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Squeeze Biography

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Squeeze In-depth Biography

As one of the most traditional pop} bands of the new wave}, Squeeze} provided one of the links between classic British guitar pop} and post-punk}. Inspired heavily by the Beatles} and the Kinks}, Squeeze} was the vehicle for the songwriting of Chris Difford} and Glenn Tilbrook}, who were hailed as the heirs to Lennon} and McCartney}'s throne during their heyday in the early '80s. Unlike Lennon} and McCartney}, the partnership between Difford} and Tilbrook} was a genuine collaboration, with the former writing the lyrics and the latter providing the music. Squeeze} never came close to matching the popularity of the Beatles}, but the reason for that is part of their charm. Difford} and Tilbrook} were wry, subtle songwriters that subscribed to traditional pop} songwriting values, but subverted them with literate lyrics and clever musical references. While their native Britain warmed to Squeeze} immediately, sending singles like "Take Me I'm Yours"} and "Up the Junction"} into the Top Ten, the band had a difficult time gaining a foothold in the states; they didn't have a U.S. Top 40 hit until 1987, nearly a decade after their debut album. Even if the group never had a hit in the U.S., Squeeze} built a dedicated following that stayed with them into the late '90s, and many of their songs -- "Another Nail In My Heart,"} "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),"} "Tempted,"} "Black Coffee In Bed"} -- became pop} classics of the new wave} era, as the platinum status of their compilation Singles 45's and Under} indicates.

Chris Difford} (b. April 11, 1954; guitar, vocals) and Glenn Tilbrook} (b. August 31, 1957; vocals, guitar) formed Squeeze} in 1974. Tilbrook} answered an advertisement Difford} had placed in a store window, and the pair began writing songs. By the spring of 1974, the duo had recruited pianist Jools Holland} (b. Julian Holland}, January 24, 1958) and drummer Paul Gunn}, and had named themselves Squeeze}, after the disowned Velvet Underground} album that featured none of the group's original members. Squeeze} began playing the thriving pub rock} circuit, although their songs were quirkier and more pop}-oriented than many of their peers. By 1976, the band had added bassist Harry Kakoulli} and replaced Gunn} with Gilson Lavis} (b. June 27, 1951), a former tour manager and drummer for Chuck Berry}. They had also signed a contract with Miles Copeland}'s burgeoning BTM} record label and management company. Squeeze} had already recorded several tracks for RCA}, including two cuts with Muff Winwood}, that the label rejected. BTM} went bankrupt before it could release the band's debut single, "Take Me I'm Yours"} in early 1977, but Squeeze} was able to work with John Cale} on their debut EP, due to a contract Copeland} had arranged with Cale}.

Squeeze} released their debut EP, Packet of Three}, on Deptford Fun City Records}, in the summer of 1977 and soon arranged an international contract with A&M Records}, becoming the label's first new wave} act since their disastrous signing of the Sex Pistols}. The band entered the studio with producer Cale} later that year to work on their debut album, provisionally titled Gay Guys} by the group's producer. Cale} had the group throw out most of their standard material, forcing them to write new material; consequently, the record wasn't necessarily a good representation of the band's early sound. By the time the album was released in the spring of 1978, the group and A&M} had abandoned the record's working title, and it was released as Squeeze}. In America, the band and album had to change their name to UK Squeeze}, in order to avoid confusion with an American band called Tight Squeeze}; by the end of the year, they had reverted back to Squeeze} in the U.S.. Preceded by the hit single "Take Me I'm Yours,"} the album became a moderate success, but the group's true British breakthrough arrived in 1979, when they released their second album, Cool for Cats}. More representative of the band's sound than their debut, Cool for Cats} generated two number two singles in the title track and "Up the Junction."} Later in 1978, the EP 6 Squeeze Songs Crammed Into One Ten-Inch Record} EP was released. Squeeze} tried for a seasonal} hit that year with "Christmas Day,"} but the single failed to chart. Kakoulli} was fired from the band after the release of Cool for Cats} and was replaced by John Bentley}.

Released in the spring of 1980, Argybargy} received the strongest reviews of any Squeeze} album to date, and produced moderate U.K. hits with "Another Nail In My Heart"} and "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)."} Both songs, plus "If I Didn't Love You,"} became hits on college radio and new wave} clubs in America, increasing the band's profile considerably; it was the first Squeeze} album to chart in America, reaching number 71. Jools Holland}, whose fascination with boogie-woogie} piano was beginning to sit uncomfortably with Difford} and Tilbrook}'s increasingly sophisticated compositions, left the band in late 1980 to form the Millionaires}; he was replaced by Paul Carrack}, formerly of the pub rock} band Ace}. Following Argybargy}, critics in both the U.K. and U.S. were calling Difford} and Tillbrook} "the new Lennon} and McCartney}," and in order to consolidate their growing reputation, Squeeze} made an attempt at their own Sgt. Pepper} with 1981's East Side Story}. Initially, the album was to be produced by Dave Edmunds}, but the group scrapped those sessions to work with Elvis Costello} and Roger Bechirian}. Upon its summer release, East Side Story} was hailed with excellent reviews, but it didn't become a huge hit as expected. Nevertheless, it found an audience, peaking at number 19 in the U.K. and number 44 on the U.S. charts. The soulful, Carrack}-sung "Tempted"} failed to reach the U.K. Top 40, but it did become the group's first charting U.S. single, reaching the Top 50. The country}-tinged "Labelled With Love"} became the group's third, and last, British Top Ten hit that fall. Carrack} left at the end of 1981 to join Carlene Carter}'s backing band; he was replaced with Don Snow}, a classically trained pianist who formerly played with the Sinceros}.

Ever since the release of their debut, Squeeze} had been touring and recording without break, and signs of weariness were evident on Sweets From a Stranger}. Though it was the group's highest-charting U.S. album, reaching number 32 shortly after its spring release, Sweets From a Stranger} was uneven. In the U,K,, it was a considerable disappointment, reaching number 37, with its single "Black Coffee in Bed"} stalling at number 51. Nevertheless, the band had earned a considerable fan base, and were able to play Madison Square Garden} that summer. Tired of touring and its frustrating commercial fortunes, Difford} and Tilbrook} decided to disband Squeeze} late in 1982, releasing the compilation Singles -- 45's and Under}, shortly after its announcement. Ironically, Singles} peaked at number three on the British charts; it would later go platinum in the U.S..

Though they had disbanded Squeeze}, Difford} and Tilbrook} had no intention of ending their collaboration -- they simply wanted to pursue other projects. In particular, they saw themselves as songwriters in the classic tradition of Tin Pan Alley} or the Brill Building}, and began writing for Helen Shapiro}, Paul Young}, Billy Bremner} and Jools Holland}. They also worked on Labelled With Love}, a musical based on their songs, which played briefly in Deptford, England early in 1983. The duo released an eponymous album in the summer of 1984, showcasing a sophisticated new sound, as well as long, flowing haircuts and coats. The record was a moderate success, but the duo already were thinking of re-forming Squeeze}. Early in 1985, the band reunited to play a charity gig, which prompted Difford}, Tilbrook}, Holland}, and Lavis} (who had been driving a cab) to permanently re-form, adding bassist Keith Wilkinson}. Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti} was released in the fall of 1985 to positive reviews and moderately successful sales. During 1986, Andy Metcalfe}, a member of Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians}, joined the band as a second keyboardist. Babylon and On} followed in the fall of 1987, and the album became a surprise hit, reaching number 14 in the U.K. and generating their biggest American hits -- "Hourglass,"} which reached number 15 on the strength of MTV}'s heavy rotation of the song's inventive video, and the Top 40 "853-5937."} After completing an international tour, which featured another concert at Madison Square Garden} and a headlining spot at the Reading Festival}, Metcalfe} left the band; he was not replaced.

Babylon and On} may have been a hit, but Squeeze}'s renewed success wasn't long-lasting. The group's next album, Frank}, was released in the fall of 1989 and it wasn't given much a promotional push by A&M}. Consequently, it flopped in both the U.S. and the U.K.. During the supporting tour for Frank}, A&M} dropped Squeeze}, leaving the band in the cold. Following the tour, Holland} left the band to concentrate on his career as a recording artist, as well as a television host for the BBC}. Squeeze} released a live album, A Round and a Bout}, on I.R.S}. in the spring of 1990. Early in 1991, the band signed with Reprise Records} and began recording a new album, hiring Steve Nieve}, Bruce Hornsby} and Matt Irving} as session keyboardists. The resulting album, Play}, was released in the fall of 1991 to little attention, partially because it received no support from the label. During the Play} tour, the band hired Don Snow} and Carol Isaacs} as keyboardists. Over the course of 1992, Difford} & Tilbrook} began to play the occasional acoustic concert, as Squeeze} revamped its touring lineup again, hiring Steve Nieve} as their touring keyboardist. Longtime drummer Gilson Lavis} left the band later that year to play in Jools Holland}'s big band; he was replaced by Pete Thomas} who, like Nieve}, was a member of the Attractions}.

Squeeze} resigned from A&M Records} in early 1993 and recorded their new album, Some Fantastic Place}, with Thomas} on drums and Paul Carrack} on keyboards. Released in the September of 1993, the album became a moderate British hit, debuting at number 26; it was ignored in the U.S.. During 1994, Thomas} left the band to join the reunited Attractions}; by the end of the year, the group had replaced him with Andy Newmark}. Prior to the recording of 1995's Ridiculous}, Kevin Wilkinson} -- no relation to bassist Keith Wilkinson} -- became the group's drummer. Released in the U.K. in the fall of 1995, Ridiculous} became a moderate hit, generating the hits "This Summer"} and "Electric Trains."} The album was released in America in the spring of 1996 on I.R.S. Records}. Under the name John Savannah}, Don Snow} contributed keyboards on Ridiculous} and the album's supporting tour.

During 1996, Squeeze} released two compilations, the single-disc Piccadilly Collection} in the U.S. and the double-disc Excess Moderation} in the U.K.. The following year, A&M} U.K. issued the box set Six of One...}, which contained remastered versions of their first six albums, plus two bonus tracks on each disc. A second box, covering the second six albums, was scheduled for release in 1998, but it was canceled after the label folded. By that time, Squeeze} had finished their contractual obligation for new studio albums with the label. They signed with independent Quixotic Records}, releasing a new album, Domino}, in November of 1998. Domino} was recorded with a new lineup, featuring Difford} and Tilbrook}, plus Jools Holland}'s brother Chris Holland} on keyboards, bassist Hilaire Penda} and drummer Ashley Soan}, a former member of Del Amitri}. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
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