Chris Difford--vocals, guitar
Songwriting. Ask anyone who knows and they'll tell you it's what makes Squeeze one of the most enduring practioners of real music, well played, for going on seventeen years now. Actual words, genuine melodies, craftsmanship and conviction...few do it better, and none more consistently, than Squeeze.
And Squeeze, in turn, has never done it better than on Play,their deft Reprise Records debut offering. A dozen new Difford & Tilbrook originals, Play proves that good songs, like good bands, never go out of fashion.
The free floating aggregate of like-minded musicians who have gathered around the singular songwriting talents of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, Squeeze was formed in South East London in 1974. Difford and Tilbrook had been writing together for several years and already had a sizeable backlog of material when they joined forces with keyboardist Jools Holland, bassist Harry Kakoulli, and drummer Gilson Lavis to form U.K. Squeeze (distinguishing them from an American Squeeze, long since disbanded). The group's first recorded venture was a 1977 EP, "Packet of Three", produced by John Cale, and was released on the independent Deptford Fun City Records.
It was followed by the group's eponymously titled debut album, also produced by Cale, with the exception of the cut "Take me I'm yours", produced by the group itself and a top 20 UK hit in early 1978. It was the first in what proved to be a long line of hits from the pen of Difford & Tilbrook, also evidenced by a pair of Number 2 singles, "Up the Junction" and "Cool for Cats", from the 1979 album of the same name.
Kakoulli subsequently departed, and was replaced by John Bentley in time for the recording of one of the group's most memorable albums, 1980's Argy Bargy, which sported the top 20 charter "Another Nail In My Heart".
Popular success was matched by critical acclaim and the unvarnished admiration of fellow musicians. Foremost among the group's fans was Elvis Costello, no mean tunesmith himself. Squeeze opened for Costello on a series of 1981 US dates, and he returned the favor by producing the group's next album, East Side Story, which featured, aside from new members Don Snow and Paul Carrack (replacing Jools Holland), the country-tinged "Labelled With Love", a No. 4 UK hit.
Further stateside touring ensued, with Squeeze returning four times in as many years to an ever-larger following. 1982's Sweets From A Stranger ranks as one of the group's finest efforts, but the effort of keeping the band together and the music on track proved daunting. A sold out appearance at the Madison Square Garden, and a farewell appearance at the Jamaica World Music Festival in November of '82 saw the demise of the original Squeeze. The terse announcement to the press said it all; "Squeeze has decided that the band as a horse has run it's course and the jockeys are considering new mounts."
Equine metaphors aside, the demand for the Squeeze sound continued unabated. A compilation album, Singles-45's and Under, reached No. 3 on English Charts, while a musical, Labelled With Love, based on the songs of Difford & Tilbrook, opened in London in early 1983 to rave reviews. The duo, in fact, continued to do what came naturally, writing and recording their own album, Difford & Tilbrook, in 1984. Produced by Tony Visconti, it featured, aside from a fresh batch of distinctive tunes, the work of bassist Keith Wilkinson.
A one off London charity gig brought the band together in 1985, their unique chemistry intact. The reformed Squeeze recruited original drummer Gilson Lavis to round out the rhythm section with WIlkinson. Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti, its title a typically wry pun at the expense of Mozart and Little Richard, marked the band's return to form, as did new tours on both sides of the Atlantic. 1987 saw yet another sold out engagement at Madison Square Garden and the release of the group's seventh long player, Babylon and On, which included the Top 40 US hits, "853-5937", and "Hourglass". Two years later, they recorded Frank, notable as the group's short-lived reunion with yet another original member, Jools Holland. Holland was also present and accounted for on the subsequent live album, A Round And A Bout, released in 1990.
It was an album that marked the band's departure from A&M Records and the inking of a new partnership with Warner Bros. Thus infused with confidence and support, Difford & Tilbrook set to work immediately, writing some thirty new songs and casting about for a producer.
They found him in Tony Berg, the man behind the knobs for Michael Penn, Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians and others. The group began recording at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios in Los Angeles from January through March. On hand to enhance the sessions were such friends and admirers as Bruce Hornsby on accordian, ex-Attraction Steve Nieve on various keyboards, Matt Irving on both keyboards and accordian, and Berg himself, lending the occasional taste of guitar and keyboards.
The result is Play, featuring Squeeze's debut Warner Bros. single, "Satisfied". A particularly prime selection of Difford & Tilbrook originals, Play is the latest chapter in the long and checkered career of a band for whom the song has always been the thing.
Contributed by Scott Ragland
NOTE: some of the lineup information contained in this bio is factually inaccurate. Check out the Lineup History for the correct info.