Jim Drury, Chris & Glenn at the book signing at Borders, Charing Cross Rd, London.
Jim, Glenn & Rich Hall
'DIFFORD, CHRIS, TILBROOK, GLENN & DRURY, JIM'
'SQUEEZE: SONG BY SONG (BOOK)'
- Label: 'SANCTUARY PUBLISHING (www.sanctuarypublishing.com)'
- Genre: 'Rock' - Release Date: '15th November 2004'
Author JIM DRURY has written two previous in-depth career retrospectives in the "Song By Song" format, with the subjects of these being the lengthy and mercurial careers sustained by Ian Dury & The Blockheads and The Stranglers respectively.
For his third tome, Drury has opted for another of the UK's most enduring new wave acts and the superb, but often fractious songwriting partnership between CHRIS DIFFORD and GLENN TILBROOK which lasted all of twenty-five years and survived numerous bust-ups and reunions en route.
Stylistically, the book is something of an amalgam of the two separate approaches Drury employed when writing his two previous books. His Ian Dury book was written in biographical style while his Stranglers' "Song By Song" was constructed entirely as a dialogue between the author and the band's original singer/ guitarist Hugh Cornwell. This time, Drury interviewed both Tilbrook and Difford at some length and intersperses their detailed comments on the respective Squeeze albums with some historical context. The end results are (in the author's words) "a hybrid breed rather than a mongrel" but it's an approach that tells the story of Squeeze's roller coaster career ride to nigh-on perfection.
With hindsight, Drury's decision to interview Glenn and Chris separately was surely a masterstroke. As a result, both men are entirely candid about their respective successes and failures and open up in a way that perhaps they would have been unable to do if they'd been in the same room together. However, even though the pair's relationship was at a very low ebb following the debacle that was Squeeze's final album "Domino" (1998), they speak with great warmth about what each other brought to the table in creating the band's best songs. The conversation is littered with stuff like : "Glenn's vocal is just supreme" ("Points Of View") and "It's one of Chris's lyrics where I see exactly the same pictures in my mind whenever I hear it" ("Piccadilly") and you soon begin to understand the almost telepathic way the pair worked professionally even when they were on less than fantastic terms on a personal level.
This being Squeeze, the likes of Gilson Lavis, Paul Carrack and of course the irrepressible Jools Holland also play significant parts in the band's musical development and all have their personal issues along the way. Those of us familiar with the stylish, urbane Holland who presents "Later" may be surprised and delighted by the stories of the longhair with biker tendencies who joined up with the fledgling band in Greenwich circa 1974 with those gifted, boogie-woogie pianist's fingers already finely tuned and ready for action.
Difford and Tilbrook are - as you might expect - gifted raconteurs, but equally candid about their own failures as well as the glorious success of the band's early chart-topping years. Some of the anecdotes are truly hilarious such as Difford discussing his disgust at Tilbrook's use of the ochorena on the song "Stranger Than The Stranger On The Shore" (Chris: "We fell out hugely over that bloody thing. Whenever I came into the room it would always be there. Somewhere visual just to piss me off. I used to think when he went out of the room I would take it and lob it in the Thames"). As you might expect, both of them are brilliant at one-liners as well. A good example is when Drury discusses the song "Tempted" with Difford, who suggests that being in a band is like "being in the merchant navy...there are women of easy virtue and you have to behave yourself or go home with a guilty conscience, or worse - the pox." Drury pushes on by saying "what did you go home with?" to which Difford answers: "A huge bunch of flowers and a guilty conscience". Genius.
The book also unearths some revelations which are darker than certainly this writer would have imagined. Songs such as "Tough Love", "The Truth" and "There Is A Voice" themselves may give you some clues to the alcoholic depths Difford was plumbing before he finally turned himself in for rehab in 1992, but I was truly surprised to read of Tilbrook's brief, but potentially deadly flirtation with heroin around the time of his destructive first marriage in the mid-1980s. To their credit, neither man shies away from describing his personal battle and the fact both got through and turned the corner is a testament to their strength of character.
"Squeeze: Song By Song", then, is something of a full-blown success. Factual, anecdotal and simply a thrilling read, Jim Drury brings out the best in the two men often dubbed "the new Lennon & McCartney" in the past. That particular tag may be spurious, but nonetheless even the casual reader will soon realise there's far more to Squeeze than simply "Cool For Cats" and "Up The Junction" and that after gorging themselves silly on this book, they'll want to start filling in the gaps in their Squeeze collection.
Oh, and if you were wondering why Jools rarely entertains John Cale in the "Later" studio, then may I suggest you read the chapter about the making of Squeeze's eponymous debut album. Trust me: you won't be disappointed.
author: TIM PEACOCK