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Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford answer your questions

Squeeze
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Can you tell us what kind of guitars you started on, and what your first "big splurge" instruments were?  – Bill Jacoby

TILBROOK: “I started out on an electric guitar my dad bought me called a Guyatone. With a Jimi Hendrix influence, the first proper guitar I got was a 1959 Strat. It was a lovely guitar and the best Strat I ever had. It’s in the video for Take Me I’m Yours. It played like a dream but was stolen. My go-to guitar now has been the same for over 30 years, and that’s my 1967 Telecaster with a Parsons/White [B-bender].”

DIFFORD: “I started on a Gibson Melody Maker and then moved to Telecaster and have been on them since 1979. The guitar I play most now is made by a guy named Danny Ferrington. He’s made guitars for Johnny Cash and Elvis Costello, among many others. It’s a light Telecaster that doesn’t weigh on your shoulder as much and has such an impressive sound.”

What was your initial reaction to audiences in America when you first performed there? – Dana Moore

TILBROOK: “When we were younger in the first flush of our career, it was pretty unbelievable, the reception we got in the States. Everyone was more enthusiastic and the response was bigger and warmer. We had a pretty good time in the UK up to that point, but America was something else for us. Speaking as someone who had always dreamed of going to the US, when I finally got there it was everything I had hoped it would be.”

If Chris hadn’t placed the ad in the sweet shop window and Glenn hadn’t answered it, do you both have any idea what direction your careers might’ve otherwise taken? – Mary Sikorski

TILBROOK: “I could’ve been an astronaut or deep-sea diver for all I know. I’m lucky I was one of those people who just naturally loved music. All the basis of my playing, I figured out myself and likewise with my writing. I was inspired by all the music I’d heard, and it made me want to be a part of it.”

DIFFORD: “I don’t think there was another avenue I was interested in. Music was the journey I wanted to take. So I think I would’ve carried on trying to be a songwriter and getting a band together. It was destiny meeting Glenn. We’ve had such an incredible journey together.”

Glenn, who was one of your first big guitar influences? – Vic T.

TILBROOK: “I started listening to guitar more carefully when I was 13, and my first big love was Jimi Hendrix. Everyone knows what an elite guitarist he was, but his playing was also sensitive and lyrical. Songs like Little Wing and Castles Made of Sand are seminal and part of my musical identity.”

One of the many things I’ve always loved about Squeeze are Glenn’s unique and plentiful guitar solos. Do you have a favorite Squeeze guitar solo? – Steven Snyder

TILBROOK: “I’d choose the solo from Some Fantastic Place because that’s me channeling Brian May. I’ve always loved his playing. It combines all the things I personally like, including a chord sequence that’s not easy to solo over. Also, the building shook with how loud the amps were at the time I recorded it.” 

DIFFORD: “There are so many. Glenn is a master guitarist and, in my opinion, right up there with the Jeff Becks of this world. The very considered guitar solos on Some Fantastic Place and Another Nail in My Heart are so inspiring to listen to.”

Glenn, when working out solos, do you tend to improvise or painstakingly agonize over what sequence of notes would sound right? – Mark Wainwright 

TILBROOK: “When I first started out, I’d sit and work out a solo, like the solo for In Quintessence. I remember working that solo out in the bathroom in the studio. The solo for Another Nail in My Heart really introduced me to the concept of using recording as an ideas device that you could edit by dropping in. You can think of it as a series of notes you put together to make a different tune, which is how I now approach my solos. I love working something out that’s melodic.”

What is the most embarrassing or uncomfortable moment you’ve ever had as an artist? – Amy Ropple 

DIFFORD: “I suppose it was when we first went to New York. We played a place called The Hurrah Club. There were not a lot of people in the audience on the dance floor that night – but there was [also] Andy Warhol and Lou Reed. It was frightening to play in front of those guys. It was a very interesting atmosphere from what I can remember.”

TILBROOK: “I once had an acute bout of food poisoning when I was doing a solo show in Wales. I went onstage and knew immediately that something wasn’t right. I was very determined and played for almost 40 minutes before I knew I had to leave the stage. All ends were sparking, let’s put it that way. [Laughs]” 

What’s the most psychedelic song Squeeze have ever written? – Enrique Torres

TILBROOK: “That’s a good one. I’d say F-Hole from East Side Story. It has a convoluted chord sequence and a wonderful story lyric by Chris. It’s glorious.”

If you could choose any musical artist to cover one of your songs, which artist and song would you choose? – Matt Dacey

TILBROOK: “I would choose Willie Nelson to cover Some Fantastic Place.” 

DIFFORD: “Lady Gaga singing Tempted would also be amazing.”

TILBROOK: “Erykah Badu actually did a version of Tempted. It’s my favorite version of one of our songs, ever.”

What’s your songwriting process like and has it changed much over the years? – Sarah V.

DIFFORD: “I’m primarily the lyricist of the partnership and spend my time writing lyrics. The process is pretty much the same as it’s always been. I send Glenn the lyrics and he writes the music. It’s like Bernie Taupin and Elton John, but without all the money. [Laughs]”

TILBROOK: “I like to assemble a lot of different things and then go through and figure out what can work. Sometimes it can take years to work out an idea. We did a song called Departure Lounge from The Knowledge [2017] that I’m really proud of. Musically, I had it kicking around for eight years and couldn’t find any way to use it until Chris came up with this lyric – and everything suddenly seemed to fit.” 

I remember reading a few years back that you were thinking of re-recording some very early unreleased Squeeze material. Is that still a plan? – Steve Brown 

TILBROOK: “We wrote the bare bones of a musical back in 1974 that Squeeze never recorded but has really stood the test of time. We’ve been dusting it down recently and next year [2022] we’re going to go in and record it and release it on the 50th anniversary of it being written.” 

2021 marked the 40th anniversary of East Side Story. Can you tell me the origin of Tempted? – John C.

DIFFORD: “It was literally written on a cigarette box in the back of a taxi. We recorded it at Eden Studios in London with Elvis Costello, and it was Elvis’ idea that Paul Carrack should sing it.”

TILBROOK: “We originally wrote and recorded a different version with Dave Edmunds producing that was more poppy, and I sang it. The song was beautiful, but the poppy-ness of it detracted from the sentimental. When Paul Carrack sang it, you just knew that was the way for it to go. It just took us a little while to get there.” 

I always thought It’s Over would suit any kind of musical style. Are there any songs that you’d ever consider revisiting and changing the style of music? – Peter Heritage

TILBROOK: “We’re doing a version of F-Hole that’s more psychedelic than the record. We’ve changed little bits, and it feels a little more contemporary in a strange way. It’s such a powerful song. We’ve never done it live before, but we’re doing it now.”

On a scale of one to 10, how cringe-worthy is it when you watch the band’s old music videos? – Susan Marie

DIFFORD: “10! [Laughs] I wouldn’t want to do any of them again.”

TILBROOK: I don’t really spend much time watching the old videos. Although someone did send me a link to a Squeeze show from Binghamton in 1982. I found that to be very instructive to watch because I’d never seen it before and we had split up by the end of that year. The band was really good, although we all played a million miles an hour. That’s just how we were back in those days. The videos? I can’t imagine why I’d ever want to sit down and watch those again. [Laughs]”

King George Street [from 1985’s Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti] is pure genius. How’d you manage to make a song in the key of E so progressive? I’m curious as to how you developed that progression. – Dave Fisher

TILBROOK: “I’d be really interested to know if the person who asked this question had seen us on the last tour. We’re doing a different version of it. It’s much more like how I originally wrote it. 

“I have a longstanding love of Fleetwood Mac, and it’s more like a Fleetwood Mac song. It’s more gentle than the record, and that’s how we’re doing it again. It’s a beautiful moment in the set. The record was very bombastic, which was very 1985.”

Of all highlights of your career, is there anything that stands out to you as most memorable? – Chad K.

DIFFORD: “There are so many, to be honest. Playing Madison Square Garden just before the pandemic was extraordinary. We had played there twice before, but I don’t remember either of those occasions because I was a different person. But to go on stage and see 22,000 people singing our songs was an emotional feeling.”

When we first came to America, we played clubs and people were enthusiastic and bemused. By the third time we came back, there were a lot more people. It was a beautiful shock

TILBROOK: “There are certain stages of your career that are really good. One of them is when you realize you’ve got an audience bigger than what you’ve previously had. When we first came to America, we played clubs and people were enthusiastic and bemused. By the third time we came back, there were a lot more people. It was a beautiful shock. 

“The enthusiasm was something we hadn’t experienced in the UK. I also remember when we were with Daryl Hall and John Oates at Madison Square Garden just before lockdown. We played our set and people went bananas. We felt like we’d done one of the best shows we’d ever done. That was a pivotal moment and one I’m very proud of.”

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James is a guitarist and freelance writer who's interviewed some of the biggest names in music. He is the author of four books and his writing credits include work for Guitar World, AXS and Yahoo! as well as for his hometown newspaper where he writes on a variety of topics with both passion and humor. As a guitarist, he's performed everywhere from local bars and nightclubs to some of the biggest stages in front of thousands of music fans.