By Eleni P. Austin

For nearly half a century, the nucleus of the British band Squeeze has been the songwriting partnership of Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook. Legend has it that in 1973, Chris kyp’d 50 quid from his mother’s purse and placed an advert in the local sweet shop searching for a guitarist for his (nonexistent) band. Glenn was the only person to answer the ad.

The pair began writing songs together and within a few years, were a real band, two guitars, bass, keys and drums. After cycling through a few different names, the five-piece, known as Squeeze made their bones gigging around their hometown of Depford (Southeast London). Rather quickly, they began sharing stages with other up-and-comers like Alternative TV and Dire Straits. Signing with A&M Records, their self-titled debut arrived in 1978 and contained a couple of minor hits, “Bang Bang” and “Take Me, I’m Yours.”

Their next three albums, Cool For Cats, Argy Bargy and East Side Story, released in 1979, 1980 and 1981, respectively, were regarded as watershed efforts, garnering critical and commercial acclaim At this point, the band featured their most enduring and beloved line-up, John Bentley on bass, Jules Holland on keys, Gilson Lavis on drums, and of course Chris and Glenn on vocals and guitars.


All three records centered on the sharp songcraft of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, earning them comparisons to John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Songs like “Up The Junction,” “Goodbye Girl,” “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell),” “If I Didn’t Love You,” “Tempted” and “Woman’s Work” matched droll and pithy (Lennon-esque) lyrics to to sunny, infectious (McCartney-esque) melodies, all awash in dayglo New Wave colors. Their sound incorporated everything from prickly Power Pop, British Music Hall, Country, Pub Rock, Psychedelia and Baroque Pop. But a relentless schedule of writing, recording and touring took its toll and following their fifth, underrated long-player, Sweets From A Stranger, they called it quits at the end of 1982.

Two years later, Chris and Glenn made an ill-fated duo album under the moniker Difford & Tilbrook. But that near-miss paved the way for a Squeeze reunion in 1985. They scored a few chart-toppers through the remainder of the 1980s: “The Last Time Forever” and “King George Street” from 1985’s Cosi Fan Tutti Fruitti, “Trust Me To Open My Mouth” and “Hourglass” from 1987’s Babylon And On and “If It’s Love and “Love Circles” from 1989’s “Frank.”

Squeeze endured myriad line-up changes, but the partnership of Chris and Glenn persevered. Throughout the ‘90s they created a clutch of great records every couple years, including “Play,” “Some Fantastic Place,” “Ridiculous” and “Domino.” In between band commitments, Chris and Glenn launched very satisfying solo careers. Since the dawn of the 21st century Squeeze have been indefatigable road warriors, they also managed to record a couple of instant classics. Both 2015’s Cradle To Grave,” and 2017’s The Knowledge, harkened back to the halcyon era of Cool/Argy/East.

Last year, in response to the Kingdom cost of living crisis in Great Britain, the band released the Food For Thought EP. The title track was a tart commentary on British society, rising inflation and the increasing reliance on food banks. This year, the band (which currently includes Stephen Large on keys, Simon Hanson on drums, as well as Steve Smith on percussion and backing vocals, Melvin Duffy on pedal steel, and former Roots bassist Owen Biddle anchoring the low end), is back out on the road as half of a double bill with The Psychedelic Furs. To commemorate their 50th anniversary they’ve just released a live five-song set, Best Of Squeeze 2 (Live At The Fillmore).

The EP crackles to life with “Pulling Mussels (From A Shell),” (or, as my friend Jay mis-heard it, “Pulling Muscles For Michelle!”). This was their breakthrough hit in the U.S., a rollicking rave-up that blends driving piano, gritty guitar licks, whooshy keys, tensile bass lines and a punishing backbeat. Glenn’s (still) boyish tenor is front and center, delivering a nuanced narrative based on Chris’ youthful experiences during seaside holidays; “Squinting faces at the sky, a Harold Robbins paperback, surfers drop their boards and dry and everyone wants a hat/Shrinking in the sea so cold, topless ladies look away, a he-man in a sudden shower shelters from the rain.” These aural snapshots are bookended by a spiraling guitar solo that ricochets through the break, followed by acrobatic piano run and even more guitars that strut, spark and pinwheel creating a joyful racket that’s impossible to resist.

Jumping ahead two years, “Black Coffee In Bed” is the perfect synthesis of English Music Hall and Northern Soul. There’s a potent call-and-response between fluttery piano, piquant guitars and celestial harmonies that provide a bit of Gospel heft. Lyrics deftly summon the contradictory emotions that accompany a bitter break up; “With the way that you left me, I can hardly contain, the hurt and the anger, and the joy and the pain, now knowing I’ll be single, there’ll be fire in my eyes, and a stain on my notebook for a new love tonight.” Rather than wallow in the mire, the band relies on a bit of audience participation to lighten the mood. By the break, the arrangement shifts, locking into a Funkified groove that recalls the heyday of James Brown and The JB’s.

“Hourglass,” originally recorded in 1987, wraps the increasing feeling of desperation in a hooky melody powered blistering guitars, boinging bass, brittle keys and a breakneck beat. Glenn is at the end of his rope; “I feel like I’m calling on a telephone no one can hear the ringing, I feel like I’m running up a steep hill, no one can stop me from running, the hourglass has no more grains of sand, my watch has stopped turning, no more hands, the little hand shakes it’s fist, the face is hanging out on a spring.” The rapid-fire chorus ratchets up the tension, buoyed by icy keys, squiggly guitars and ticklish piano.

The final two tracks start at the very beginning (and The Sound Of Music was right, it’s a very good place to start). “Goodbye Girl” from 1979, became an early trademark hit. They still employ the same junky percussion from drummer Gilson Lavis’ original arrangement, salting the mix lithe guitars, chugging keys and elastic bass lines. Succinct lyrics offer up a vivid vignette of a hoped-for assignation that turns larcenous; “I met her in a pool room, her name I didn’t catch, she looked like something special, the kind who’d understand, she took me to her motel, a room on the second floor… she said I hardly know you, agreed, we kissed goodnight, I knew that in the morning somehow I’d wake to find sunlight on the lino, waking me with a shake, I looked around to find her but she had gone, goodbye girl, goodbye girl.” Not only does he wake up virtue intact, but he finds that this elusive vixen has taken more than his heart; “I’ve lost my silver razor, my club room locker keys, the money in the waistcoat, it doesn’t bother me.” Although his mien remains rueful and ironic, the song is shot-through with melancholy.

Finally, “Take Me, I’m Yours” closes the set. A rumpy-pumpy percussive kick splits the difference between a frenetic Cha-Cha-Cha and an authoritative martial cadence. Modal guitar licks, darting keys and pulsating bass match the lyrical exotica; “Amusing belly dancers distract me from my wine, across Tibetan mountains are memories of mine, I’ve stood some ghostly moments with natives in the hills, recorded here on paper, my chills and thrills and spills, take me, I’m yours, because dreams are made of this, forever there’ll be a heaven in your kiss.” Spiky guitars hopscotch across the break, as wiggly keys dot the melody’s margins, building to a calibrated crescendo. Circling back to their Depford roots, quietly verifies that these guys had the goods from the start.

This live-fiver is the perfect introduction for anyone unaware of the majestic musical prowess that is Squeeze. A cogent reminder that their cagey songcraft will never go out of style. The best part is, it’s actually just an amuse bouche. Following their run of shows with the Furs, the band plans to hunker down in an L.A. studio and create something of an aural banquet, not one, but two albums. The first will be all-new material, the second will revisit songs Chris and Glenn wrote pretty soon after getting together, but have never gotten around to recording. (Squeeze and The Psychedelic Furs will be at The Greek Theatre Saturday, October 14th, 2023. Ticket information can be found at