tilbrook's 1994 tour diary
That Sink Feeling. This just in from our man in Birmingham with the shaving problem.
Or should it be On The Road With “the geezer from Squeeze”, as this newspaper’s listings section keeps calling me? Visions of me slurping on dodgy cocktails, snacking on whelks; the rock world’s Del Boy out on a solo beano. Well, so be it.
As a warm-up to the tour, I play at the Archway Tavern in London, a gig that was not quite publicised and not quite well-attended either. The format for my tour is to drive around for a month, playing songs I know and love, mostly by other people. I’m not working from a set list. First time out, this arrangement finds me fumbling around a bit, and I resolve to be better prepared for the first show proper in Oxford.
I’ve been used to travelling around with Squeeze and a crew for all my adult life – a mollycoddled musician who has things taken care of for him – so setting off on my own with my guitars and bags in the boot is rather like anticipating a bracing, cold, early-morning shower.
Perhaps a little hot water wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all – maybe I should have a tour manager to smooth things over for me and drive the car while I read or have a snooze. And what if my six bottles of mineral water and six cans of beer aren’t in the dressing room? Sad but true, Glenn, you’re just going to have to sort it out yourself.
Soundcheck over, I retire, as any self-respecting geezer would, for a quick pre-show curry during which I also try to sort out what I might play. Back to the gig and my dressing room. I remember from Noel Coward’s diaries his descriptions of opening nights, when his dressing room was a riot of bouquets and telegrams from well-wishers. But I girded my loins against the fact that Interflora don’t deliver on Sundays and telegrams are a thing of the past.
But there is also no sink and I need to shave. Being a wet razor man myself, a glass of water will do the trick – wet my face from that and rinse the razor in it, no problem. I ask the promoter for a mirror and he says he’ll see what he can do. Then he comes back and asks me what I want the mirror for, because he has a card that might do the trick if I want to…
“No thanks, I just want to shave,” I said, pointing to my chin. We laughed, as you do, about the wacky world of rock ‘n’ roll and the many opportunities for misunderstandings that arise therein.
On stage at 9.15 and I play for an hour and a half and feel sure that, if only a reviewer from the Disc and Music Echo were there, he would have described it as a barnstormer. I feel loved and return the love in the only way I know; by sweating a lot a spraying the audience with my juices.
Get the dosh, pack up and drive back to London for a 6.00am wake-up to do The Big Breakfast with Chris Difford, where we play the latest Squeeze single, “It’s Over”. Is there room to say it’s taken from our latest album, Some Fantastic Place? There isn’t? Ah well.
Work While You Whistle. From a hotel in Manchester, surrounded by stars and emotional fans, our man on tour finds his mind turning to Michael Bolton.
The tour’s second show finds me in Bristol, at St. George’s Hall, a beautiful old church that until tonight has held only recitals and poetry readings. I’m probably a safe bet for any venue attempting to wet its beak in the world of rock. The likelihood of Squeeze fans brandishing Uzis and Kalashnikovs is remote.
I suggest to the audience that they disregard the surroundings and feel free to create a pub hubbub in between and even during songs if the fancy takes them, but after the third number (a rendition of the fine Judy Clay and William Bell duet, “Private Number”), there was enthusiastic applause followed by respectful silence.
Blackmail, As I’m sure you are aware, is a very ugly world. But Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” offers me the ideal opportunity to remind the assembled that I will be reporting on my tour in this column before asking for their co-operation in whistling the end section – an excellent way to loosen things up. I fight hard against feeling soiled by Michael Bolton’s recent mauling of this song, but I realise I am just going to have to knuckle down and try to accept him for what he is. (Answers on a postcard please to Glenn Tilbrook’s “What is Michael Bolton?” competition, c/o The Independent Arts Desk.)
Sing myself to a croak by the end of the show and wonder if my voice is going, but the next day it appears to be fine and I’m off up to Birmingham, to the Irish Centre, where the promoter is obviously taking a bath as there seem to be plenty of tickets still available. A chap called Joey Moroney tells me at least 15 times after the show how great he thinks it was. At least one time per pint. His friends lead him away after a while, explaining, as if they needed to, that he’s “had a bit of a drink”.
Then on to the most fantastic venue of the tour so far – the Leeds City Variety Hall, from where they used to broadcast The Good Old Days. During the show I get carried away and find myself demonstrating Rock Poses – from the acceptable (climbing on top of the PA and jumping off while playing), through to the plainly unacceptable (one foot on top of the monitor staring at the audience defiantly while playing). It is on this night that I discover that one can experience the power of rock even if only armed with an acoustic guitar. Another career milestone is reached when I sign the House Book alongside such names as Danny La Rue and Bernard Manning.
More showbiz shenanigans the next night at the Riverside, Newcastle. Going for an encore, I announce that I’m about to play the latest Squeeze single (“It’s Over”) from the Some Fantastic Place album (mysteriously overlooked by the Brits), when who should appear by the side of the stage and then stroll on but Vic Reeves, who has been appearing at the City Hall. With no hesitation, we tear into “Dizzy”, which we successfully deconstruct – lack of chord knowledge on my part – and then reduce the crowd to tears with a meaningful “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”.
Paul, an old schoolmate of mine who has recently moved to Newcastle, is also there with his new love, Becky, who explains to me, as we queue for a drink afterwards, how they heard about the gig. Evidently it was Becky who had printed up the posters, and she thought that Paul would like to come as he’d told her he used to be in Squeeze. It was the first I’d heard of it.
Contributed by Elizabeth K. Bowles