Glenn Tilbrook is having a bit of a laugh over fans’ and critics’ renewed enthusiasm for Squeeze, the British pop band that was brought to U.S. shores by the new wave surge of the late 1970s.
“Splitting up is what made us legendary,” the singer-songwriter, speaking from a London rehearsal studio, said with a laugh. “You hang around for years and years and years and no one seems to care. Then you break up, and everyone is interested again.”
Interest is high in this Squeeze reunion because it reunites Tilbrook with his songwriting partner, Chris Difford. The two, who penned such memorable tunes as “Another Nail In My Heart,” “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” “Tempted” and “Black Coffee in Bed,” have not performed together as Squeeze since 1998.
“We had a few years of not seeing each other,” Tilbrook said, referring to the chill that developed between the two following Squeeze’s split in 1999. “But we’ve learned a lot about each other.
“A few years ago we did a book (Jim Drury’s “Squeeze: Song by Song,” released in 2004). We let out most of the bile we had for each other. We were more honest (in the book) than we were to each other’s faces. ... We’re not like peas in a pod, but now we respect one another.”
The Squeeze lineup for the “Quintessential Tour 2007” includes bassist John Bentley; having him on board represents another bit of fence-mending on Difford and Tilbrook’s part.
Bentley replaced Harry Kakoulli in 1979, and played on Squeeze’s best-known album, 1981’s Elvis Costello-produced “East Side Story,” as well as the follow-up, “Sweets from a Stranger.” Squeeze split up in 1982, but upon reuniting in 1985, Difford and Tilbrook replaced Bentley with Keith Wilkinson.
“We always felt bad the way we treated John,” Tilbrook said. “He was the one guy who didn’t get invited back when we reformed. But I really liked what John did when he was in the band.”
After reading Drury’s book, Bentley went to one of Tilbrook’s solo gigs. “It was lovely to see him,” said Tilbrook, who will turn 50 on Aug. 31. “When this (reunion) idea came about, it was a big thing in my mind. It’s great working with him again.”
Tilbrook and Difford did not ask keyboardist-vocalist Paul Carrack or pianist Jools Holland, who is putting the finishing touches on his autobiography, “Barefaced Lies and Boogie-Woogie Boasts,” to be a part of the reunion.
But they did seek out - unsuccessfully - drummer Gilson Larvis, who anchored Squeeze from 1976 to 1992. “Gilson has a regular gig (with Jools Holland’s R&B Orchestra) and we couldn’t give him a regular gig,” Tilbrook said, explaining the drummer’s turndown.
So drummer Simon Hanson and keyboardist Stephen Large, who play in Tilbrook’s band, the Fluffers, will fill out the lineup. “I didn’t want to transpose my band into Squeeze, but they are both great players,” Tilbrook said.
Asked his favorite Squeeze songs, Tilbrook, who wrote all of the music to Difford’s lyrics, mentioned “Tempted.” “Paul (Carrack) took it in a different direction,” he said. “I never would have sung it like that in a million years left to my own devices.”
He also named “Some Fantastic Place” - “I’m prouder of (my) guitar solo than of the song itself” - and “Up the Junction” - “our very first story song.”
Though Squeeze will not be debuting anything new, Tilbrook says fans will hear vintage material performed the way it was recorded. “What happens when you have a band with so many different members, you start adapting songs to suit different people in the band. You forget where you started. ... For example, `Goodbye Girl’ was never done as it is on the record, and now we are.”
Originally, this Squeeze reunion was supposed to last only a few months. However, Tilbrook appears to be having second thoughts.
“Interestingly enough, Chris sent me six new sets of lyrics (recently), and I’ve started writing music for them,” Tilbrook said. “I’m not thinking we’re back together. ... But the door is very open between us. There’s no reason why we could not have solo careers and work together.”
Finally, Tilbrook is asked if he recalls the first show Squeeze ever played in the U.S. “That was near where you are, wasn’t it?” he replied, referring to the gig at the long-gone Lighthouse bar in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
And what does he remember of that night in 1978? “The pinball machine. They had a good pinball machine.”
// Notes from the Road
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