The Zodiac Killer. Jack The Ripper. Amelia Earhart & Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance. These mysteries have confounded the general public for years and have gone unsolved. But there's another towering mystery that involves the English band Squeeze that you may not have been aware of. Let me fill you in.
For a band that was wildly popular in England, Squeeze was unable to generate the same admiration and adoration in America. Why is that? It's a mystery that still boggles the mind.
Squeeze had all the tools that every great band possesses: great songs (obviously!), unique vocals, outstanding musicianship, sublime harmonies, a sense of humor (not in all cases), clever lyrics and a cool, defining look. Unfortunately, the little band from London never really found superstardom in The States. (We'll take a look at the top five UK bands that failed to find superstardom across The Pond on Wednesday (8/8), but until then we'll focus our full attention on the pop group Squeeze.)
Perhaps the songwriting team of Glen Tilbrook (guitar, vocals) and Chris Difford (guitar, vocals) buckled under the pressure of living up to the lofty title of the "New Lennon and McCartney." Such enormous expectations could very well have intimidated the talented duo.
Along with Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Gary Numan and XTC, Squeeze were part of the British New Wave of the late 70s. With the exception of Elvis Costello, the aforementioned groups/artists received only a lukewarm reception in America.
Chris Difford recalled the group's invasion of North American shores: “When we arrived in America, we turned on the radio and it was ‘Baker Street’ and REO Speedwagon and Styx and Zeppelin. Not that there’s anything wrong with hearing Zeppelin, obviously. But that was the bulk of radio. It did change, though. College radio became huge, and we managed to sort of wing our way through college radio and do lots and lots of U.S. tours.”
In 1985, after several albums, lineup changes and moderate success, the five musicians that recorded the classic Argybargy (1980) - Glen Tilbrook, Chris Difford, Jools Holland, John Bentley and Gilson Lavis - reformed to do a charity concert. The event was such a smash that they all agreed to reform Squeeze and head back into the studio. The result? Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti, which received positive reviews and sold fairly well.
Then came Babylon and On in 1987, their seventh studio album, which reached #14 in the U.K. The single "Hourglass," must have given Squeeze a glimmer of hope. It was the highest charting song the band ever had in the United States, reaching #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Hourglass" was assisted by a creative video that was placed in heavy rotation on MTV when the channel was still playing music videos. Chris Difford said, “We made a fantastic video, and it was getting played constantly in rotation on MTV and VH1. So there was a lot going on, and it sort of helped steamroll the track onto radio.”
Babylon and On was a minor hit, but the band's success wasn't long-lasting. Squeeze's next album, 1989's Frank, wasn't given much support by A&M Records. Consequently, it floundered in both the U.S. and the U.K.
Although Squeeze has managed a handful of hits, their biggest-selling album in The States is not one of their thirteen studio albums but their early ’80s greatest-hits collection, Singles—45′s and Under.
The band is still playing, however. The classic lineup that included the charming pianist Jools Holland is no longer intact, but Tilbrook and Difford continue to march on with a revolving door of supporting musicians.