chris difford's tour diary 

The following entries were written to the Squeeze online community during the 1996 "Unloved" tour of the US. Entries are in reverse chronological order. 


August 10
Mirror Mirror on the Wall 

The last day of the tour finds us in Ventura, a sleepy hollow north of LA. The show goes well-- except our record company turn up, on the last night even! 

They say it's all going to be okay and that things are picking up. 

Erik throws a mad party for the band and I hear it went on until 9am. Me, I was in bed getting ready for the flight home. 

Back home, meanwhile, "This Summer" goes into the chart at #32, great news. The next day A&M call to release us from our deal. Life is sweet.

So it's time to reflect for a few weeks before we put out another album and do another tour. I enjoyed my trip to the States and I hope we can return one day soon. 

Thanks for the loving support on tour, and watch the website for fresh juice coming soon. 

August 5 - August 9
Car Crazy 

Monday is a day off for a much needed rest. 

Los Angeles' House Of Blues is a new club to us and, once inside, I have to admire the way the club has been painted. The general feel of the place is very bohemian. The show is accepted with much applause and smiling faces, but on stage our ears are let down by the monitors, a common feature of some of these shows. 

Once Blue open up for us and I'm in heaven as I listen to their set. Check them out and see what you think. 

During the day we eat loads of sushi for British TV; a breakfast show has come over to film us here in Hollywood. Ah the stress of it all. 

After the show we meet Seal and he holds court while we creep around the dressing room. He's a lovely, lovely man with simple smiles and a genuine love for our music. 

Aimee Mann and Michael Penn also show up to cheer us on. It's good to see them both--it's been awhile. 

Then Erik and I drive to San Francisco for the next show at the Fillmore. This turns out to be the best show of the tour so far: the singalong is loud and together, the faces are charming and it's altogether a very wonderful night in the foggy city. More sushi in Japan town and some sleep, then back in Erik's car for the nine hour ride to San Diego. 

Poor Erik has to put up with me in the close confines of his lovely black Volvo, and I admire his tolerance. He may never drive that far again in his entire life. On both of these drives we beat the band to the gig as their planes are delayed both days by fog and mechanical problems. The show tonight is crap, the radio station who seem to control the evening get it all wrong, and poor Once Blue don't even get to play their show. 

The sound was so bad on stage; Glenn and I are in a foul mood. Nights like these have to happen for nights like San Francisco to be the way they are. But Taylor Guitars show up during the day and Glenn and I are treated to some new toys, so a brief ray of sunshine glows on an otherwise dark day. 

On the other hand I get this note from a net friend.... 

Hello Chris: 

I would just like to thank you for the absolutely brilliant show last at 4th and B in San Diego. It was wonderful to see you and Glenn in a small venue -- I have to say it was the best Squeeze show I've seen yet (my first Squeeze show dates back to the Sweets From A Stranger tour). I think the crowd was pretty good and really appreciated the show, as well. I hope you thought so -- it certainly seemed you and Glenn and Nick had a good time. The big question is -- What did you do with the bra? I saw that grin on your face... 

Well, now that I've seen up close how you play the songs, I must get back to practicing. 

I hope to see you back in these parts soon. Best of luck, and keep plugging away. Perhaps one day,somewhere, a record company will appreciate your brilliance and treat you accordingly. In the meantime, keep playing. It's a joy to listen to you and Glenn. 

So there you go, what can I say. 

San Juan Capistrano is another night of slightly duff monitors and one bloke in the crowd who keeps calling out for Jools and songs from way back when, lost days when I could stay up all night and feel great about myself the next day. 

Tiredness creeps over the camp and I can almost feel the weight of the minds as they idle between going home and playing the show. No sushi today but I do get to find out what LA traffic can be like as Erik and I go bonkers stop-starting our way down the highway. 

The web site has made a huge difference as everywhere we go the more we hear people talk about the site and how great it is. That's fab news, thank you. 

I will be moving my web address this week as AOL is not the right place to collect and respond to mail, at least for me. I will keep you all posted on that when I get home. 

Sunday 4 August
Silver Bird 

Sunday is a travel day, time to read a review from last week... 

New York Newsday, 8/1: 
"The Band Is Squeezed, But the Juice Remains" 
by Stephen Williams 

On stage, Glenn Tilbrook played some of the more inspired guitar of his career. To his left, Chris Difford, fresh-faced and looking younger than a decade ago, nearly crooned the lyrics that he used to crunch. 

Squeeze was up and running at the Supper Club, but I missed the band. 

This season's version of the group that was Britpop before there was Britpop came attired for acoustic: no drums, no bass, no keyboards. Except for some very able support from guitarist Nick Harper, nothing stood between Difford and Tilbrook and an adoring (if often noisy) crowd but mikestands and amplified acoustic guitars. 

Streamlined this way, this prolific songwriting team - about 1,000 compositions, as of a few hours ago - didn't bother with frills as it passed through the stages of Squeeze: from mid-'70s classics like "Goodbye Girl" and "Cool for Cats" through '80s gems including "Annie Get Your Gun" and that romantic love song, "Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken", and up to date with the latest disc, "Ridiculous", and its natural singles, "This Summer" and "Electric Trains". 

Difford, Tilbrook and their various bandmates - Paul Carrack, Julian Holland and Pete Thomas are Squeeze alumni - have gone round and round with labels through the years, and "Ridiculous" has landed on a label that's landed in the toilet. For reasons that aren't clear, I.R.S. Records - "Labels for Less", Difford quipped - is no longer in business, leaving distribution of this terrific collection up in the air, although it's still on the racks. 

Many of the tunes on "Ridiculous" - "I Want You", "Temptation for Love" - can be tailored for simple presentation, and it is likely the reason that the duo on this support tour has left out bass player Keith Wilkinson plus others. With Tilbrook's nearly flawless, honest vocals leading the charge, mini-Squeeze poured in and pulled out every ounce of energy so that "Tough Love", "Third Rail" and even "Electric Trains" chugged with momentum. But a synthesizer would have drawn that last bit of passion out of "Up the Junction", and amplified the nutty humor of "Cool for Cats", and a drummer would have kindled sparks on the brilliantly crafted ode to fun, fun, fun, "This Summer." Without those elements, the 90-minute show was just a stitch short of a tapestry. 

Of course, it would take a concentrated effort to corrupt the poetry - both musical and literal - of the songs: the cynical wit and razor-sharp images of Difford's Everyman lyrics, the slippery, sometimes surprising maneuvers of Tilbrook's melodies. Thankfully, these two have matured only a little, it seems: Tilbrooks buzzsaw guitar solo on "Take Me, I'm Yours" would give Billy Corgan pause. Difford's words find little truths and sorrows that go beyond most transient pop themes. 

Those who lack imagination might demand a definition for Squeeze now - a band? A duo? A transition? Whatever it is, I like it a lot. 

Well that's not bad, is it? Ten years younger too... 

Saturday 3 August
Two Shows In One Day 

Back to the Waterworks and a show in the heat this time, along with a boat trip around the bay--I poured some tea into the water for good measure. Again the show was good and the people who had been there on Thursday saw another interesting set where we mixed and matched what we have in the pot. 

Later that day we played up the coast at Hampton Beach, but by the time we went on we were half cocked and I dreamt my way through the set. 

Beat me some more, slap me with that tired look, please a day in bed! But you can't complain when the whole house stands to hear more. 

Friday 2 August
Hyannis, MA 

Lobster for dinner, and a show in the round for ourselves tonight. It was a fab night; the crowd was really on our side from the first song. A sad appearance at a music store during the day was the only damp spot of our day. 

The people who ran the venue were great to us all day and made us feel very much at home. Nick Harper is going down better and better each night, after all he is nothing short of brilliant. 

Thursday 1 August
Providence, RI 

The Strand in Providence seemed a little too large for our show--we only filled a quarter of the hall, but we had a good time. Late shows don't agree with me and I had to leave to get to my bed soon after the last song. My head hit the pillow and the lights went out. 

The highlight of the day was going to see the Monkees, we met them backstage for pictures and magic tricks. The circus had come to town as we took our seats in the round, they appeared and gave their all in a slapstick kind of way. Glenn sat next to me in the pit and like little boys we grinned up at the stage and sung along to all the songs. 

Davy was the best. Then Peter, then Micky. 

Wednesday 31 July
Quincy, Massachusetts 

Quincy is just outside Boston, where the girls are so pretty. The rain poured down all day long on the five hour drive, and on arrival the PA decided to eat the rain and blow itself up. So we decided to play in the bar, on the bar. The last time I stood on a bar I was removing my clothes with dollar bills down my fly, but times have changed, I think. The warm faces of the wet crowd seemed to be pleased that we at least tried to put on a show. We will be back at lunch time on Saturday for another show, in the sun I hope. 

What a strange night! Here's a email from a fan...... 

Hi All, 

Just a short note about tonight's show at waterworks (yes, I couldn't resist attending another show this tour, seeing as we live near Boston). As we waited outside in front of the stage, it poured buckets. We were soaked to the skin. And we waited and waited, and finally it was determined that the PA was shot. So they moved the show to the big tent that has the bar, got a big piece of plywood to lay across the bar for the stage, and wired up a couple of mikes to an alternate, small amp. Glenn and Chris were originally supposed to start around 9:15, but didn't get underway until about 10:30 or so. Nick Harper wasn't able to do his solo set at all. They played several songs, and then Glenn told everybody that they'll be coming back on Saturday afternoon to do a whole show for us! They continued on with an incredible, abeit abbreviated performance. Those who can't make it back Saturday will be getting a full refund (you can bet I'll be there). Apparently they couldn't stand the thought of just sending everyone home without having a go at it, even under rather sub-par conditions. Especially as we had waited so long in the rain (well, OK, 30 or so dedicated fans waited and got soaked, the rest hung out around the bar, which ended up being the place to be. 

Set list, from memory, not in order: 

Is That Love 
3rd Rail 
Some Fantastic Place 
Grouch of the Day 
Walk Away 
This Summer 
Electric Trains 
Up The Junction 
Pulling Mussels 
Another Nail 
Cool for Cats 
If I Didn't Love You 

I have a feeling I've missed one. Ah well. 

All in all, quite an experience, and couldn't be more opposite to that of Guild Hall, in terms of attendees, acoustics, and weather! Glenn's voice on this tour continues to be better than I can I can remember from tours past. More after the Saturday show! 


Tuesday 30 July
New York City 

New York and the Supper club, well what can I say, it was brilliant. A night of many faces and friends, a night of real warmth and generous spirit. New York is home for us on any tour, we must have played 30 shows over the years. I could have played all night. 

While in New York we went on television, the Regis and Kathie Lee morning chat show, where the guests don't get to chat much. They even shipped in a 100 year old Avon girl as a guest, she couldn't hear them very well so no chat there. We played a short version of This Summer. 

Monday 29 July
Samboy, NJ 

Monday night and from the sublime to the Ridiculous as we played in New Jersey at Club Been, a 'has been' of a club in many ways. The crowd was great, though, and we had a very wild show. Jokes followed songs and songs followed people shouting from the crowd. 

Still no record company, not even a smoke signal from the hills. 

Sunday 28 July 

Sunday was a day of rest, so I went out to Jones Beach to see James Taylor. His show did something very special to me--I came away with a soul filled with positive thoughts about the future. It's hard to describe except to say the feeling resembled the colour yellow, bright and hopeful. 

Saturday 27 July
East Hampton 

What a great night in such a perfect place for our acoustic show. The sound was good, the crowd friendly, and the art exibition in the front of house quite interesting. We played well and for the first time this tour I felt more at ease with my day. 

Two great surprises: first, seeing Erik fresh from the West Coast, he walked on water and there he was. Then there was Billy Joel who came along to see the show. Very much as in the flesh as on the album sleeves, we shook hands and I hope he enjoyed the show. 

Afterward, we met some people backstage and I realised how much an impact our web site is making, of this I am very proud and forever in debt to Erik, who walks on water. 

Friday 26 July
Lido Beach 

Another dressing room to savour with its plastic seats and black walls under weak white light--home sweet home for five hours. Oh the glamour of it all. 

Tonight the show was much better as the house was fairly full and all were in good voice. On the new songs they were a little unsure, and in the quiet ones they talked to each other. For my part I played poorly: due to the lack of stage lighting I kept missing the fret bars on my guitar. I felt like a prune and kept wishing I had eaten more carrots. 

Glenn played and sang well, as he always does, and Nick delivered the deep pan sound of his guitar with his usual excellence. Back at the hotel I shared a lift with one of Kiss, who invited me to the show. "Thank you," I said as we reached my floor, knowing it was unlikely that I could go. Instead I sat proudly in my room looking down at the Kiss fans on the street below in the 3am New York night. 

Wednesday 24 July
Walks with Laptop 

Flying to America is never easy for me. I hate flying, but this time it was not too bad, especially since I got to sit in the cockpit for landing. 

Washington D.C. was waiting with a show at the 9.30 club. We took the stage, and, looking at my watch, it seemed to be 5am. 

Half full or half empty it was good to be back playing in America where the fans accept us like a good meal. Afterward, tired and almost out for the count, we raced back to the hotel. I don't remember much about the show itself apart from some girl who kept telling me to smile by pulling the side of her face up to one side. I smiled back to her with full beam. 

The train from Washington to New York was effortless and altogether very civilized, but on arrival the heat glued me inside my suit and to the seat of the taxi. 

The circle has come around, we are back in a small van humping our own gear, selling our own t-shirts, playing clubs up and down the East Coast. Our record company is no place to be seen and I feel slightly let down, to say the least. Life goes on like the road itself, so I guess I just have to get used to lousy monitors and smelly dressing rooms, and socks that stick to the inside of your shoes. 

Glenn said on stage last night, "This one's from Babylon and On when we used to sell records." It sums up the mood, though the eternal optimist in me says it all will work out, smelly dressing rooms or not. 

The Globe in Norwalk Connecticut has a smelly dressing room, but I took to it like a duck to water: the stage seemed like Eden compared to four hours in there. The highlight of the night was some fish and chips from across the street which tasted better than they do in my local at home. Our show was ok, the crowd looked happy and some of our grass roots chums were there to help us along. Another show bites the dust and another day in Hollywood slips by, hollywood heart that is. 

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