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Addresses: Record company-- A&M, 1416 La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90028.
Squeeze, a British band whose songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have been favorably compared to superstar composing team John Lennon and Paul McCartney, has been in existence since 1975. Though the group has garnered large amounts of critical favor for its new wave and pop sound almost ever since that time, it was only in 1987 that they scored their first Top 40 hit in the United States with "Hourglass," from the album Babylon and On. But popular success has not caused a reduction in the number of Squeeze's laudatory reviews. As Mark Coleman put it in Rolling Stone, "Squeeze [is] ... the great white hope of thinking-people's pop."
Difford and Tilbrook began writing songs together in the early 1970s. After creating quite a few tunes, they looked for a band to back them up. In 1975 the duo, both of whom played guitar, formed a group with keyboardist Julian Holland, drummer Gilson Lavis, and bass player Harry Kakoulli. They initially called themselves U.K. Squeeze, and just over a year after the band's inception they had landed a recording contract with A&M Records. Squeeze's debut album, U.K. Squeeze, immediately scored them a Top 10 hit in England with the cut "Take Me, I'm Yours," but even after the album and single were released in the United States in 1978, the band did not get much in the way of popular attention. Favorable critical attention, however, Squeeze received in plenty; reviewer's lauds only increased with the advent of the group's second and third albums, Cool for Cats and Argy Bargy. Noteworthy cuts from these efforts included "Up the Junction" and "Slap and Tickle" from the former, and "Pulling Mussels" and "If I Didn't Love You" from the latter.
Squeeze's U.S. exposure was increased when the band was befriended by popular new wave musician Elvis Costello; he featured Squeeze as his warm-up act for his 1981 concerts in the United States. But at about the same time, Squeeze was experiencing important personnel changes. Kakoulli had left the band two years before to be replaced by John Bentley; Julian Holland left to be replaced by Paul Carrack. Carrack's vocals were featured in Squeeze's 1981 hit "Tempted," which, although it did not make a Top 40 position on the U.S. pop charts, was nevertheless an important breakthrough in gaining the band an audience in that country.
"Tempted" was only one of many critically acclaimed tracks on Squeeze's 1981 album, East Side Story; the group's 1982 effort, Sweets From a Stranger, produced another near hit in the United States--the thoughtful "Black Coffee in Bed." But on Sweets From a Stranger Carrack had already been replaced by yet another keyboard player, Don Snow. As Tilbrook told Coleman in Rolling Stone, "Snow was a brilliant pianist, but we'd just had one change too many at that point. The whole internal structure of the band was falling apart." Thus, in 1982, Squeeze announced that they were disbanding, several of its members citing the difficulties of working together with the other strong individuals who made up the group.
Difford and Tilbrook continued to compose and record together. Lavis found work as a cab driver, and Holland had become the host of a popular British television show featuring music videos. In 1984 Difford and Tilbrook habitually told reporters that they were completely finished with Squeeze, but in 1985 they were in search of backup musicians for a charity performance. In addition to Keith Wilkinson, who had served as bass player for the duo during their post-Squeeze period, they came up with Lavis and Holland. Tilbrook explained to Coleman: "When we did that charity gig, it was so obvious that we should get back together, I felt embarrassed. It took a couple of days of hesitant phone calls to establish that everyone felt the same way I did."
The four former members, plus Wilkinson, reconstituted Squeeze. The band's first comeback album was titled Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti, symbolizing the fact that its musical influences range from classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to 1950s pioneer rocker Little Richard. Though critics welcomed Squeeze's return, most agreed that Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti seemed artificial and stilted compared to the group's previous work. Babylon and On, released in 1987, fared much better. "Comeback albums aren't supposed to eclipse a band's original work, but Squeeze's 'Babylon and On' comes pretty close," a Stereo Review critic applauded. Eric Levin of People joyfully exclaimed: "Squeeze, it is a big thrill to report, is still inimitably, immutably, incorrigibly Squeeze." In addition to the many rave reviews, however, the band finally broke the U.S. Top 40 with the bouncy hit single "Hourglass."
Still together in 1990, Squeeze continued its winning ways with the album Frank. Michael Small of People labeled it "fine," and singled out cuts like "Slaughtered, Gutted, and Heartbroken" and "Love Circles" for special praise.
by Elizabeth Wenning
- Selective Works
- U.K. Squeeze (includes "Take Me, I'm Yours"), A&M, 1978.
- Cool for Cats (includes "Cool for Cats," "Up the Junction," and "Slap and Tickle"), A&M, 1979.
- Argy Bargy (includes "Pulling Mussels" and "If I Didn't Love You"), A&M, 1980.
- East Side Story (includes "Tempted," "Labeled With Love," "Heaven," and "Vanity Fair"), A&M, 1981.
- Sweets From a Stranger (includes "Black Coffee in Bed"), 1982.
- Singles--45's and Under A&M, 1982.
- Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti A&M, 1985.
- Babylon and On (includes "Hourglass," "Footprints," "Tough Love," "The Prisoner," and "Trust Me to Open My Mouth"), A&M, 1987.
- Frank (includes "Slaughtered, Gutted, and Heartbroken" and "Love Circles"), A&M, 1990.
- People, November 2, 1987; January 8, 1990.
- Rolling Stone, December 3, 1987; November 16, 1989.
- Stereo Review, February, 1988.
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