If you were a college student in the early 80’s, you probably had Squeeze on heavy rotation. Their upbeat New Wave tunes were full of great hooks and catchy lyrics. The band was a major part of the soundtrack of the time and early regulars on MTV. And you could dance to them…
You can still dance to them later this month when Squeeze returns to RI for a show at The Vets on February 23rd. Their bringing all the hits on the “Squeeze Songbook” tour, including classic like “Temped,” “Cool for Cats” and “Black Coffee in Bed.”
I recently spoke with Squeeze founder and lyricist Chris Difford from his home in the UK, as he and the band prepared to travel across the pond. I learned that the band was still quite busy these days.
“We’re always touring,” explained Difford. “We’ve been on the road for forty odd years. The band is incredible, and the songs sound incredible, so there’s nothing not to like about it. Going on stage is a fantastic feeling.”
He noted that touring hasn’t changed much for the band since the late 70’s.
“In those days when you were traveling around America in the back of a Chevy Van, the five of us were packed in, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and having a great time. The audiences were pretty wild back then too.
“I don’t think it’s changed apart from the fact that we use tour buses these days and don’t drink as much beer,” joked Difford. “We’ve grown up on the road, there have been a lot of tears along the way, but still its been an incredible journey for somebody who’s in their middle 60’s. Looking back across the clear, its just something to appreciate.”
He sees a cross section of fans at shows, the “traditional” supporters and a new generation of younger fans.
“We played in Atlanta last September and I walked out on the stage and thought, we must be at the wrong concert, the audience was really young. And I thought, my God, what do they want to watch us for? We had the most fun at that gig, it was amazing.”
I was recently reminded of the significant role songs can play in people’s lives when a friend mentioned that he and his wife got engaged at a Squeeze concert. Difford shared some thoughts on the power of music.
“You don’t think about that when you start out with a band, you just want to be in a group and the ambitions are … to be successful, write new songs and attract a following. And we’ve certainly had all of that. I feel very proud and honored that people remember us for different reasons because we did a lot of work in those days. We did loads of college tours and I think that sunk into people’s minds.”
When they first arrived on the scene in the late 70’s, many critics compared Squeeze to the Beatles, among others. I asked Difford who influenced his songwriting.
“Our inspirations were other bands at the time like Elvis Costello, Ian Drury, people who were very lyrical. You would listen to that kind of music and it would send you in all different directions. We were listening to bands like Mink Deville and the Talking Heads, lyrically they were off on a tangent, but they were still very influential.
“Another band that was very influential especially for me was a band called Sparks, they delivered something very unique, it was very lyrical, melodic and very strange. That band definitely caught my attention.”
You can catch the band’s attention (and their tour bus parked outside) on Sunday February 23rd at The Vets in downtown Providence. Tickets are still available. Details here.