In my album collection, pretty much the highest number of albums I own are either by Bruce Springsteen or Squeeze. Squeeze is the best band you’ve likely never heard of. If I say “Tempted” then you’re likely to have an idea who I’m talking about.
At some point last year, I heard that front man and lyricist Chris Difford had written a book. I had to read it, and blew through it in a few days.
Difford grew up in Greenwich, England. He lived a sort of rough life and could have turned out quite differently if he hadn’t turned to music. With the great kyrics he typically writes, I would have thought him to be well-read, but he was actually a pretty poor student. I’d read many years ago about how Difford and his songwriting partner Glenn Tilbrook met when Difford posted an advertisement for a guitarist. The two have had their fractious moments over the years, but they are the core of the great “slice of life” songs Squeeze has recorded since the 1970’s.
Difford is pretty honest in his assessments of situations and owning up to his own responsibility when things falter. I was actually surprised at a number of his admissions throughout the book. He was not the only member of Squeeze to suffer addiction issues – it was well known that their drummer in the early 1980’s was an alcoholic – but he is honest in how much it hurt the band and his relationships. It’s interesting to note that Elton John is his sponsor in sobriety. His encounters with other musicians and celebrities is notable, if only because he always seemed to be the quieter, more reserved member of the band. When times got tough, he always seemed to fall into a way to survive, even if it meant supporting another, well-known musician such as Bryan Ferry.
His self-depricating, dry humor is evident throughout. For a long time he doesn’t see himself among equals and sees himself being carried by other members of the band. Whether that’s a fair assessment or not, that’s how he sees it, and is in contrast to many other autobiographies where the writer sees himself as the center of the universe. He gives away where a lot of the songs he wrote come from, although if you’re really interested in that, I’d recommend the book Squeeze: Song by Song instead.
At the same time, by confronting his demons he gives inspiration to others. He’s a proponent of the 12-step programs that helped both him and Elton John. I thought it was very spiritual at times, without intending to be. He admits how in recent years he’d rather stay at home in his farmhouse with his wife, but ventures out for tours time and time again. They must be doing something right because Squeeze is one of the few bands from the 1980’s that sells out just based on their name and is still playing great music, rather than just being a part of the nostalgia circuit.
For fans of Squeeze, this is a treasure and if you haven’t read it, you should. I admit that before reading this, I was pretty much a fan of Glenn Tilbrook. After reading this I’ve come to appreciate Difford’s many talents and purchased his solo works as well. I really had a lot of fun reading this. He didn’t use a ghost-writer and at times it shows, but in general he’s done a terrific job and given fans an honest slice of his life.
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Categories: Book Reviews