The Second Disc

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Back Tracks: Squeeze

with 5 comments

If The Second Disc has any European readers, allow me to express my intense jealousy that Squeeze, one of the best British pop bands I can name, is embarking on a tour in your neck of the woods later in the year.

It pleases me that Squeeze is not an unknown entity in the United States (the first Squeeze concert I partook in, at Radio CityMusic Hall in 2008, looked pretty sold out), but ask any casual or younger music fan and you’ll likely get blank stares. This may change if you sing a few bars of “Tempted” – arguably their signature song (despite never being a Top 40 hit) – or, if you’re really lucky, you could go for some lines from “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Hourglass” or “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell).”

Regardless of your knowledge, Squeeze are a need-to-know pop band. The core members of the band – lyricist Chris Difford and songwriter Glenn Tilbrook – make up one of the best British duos this side of Lennon and McCartney. And it’s a partnership that, while not churning out dozens of chart hits, has remained consistent and mature over time. Squeeze excels at catchy, balladic tunes that live well past the Top 40 scene – and with Squeeze’s welcome return to touring in 2007 after a nearly decade-long hiatus, perhaps that songwriting magic will find its way into another record before long.

Slowly but surely, Squeeze have gotten their due from Universal Music Group, holders of the majority of the band’s catalogue. Thanks to their strong efforts, the band may yet earn the kind of fans that know what quality they’re capable of (fans like Crap from the Past host Ron Gerber, who put together this fantastic Squeeze playlist in 2007; Jim Drury, writer of the best Squeeze book money can buy; plus some actor named Johnny Depp who’s a big supporter of the band).

While fans abroad count down the days to that tour, we can all take a stroll through Squeeze’s reissues after the jump.

Excess Moderation (Polygram, 1996)

Most Squeeze collectors couldn’t get a bone thrown their way in the States; by the mid-’90s, old and new records by the band were getting hard to find, other than the endlessly pressed Singles 45’s and Under compilation, a decent if not terribly thorough starting point for one’s collection. Enter Excess Moderation, a double-disc set that almost entirely eschews the singles for album cuts, B-sides and even a few unreleased alternates and outtakes (some of which are exclusive to this set). If you think you have everything Squeeze could ever release, buying this set might prove you wrong.

Six of One… box set (A&M, 1997)

The first big Squeeze reissue campaign was a box set compiling the groups first six LPs – Squeeze (1978), Cool for Cats (1979), Argybargy (1980), East Side Story (1981), Sweets from a Stranger (1982) and Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985) – with digitally remastered sound and two bonus cuts each. Best of all, all but one of the tracks (“The Fortnight Saga,” a Cosi B-side) had never been released before. That has its give-and-take – one could argue that it might be nice to get the B-sides next to the albums proper – but more reissues would arrive in time.

Big Squeeze: The Very Best of Squeeze / Gold (A&M/Hip-O, 2002/2005)

One of the best Squeeze compilations for your buck, Big Squeeze is basically an expanded Singles 45s and Under with more singles and an extra disc of B-sides (many of which weren’t on Excess Moderation).

Glenn Tilbrook: One for the Road DVD (Image Entertainment, 2006)

Not a Squeeze release per se, but a highly recommended one: this breezy documentary chronicles Tilbrook’s first solo tour of America, during which he traveled from venue to venue in an RV. Director Amy Packard (herself a wildly evident Squeeze fan) captures Tilbrook as a pretty down-to-earth entertainer, willing to please the crowds that come to his shows. And the features are pretty neat too: a commentary track, a new interview with Chris Difford (at the time separated musically from Tilbrook but in the middle of rekindling a friendship with his musical partner) and Packard’s admittedly gawky first encounter with Difford and Tilbrook – an interview for a public access music show in 1991.

Difford & Tilbrook, Difford & Tilbrook (A&M, 1984 – reissued Hip-O Select, 2006)

The “lost” Squeeze record – cut by its principal members after the band temporarily broke up – is a bit of a departure, a more poppier sound (produced by Tony Visconti) that masks some of the better songs on the record (“Love’s Crashing Waves,” “On My Mind Tonight,” “The Apple Tree”). Still, Hip-O Select was wise to rescue it from obscurity and press it onto CD for the first time in the States. No bonus tracks, but most of the B-sides from the album can actually be found on the above compilations.

Essential Squeeze DVD (Universal, 2007)

One of the first big catalogue items to be released in conjunction with the Quintessential reunion tour in 2007, this DVD compiles all the Squeeze music videos with a bonus concert recorded by the BBC in 1982.

Remasters Round Two (A&M, 2008)

Such was the success of the Squeeze tour that Universal invested more into the Squeeze discography, creating new deluxe editions of Argybargy, Sweets from a Stranger, Frank (1989) and Ridiculous (1995). They were packed with lots of bonus tracks – demos, B-sides and outtakes all (including all the tracks from the previous reissues in 1997) – and Argybargy got another disc with a 1980 live set at the Hammersmith Odeon, performed by what may be the best lineup of the band (Difford, Tilbrook, bassist John Bentley, drummer Gilson Lavis and the irrepressible Jools Holland on keyboards).

The Complete BBC Sessions (A&M, 2008)

The reissue train kept rolling for Squeeze in 2008, as A&M released a double-disc set of the band’s complete BBC sessions, from 1977 to 1994. Surprisingly, early sessions (recorded for John Peel) avoid hits – in fact, you’re not going to find a recording of “Tempted” until part of the way into the second disc. That, and the fact that the set has the only officially released live performance with Paul Carrack (who sang “Tempted,” of course), makes it a particularly worthy set if you’re a fan.

The Glenn Tilbrook demos (Quixotic, 2007-2009)

Tilbrook has been independently releasing his home demos of Squeeze songs for a few years. The first set, The Past Has Been Bottled, covered East Side Story in its entirety, In the Sky Above chronicled the latter years of Squeeze (1993-1998) and Dreams Are Made of This tackled the earliest years of the band (1974-1980). Best of all, there are still two more sets due in the future. (My guess is a set devoted to the rest of the ’80s and ’90s and a set of Tilbrook’s most recent work.)

Above: Glenn Tilbrook and the author, Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ – Nov. 5, 2009

Written by Mike Duquette

March 24, 2010 at 11:48

5 Responses

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  1. Difford & Tilbrook absolutely was released on CD in the US back in 1984. Why the reissues start with ArgyBargy and ignore the first two albums that made them huge in the UK is a mystery. Cool for Cats at least needs an upgrade. And East Side Story, their biggest album ever, remains without an update.


    March 25, 2010 at 10:35

    • You’re right – that’s my mistake. D&T was on CD in the US. It must’ve went out of print quickly, though.

      I hope that with the pretty decent coverage surrounding the upcoming tour, Universal will do another wave of reissues. I’m thinking Cool for Cats, East Side Story, and pick two from Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti, Babylon and On and Some Fantastic Place.

      Mike Duquette

      March 25, 2010 at 10:44

  2. I was disappointed that “Excess Moderation” didn’t include “The Hunt”, a spooky/moody B-side to the single of “Black Coffee in Bed”. As far as I can tell, “The Hunt” has never been offered on CD.


    March 29, 2010 at 12:54

    • Good call on the lack of “The Hunt.” I wonder why it’s never been released myself, particularly since the Sweets from a Stranger reissue managed to include “I’m at Home Tonight,” from a relatively obscure US promo single.

      Mike Duquette

      March 29, 2010 at 13:51

  3. As juicy as Excess Moderation is, there were uncorrected flaws in the mastering of the disc on at least a couple of songs that were quite annoying. I believe that’s why it went out of print rather quickly.

    C. Murgatroyd, Esq.

    March 14, 2013 at 13:50

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