound and a sense of arrangement that can never be duplicated as much as it can be admired and either honored or copied, whichever way you look at it. This is a great song. Melodically it's excellent. To me this song is enhanced by the arrangement and the beat. You can analyze it. The guitar is chopping with the snare and the bass keeps the rhythm. It's so danceable. The vocal arrangement is fabulous. I don't think that sort of attention is generally given to a lot of records today, at least not that much heart and soul.
CHRIS: For me this song is about memories. It reminds me of the first time I was allowed to stay out all night and go to parties. This was the kind of music we used to play all of the time. The first time I heard it I thought it was "Candy for Love," so that's what I sang. Then I thought it was "Calgary Love." But who would write a song about Calgary? It's funny to listen to it now and see where the Jam took some of their ideas from. They did it almost blatantly, which I don't particularly agree with. Everybody is inspired by other artists, no matter how you look at it. I think it's all right to steal here and there, but to do it blatantly is rude. When I think of this song, I have this very warm apparition of me being thin.
4: "Day Tripper" from THE BEATLES 1962-1966, by The Beatles/Apple.
CHRIS: It's another by Difford and Tilbrook, isn't it? The funniest thing about this song is that I was singing 'she's a prick teaser.' This gets five stars from me just for being a great song. It's got a good melody, good beat and good lyrics. To me those are the ingredients for a great song. The tambourine does it for me on this one. It's the most amazing tambourine I've heard on a track.
GLENN: Once again it's down to the sound. While it's difficult to get good records these days, there are quite a few people who do make them. In quite a lot of cases, especially in our own, there's an awareness of the damage that a recording studio can do to you. Today, more and more production has entered into the art of recording. It's no longer getting a band that can play and going in to record. In fact, it needn't be that at all. It can be one or two people who go in and put 24 of themselves into a recording which sounds great. Todd Rundgren is one person who can do that and make it work, but nine times out of ten, as good as it sounds, it's got no heart and soul to it. Recordings like "Day Tripper" and "You Can't Hurry Love" have a feel to them. That's something you can't get with multi-tracking. Those songs don't sound dated at all. People are still trying to write songs like that.