Squeeze celebrates 40 years of clever songwriting

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

In 2019, there have been a slew of rock bands celebrating 50th anniversaries of one kind or another.

Yes, Jethro Tull, and Led Zeppelin are among the notable acts waving the flags of a half century.

But rock and roll tastes change pretty quickly.

Ten years after those bands arrived, the music scene was entirely different.

The band Squeeze, known for hits like “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Tempted,” is celebrating its 40th anniversary. And with its focus on clever songwriting and a sound that had more to do with “Rubber Soul”-era Beatles, Motown, and pub rock, Squeeze (which is coming to Foxwood Resort Casino’s Grand Theater on Aug. 23) was as far removed from progressive rock twiddling about as any band could be.

So what happened to music in those mere 10 years that give birth to an entirely different rock and roll animals?

Music changed, said Squeeze’s chief lyricist Chris Difford, because of the arrival of acts like punk rockers the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and the punk-influenced Elvis Costello (who later produced Squeeze).

“It was exciting the way music was changing,” said Difford.

All of a sudden, listening to Yes albums wasn’t cool.

“I had copies of Yes and Led Zeppelin,” said Difford in a phone call from London,” but I hid them in the back of the closet.”

Not that Difford and his songwriting partner in Squeeze, Glenn Tilbrook were likely to form a Yes-like conglomeration.

Difford said the duo always has been quite content with writing pop songs.

Difford and Tilbrook, who have been compared to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, had no grand plan to begin writing songs, said the band’s sometimes vocalist.

“Music was always something in our DNA,” said Difford of the decision to begin writing music. “That was all I wanted to do. Glenn was the same.”

The duo had no musical influences as they crafted their songs, despite comparisons to Lennon and McCartney or Ray Davies of the Kinks, said Difford. “We always want to write songs that sounded like us.”

Difford said that is probably why the group has lasted 40 years. There was always a timeless appeal to the music and the stories told within the group’s songs.

When recording artists have hits— like Squeeze did with “Pulling Mussels from a Shell,” “Tempted” and “Black Coffee in Bed” and later on with “Hourglass” and “853-5937” — record companies typically demand a repeat performance. The corporate side of music is always interested in a sequel.

Difford said Squeeze, which now also includes Yolanda Charles, John Bentley, Simon Hanson and Stephen Large, wasn’t interested in playing that game.

“We refused to copy what we had done,” said Difford.

The current tour celebrates the 40 years of songwriting of Difford and Tilbrook. It’s a career that includes 15 studio albums, 14 compilation albums, four live albums, one extended play and 48 singles.

And Difford said the group was taking great pain on crafting a set list for this tour.

So as for what’s on tap next for Squeeze?

Difford noted the current tour is keeping Squeeze on the road for a long time.

“For me, personally, I like to take it one step at a time.”

But, come December, Difford said the band will take stock of its future plans. For Difford and Tilbrook this may include writing a new musical.

Squeeze performs at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket on Friday, Aug. 23 at 8 p.m.

For information, visit Foxwoods.com, SqueezeOfficials.com, or ChrisDifford.com.

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.

Squeeze comes to the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Friday, Aug. 23.