Cool for Cats: Squeeze’s East Side stories, working class poetry and kitchen-sink dramas

Squeeze: The classic line-up.
Like everyone else, I’m a sucker for a song that marries a well-crafted lyric to an unforgettable tune. That for me is what makes classic popular music. It can be Chuck Berry with “No Particular Place To Go,” or Sparks with “Something for the Girl with Everything,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” or even a music hall number like “My Old Man (Said Follow the Van),” or George Formby’s “When I’m Cleaning Windows.” Each of these songs has a clever lyric that tells a little story matched by compelling music that carries us along to a little nirvana of pure pop joy.

Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook write these kinds of perfect songs. Songs like “Up the Junction,” “Tempted,” “Labelled with Love,” “Another Nail in My Heart,” “Cool for Cats,”  “Black Coffee in Bed,” and “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell).” Beautiful works of art that touch both heart and mind.

Together Difford and Tilbrook are the core of Squeeze—the band they formed sometime in late 1973 or early 1974. It all started after Difford put an advert in a newsagent’s window for a musician to gig and record with, who liked the Small Faces, Hendrix and Glenn Miller. Difford had been writing poetry for years but had a desire to write and perform songs. Tilbrook had been playing guitar and writing songs since around the age of eleven. He was the only musician who replied to Difford’s ad. It was one of those marvelous quirks of fate that brought together the two young men who would one day be hailed as the “new Lennon and McCartney.”

Difford and Tilbrook were joined by boogie-woogie pianist Jools Holland on keys, Gilson Lavis on drums and eventually John Bentley who replaced Harry Kakoulli on bass. This became the classic Squeeze line-up. Through their manager Miles Copeland III (who also managed the Police, and later released albums by R.E.M., the Cramps and the Bangles), the band had their first EP A Packet of Three and their first album produced by John Cale. 
Squeeze: The eighties line-up.
Difford and Tilbrook had taken the name Squeeze from the Velvet Underground’s (worst) album Squeeze, so there was some synchronicity that Cale produced Squeeze’s earliest output. But Cale wanted sex and imagined passions rather than the world of personal experience and kitchen-sink drama from which Difford pulled his cache of working class poetry. Whereas the first album and single (“Take Me I’m Yours”) put the band on the map and led to their three-month tour of America, it was the second Cool for Cats that showcased Difford and Tillbrook’s genius for songwriting, which was followed by the classic albums Argybargy and East Side Story, right up through to the band’s fourteenth studio album Cradle to the Grave in 2015.

Squeeze arrived at a time of a great and rich musical diversity. When there were various genres like punk and ska, new wave and rap, disco and synthpop, and so on. It was also a time when pop music no longer had that shiny exciting novelty it once had in the fifties and sixties, which meant that sometimes the praise and respect Difford and Tilbrook richly deserved was occasionally diminished or overlooked by rock critics searching for the next Sex Pistols or Paul Weller. Not that Squeeze weren’t popular or greatly loved, far from it, but that there was an equally talented (and often times not as talented) number of other bands also demanding attention who were simply less conventional.

Watch Squeeze in concert from 1982, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
11:36 am
‘I am the f*cking greatest of all time!’: Iggy Pop live on ‘The Tube’ in 1983
10:13 am

Iggy Pop performing on the UK TV music show, The Tube in 1983
Iggy Pop on the UK TV music show, The Tube, 1983
About four months before UK music TV show The Tube went off the air, one of its hosts, the excellent Jools Holland uttered the phrase, “be there or be ungroovy fuckers” while doing a live trailer for the show. It’s also a fairly accurate way to ease into this equally excellent footage of Iggy Pop performing on the show back in 1983.

During its five-year run, The Tube played host to a wide range of musical guests like The Cramps, PiL, and Motörhead. The Jam even played their last live televised gig on The Tube before calling it quits in 1982. This clip from The Tube features a live set from punk king, Iggy Pop performing with what appears to be his Zombie Birdhouse Tour lineup of Larry Mysilewicz (drums), Frank Infante (formerly of Blondie on guitar), Michael Page (bass) and Rob Duprey (former Mumps member also on guitar). The always shirtless Iggy rips through three songs, “Run Like a Villain”, “Eat or be Eaten” (from 1982’s Zombie Birdhouse which was produced by Blondie guitarist Chris Stein), and the sweet throwback “Sixteen” from 1977’s Lust for Life.

According to legend, The Tube was sort of infamous for screwing up the sound for their live acts from time to time, and while the sound isn’t great in this video, the performance is fucking great and true to form, Iggy kicks out the jams like a punk rock version of The Rockettes. I’m also pretty sure Iggy’s eyes were on the verge of shooting lasers at the audience because he looks, let’s just say, enlightened (according to the book Open Up and Bleed, during the soundcheck Iggy fell backwards into the drum kit so there’s that).

Iggy had a really good run in the 80s due much in part to his pal David Bowie who not only gave Iggy a fat paycheck thanks to his cover of “China Girl” (which was originally recorded by Pop on 1977’s The Idiot and co-written by the pair), but who helped convince Iggy to kick his drug habit to the curb. Is there anything The Thin White Duke can’t do? Probably not. But I digress. Here’s Iggy Pop, his crazy abs, and some sweet punk jams, courtesy of 1983.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Real Wild Child: Iggy Pop’s electrifying 1980s appearances on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’

Posted by Cherrybomb
10:13 am
‘London Calling’: Jools Holland’s personal guide to London’s musical history

Musician, cheeky-chappie, and renowned Boogie-Woogie pianist, Jools Holland takes a personal tour through the theaters, music halls and performance venues, at the heart of London’s diverse musical history.

Unlike Chicago blues or Memphis soul, London has no one definitive sound. Its noisy history is full of grime, clamour, industry and countless different voices demanding to be heard. But there is a strain of street-wise realism that is forever present, from its world-famous nursery rhymes to its music hall traditions, and from the Broadside Ballad through to punk and beyond.

Jools’s investigation - at once probing and humorous - identifies the many ingredients of a salty tone that could be called ‘the London sound’ as he tracks through the centuries from the ballads of Tyburn Gallows to Broadside publishing in Seven Dials in the 18th century, to Wilton’s Music Hall in the late 19th century, to the Caribbean sounds and styles that first docked at Tilbury with the Windrush in 1948, to his own conception to the strains of Humphrey Lyttelton at the 100 Club in 1957.

On the way, Jools meets Ray Davies, Damon Albarn, Suggs from Madness, Roy Hudd, Lisa Hannigan, Joe Brown and Eliza Carthy who perform and talk about such classic songs as “London Bridge is Falling Down”, “While London Sleeps”, “Knocked ‘Em in the Old Kent Road”, “St James Infirmary Blues” and “Oranges and Lemons”.


Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:49 pm
7 Classic Tracks

Age may weary and death may claim, but the ears will not condemn this fine selection of essential listening from Blondie, Joe Strummer, Ian Dury, Sonic Youth, David Bowie, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen taken from Later with Jools Holland.

01. Blondie - “Heart of Glass” from 1998
02. Joe Strummer - “London Calling” from 2000
03. Ian Dury - “Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” from 1998
04. Sonic Youth- “Sacred Trickster” from 2009
05. David Bowie - “Ashes to Ashes” from 1999
06. Johnny Cash - “Folsom Prison Blues” from 1994
07. Leonard Cohen - “Dance me to the End of Love” from 1993


Posted by Paul Gallagher
05:30 pm
Lou Reed and Metallica mutilate ‘White Light/White Heat’ on British TV November 8

Lou Reed and Metallica in hit and run accident leave White Light/White Heat dead on the side of the highway - rock and roll road kill.

Everything about this is just plain wrong, from Metallica’s dunderhead playing to Reed’s total inability to find the pocket of the song…which is understandable because there is none. What is not understandable is why Reed continues to trash the Velvet Underground’s legacy. Can the surviving members of VU get a cease and desist order?

This is like watching a beloved friend racing toward the edge of a cliff in an out-of-control 1978 Ford Pinto - a sense of helpless dread overcomes you as you avert your eyes and pray for Divine intervention.

Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, Loutallica shows you just how bottomless the pit is. And that Lars fuck should have his hands bound with chicken wire and never allowed anywhere near a drum kit.

“If all this makes you feel sorry for him, then you can compliment yourself on being a real Lou Reed fan. Because that’s exactly what he wants.” Lester Bangs, 1973.

Later With Jools Holland, November 8, 2011.

Posted by Marc Campbell
01:25 am
Jools in Jamaica: Lost early-‘80s BBC reggae documentary hosted by founder of Squeeze

Fresh out of his tenure with new wave stars Squeeze, 25-year-old musician Jools Holland had launched his career as a TV presenter on the BBC channel 4 show The Tube. Assigned to cover Jamaica’s music scene circa 1984, the confident Holland strode right in to Kingston and made it happen.

Expertly directed by Geoff Wonfor, Jools’s special features footage of rising stars Mutabaruka, Dennis Brown, Black Uhuru and the Wailing Souls, along with spotlights on legendary riddim section Sly & Robbie and maniac producer Lee “Scratch” Perry (who claims he “comes from the trees”).

Not satisfied with the established stars, Wonfor and Holland prove their cred by including a gritty dancehall sequence with star microphone men Yellowman, Billy Boyo, Massive Dread and Lee van Cleef. They all do well until the on-fire Eek a Mouse suddenly hits the stage in pancho and sombrero and turns the place out.

Bookended by his intro while swimming fully dressed through a hotel pool and a beautiful finale shoot in heaviest Trenchtown for his big-band/ska tune “Black Beauty,” Jools in Jamaica is a remarkably bright document of an island in its deepest post-independence economic and political depths.

After the jump, catch the rest of the doc…

Posted by Ron Nachmann
06:10 pm