SQUEEZE - Ridiculous (A&M Records 540 440-2, 1995)
It's 1973 in South London. Teenage friends Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook form the band that will see them dubbed 'The New Lennon and McCartney'. Over 35 years later, with their legacy intact and as vital as it has ever been, Squeeze are still touring and reminding fans worldwide just why they have left such an indelible impression on the UK's music scene. As teenagers on the South London scene, Squeeze - setting out their stall early on by facetiously naming themselves after a poorly-received Velvet Underground album, comprised of Jools Holland on keys, Harry Kakouli on bass and Paul Gunn on drums. They became a fixture of the burgeoning New Wave movement. When Gilson Lavis replaced Gunn on drums everything seemed to fall into place, and word of mouth soon spread about the band - ironically, it was none other than Velvet Underground man John Cale who caught wind in 1977 and offered to produce their debut EP "Packet Of Three" and much of the ensuing album.
Yet it was second album "Cool For Cats", released in 1979, which cemented their place as one of Britain's most important young bands. Featuring the classic single "Up The Junction" as well as the title track, it was many listeners' first introduction to the witty kitchen-sink lyricism and new-wave guitar music that has become the band's trademark. With albums "Argybargy" and the Elvis Costello-produced "East Side Story", Squeeze even started to make waves across the pond, although in 1980 former Roxy Music and Ace - and future Mike & The Mechanics - man Paul Carrack would replace Jools Holland, going on to lend his unmistakeable vocals to the smash hit "Tempted". By 1984 Squeeze had disbanded. The chemistry between Tilbrook and Difford could not be as easily dismissed however, and the ensuing record they made together has become the 'lost' Squeeze album for many fans. But the band couldn't lay dormant for long, as Squeeze reformed the next year for "Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti", along with Holland, Lavis and Keith Wilkinson, Squeeze's longest serving bass player. Over the next 12 years Difford and Tilbrook remained the only constant element as Squeeze continued to receive critical acclaim, release albums and tour, with the likes of "Hourglass" becoming their biggest ever hit in the USA.
Metcalfe left the band in 1988, leaving the Difford / Tilbrook / Holland / Wilkinson / Lavis line-up to record 1989's "Frank". The LP was a commercial disappointment, from which no charting singles were taken in the UK, and the band was dropped from their long-time label A&M. Adding a new second keyboard player in the person of Matt Irving, the band issued the live album "A Round and a Bout" on I.R.S. Records in March 1990. Jools Holland left Squeeze again in early 1990, and was not immediately replaced. In his stead, the band used session musicians such as Irving (who was no longer an official band member), Snow, Steve Nieve, Bruce Hornsby and Carol Isaacs for the 1991 release "Play", which came out on the Reprise label. This release again spawned no UK hits, although in the US the singles "Satisfied" and "Crying in My Sleep" received significant airplay on modern rock stations, and in Canada "Satisfied" was a top 50 hit. However, Reprise dropped the band after this album. Following this, drummer Gilson Lavis was let go in 1992, and replaced by Nieve's Attractions bandmate Pete Thomas. Paul Carrack also returned to the band in 1993, although by this point Squeeze was not so much a band as it was a trade name for Difford and Tilbrook plus sidemen.
Squeeze re-signed to A&M in time for 1993's "Some Fantastic Place". After a period of commercial decline in the UK, lead single "Third Rail" hit No. 39, becoming Squeeze's first UK Top 40 hit in six years. Squeeze's line-up during the mid-1990s changed constantly. Though not an official Squeeze member, Aimee Mann was featured on vocals and guitar at many Squeeze shows during 1994. Thomas also exited the band that year, and Carrack doubled on snare and keyboards for a few gigs before session drummer Andy Newmark was brought in. Then, still in 1994, Carrack left, which allowed keyboardist Andy Metcalfe to return to the band for a short spell, playing on some live dates. Drummer Kevin Wilkinson (no relation to bassist Keith), formerly of The Waterboys and China Crisis, was also added around this time, replacing Newmark. He lasted through the 1995 album "Ridiculous", which was recorded by the quartet of Difford, Tilbrook, Wilkinson and Wilkinson. The album spun off three minor hits in the UK: "This Summer", "Electric Trains" and "Heaven Knows". ("Heaven Knows" was used as the closing song in the 1995 film Hackers starring Angelina Jolie.) In addition, a minimally remixed version of "This Summer" became a No. 32 UK hit in 1996, a year after the original version peaked at No. 36. Despite this, A&M Records once again dropped Squeeze from their roster in late 1996.
Following the release "of Ridiculous", Don Snow (now known as Jonn Savannah) returned to Squeeze yet again as their touring keyboard player, but by 1997, the Squeeze line-up had officially dwindled down to just Difford and Tilbrook. That year the duo, billed as Squeeze, released the non-album single "Down in the Valley" as a fundraising single for Charlton Athletic F.C. Tilbrook formed the Quixotic label for this and future Squeeze-related releases, as well as releases by other artists. For the 1998 album "Domino", the band was again a quintet consisting of Difford, Tilbrook, bassist Hilaire Penda, ex-Del Amitri drummer Ashley Soan, and yet another returning keyboardist in the person of Christopher Holland. Nick Harper often performed with this version of Squeeze, providing additional guitar and vocals. In January 1999, just days before a planned tour, Chris Difford suddenly announced that he was taking a "hiatus" from Squeeze. The last venue at which Squeeze played with Difford was at The Charlotte, Leicester, England. The band subsequently continued as a quartet led by Tilbrook, with Jim Kimberley replacing Soan on some tour dates, and Christopher Holland exiting in the autumn to be replaced by Tilbrook's other frequent writing partner Chris Braide.
On 27 November 1999, in Aberdeen, Scotland, Squeeze played their final gig before breaking up again. Difford and Tilbrook embarked on separate solo careers shortly thereafter. Despite this official Squeeze break-up in 1999, Difford and Tilbrook continued to make music and gig with the same enthusiasm and abandon that they brought to Squeeze's first EP, either with their own solo projects or with each other. As befits one of the UK's much-loved acts, there is no end of Squeeze fans currently wearing their influences firmly on their sleeve, whether it be Mark Ronson, Kasabian, Supergrass, Lily Allen, The Feeling or Razorlight. With their fingerprints keenly felt throughout the fabric of popular music, it is only right that these songs, with their evergreen and popular sound, continue to be played and enjoyed live. And so since 2007, a newly reformed Squeeze have been slowly finding time to play a series of gigs and festival dates, preferring to reaffirm their abilities as a band rather than follow some of their peers who have come out in a blaze of publicity, only to be met with disappointment.
The new Squeeze line-up, their most able yet, is completed by Squeeze veteran John Bentley and Tilbrook's Fluffers cohorts Simon Hanson and Stephen Large, and has become an instant favourite on the festival circuit since reforming with appearances at V, Oxegen, T in the Park and Latitude. Squeeze's contribution to music has been noted in 2010 with the site of their first gig being awarded a prestigious PRS For Music Heritage Plaque, which has so far commemorated the debuts of Blur and Dire Straits. It joins an ever-increasing list of Squeeze accolades ,alongside their recent Ivor Novello for Outstanding Contribution to British Music and their Nordoff-Robbins Icon Award. Chris Difford's lyrics and Glenn Tilbrook's music have survived everything over the years, from the ever-changing musical landscape to their own internal reshuffles and acrimonious breakups - but Squeeze is here to stay, still going strong and still loving every moment.
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