Squeeze proves that it takes more than a couple brilliant songwriters (Chris Difford/lyrics and Glenn Tilbrook/music) or extremely talented musicians (keyboardist Jools Holland and vocalist Paul Carrack) to make a band successful.
Though the group scored early and often in their native Britain with songs "Take Me I'm Yours" and "Up The Junction" they were a long way from scoring a U.S. hit. "Another Nail In My Heart," "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," "Tempted," "Black Coffee In Bed" are now part of the New Wave canon but back then they barely nicked the U.S. charts.
Tilbrook answered an ad placed by Difford in a store window and soon the two were writing quirky, unique songs. They added Holland and drummer Paul Gunn. The group's name came from the title of the disdained fifth and final Velvet Underground studio album that was recorded without the participation of any of the group's original members.
Squeeze went through the usual personnel changes with Harry Kakoulli added on bass and Gilson Lavis, a former tour manager and drummer for Chuck Berry, replacing Gunn.
As a foreshadowing of difficulties ahead, the Squeeze's label went bankrupt prior to the release of their debut single, "Take Me I'm Yours." But the group soon inked an international deal with A&M Records. In '78, Squeeze released their self-titled debut album. In the U.S. it was called U.K. Squeeze to avoid any confusion with a group called Tight Squeeze (hey, it was the late '70s). Since Tight Squeeze faded quickly (probably deservedly), Squeeze reverted back to its original name for their second effort "Cool For Cats," with John Bentley on bass.
'80 release "Argybargy" produced a couple moderate U.K. hits, "Another Nail In My Heart" and "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)." Both songs, plus "If I Didn't Love You," became club and college radio hits in the U.S. but still didn't connect with the masses. At this point, Holland departed to follow his own musical course and was replaced by Carrack, who had already had a major hit as the vocalist on Ace's bass driven "How Long."
Next up was Squeeze's masterpiece "East Side Story." This '81 release contained the Carrack sung "Tempted," probably the group's most recognizable song. Still, it failed to reach the U.K. Top 40, but it did become the group's first charting U.S. single, just grazing the Top 50.
Carrack was soon gone but the group gave it one more try with "Sweets From A Stranger." Though the album did better than any previous Squeeze effort it didn't do all that well, failing to crack the Top 20 on the album chart, even though it had the exceptional "Black Coffee in Bed." Later in '82 Difford and Tilbrook pulled the plug on Squeeze though the two continued to write and record together.
In '85, Squeeze's original line-up (Difford, Tilbrook, Holland and Lavis) reunited to play a charity gig, which led to the group re-forming, adding bassist Keith Wilkinson. "Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti" dropped later that year. Also, Andy Metcalfe, a former member of Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, joined the band as a second keyboardist.
"Babylon And On" arrived in '87 and delivered the group's first Top 20 U.S. hit, "Hourglass." After a supporting tour Metcalf departed.
Unfortunately, Squeeze's success was short-lived. '89 effort "Frank" failed to generate much interest and led A&M to drop the group. Holland left again.
Squeeze was resigned by A&M in '93 and recorded with good results. However, they were still largely ignored in the U.S.
The best place to start is "Singles 45's and Under." This set captures the essence of Squeeze: intelligent songwriting and clever arrangements. There is a "Greatest Hits" package that contains more songs but it's usually more expensive. "Singles" is a better value.
Of the group's original studio work, opt for "East Side Story" with "Tempted," one of the best infidelity songs ever penned. Though their hit "Hourglass" is far from prime Squeeze (figures), "Babylon And On" is another good option, as is "Cool For Cats."