Glenn Tillbrook: ‘Squeeze’-ing in a stop in Wilmington during the band’s 2020 U.S. tour (’1on1 with Jon Evans’ podcast)
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Glenn Tillbrook, Chris Difford and their pop rock band Squeeze are gearing up for another extensive tour of the United States in 2020. This year’s tour follows a successful series of shows in America last year dubbed “The Squeeze Songbook Tour”. The latest lineup of Squeeze will entertain audiences with tunes from a career that spans more than 40 years, 33 albums and 48 singles.
“We always wrote melodic songs from the word go,” Tillbrook said in a Skype interview from the U.K. “Sometimes we could play them and sometimes we would make records of the songs and never play them again. Now that we’re in our 60s, or thereabout, we can actually play a lot of the stuff we couldn’t play before.”
Squeeze got its’ start in London, when a 15-year-old Tillbrook answered an ad Difford had placed looking for a guitarist. That meeting in 1973 led to a successful partnership with Difford contributing more of the lyrics and Tillbrook the melodies. Several years of playing clubs led to their 1977 debut EP entitled Packet of Three. The band’s 1979 release Cool for Cats spawned a video for the title track that received a lot of play on the then-relatively new U.S. channel called Music Television.
“I think it (MTV) transformed many bands’ careers at that time,” Tillbrook recalls about the impact of videos on the music industry. “I think it also changed the way people were listening to music. At the beginning of MTV, there were many more European acts making videos than American acts. That was our ‘in’ if you like at that time. We filled the space, luckily for us, because we filled it memorably as far as some people concerned.”
The following years produced some of the more lasting tracks of the Squeeze collection. In 1980, the songs Another Nail in My Heart and Pulling Mussels from a Shell both charted in the UK from the record Arbybargy. The 1981 album East Side Story produced Tempted, the band’s first song to hit the U.S. charts. It peaked at number 49 on the Billboard Hot-100.
“When I heard “Tempted”, finished, for the first time I thought it was a smash,” Tillbrook remembers. “I thought it was going to be our breakthrough record. Weirdly enough, it sort of was, but not in the way I thought. I thought it would be a hit, and it wasn’t a hit anywhere. But what it did was, stay around, and stay around, and stay around.”
The first of several separations happened in 1982, with the band members going different ways for a few years. Tillbrook and Difford worked together on projects, and Tillbrook worked on some solo music. In 1987, the reunited Squeeze released Babylon and On, with two singles reaching Billboard’s top-40, Hourglass made it to #15, and the follow-up 853-9537 peaked at #32 in early 1988. The band has continued to record and release new material through the years, including The Knowledge album in 2017.
“I grew up obsessed with pop music and rock music, that’s why I started playing (guitar) when I was young,” Tillbrook shared as he reflected on nearly a half-century of making music and entertaining crowds. “All my aspirations were leaning that way, there wasn’t another route for me. I didn’t go to college. There wasn’t anything else. There wasn’t a ‘Plan B’. I had to do this, but it didn’t feel like a task. It felt like something I really, really wanted to do. How lucky am I for being able to do that?”
Squeeze will do about twenty shows on their own in this tour of America, including the August 19 show at the Wilson Center in Wilmington. The rest of the shows, nearly three dozen, will be with the legendary duo Hall and Oates. Tillbrook says while the early days of the band were spent ‘going 300 miles per hour’, the group now is more about ‘musicianship, precision and enthusiasm, instead of just enthusiasm’.
“We’re getting better now,” he says about the band. “The reactions we’ve had from crowds over the past year, it’s been some of the best shows we’ve ever done. You can’t make that up. You can’t make it happen. All the things have come together to make it right for us at the moment.”
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