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Squeezed Out

[If you were under the impression that I would stop blogging just because I have mono, you're crazy. Blogging is the only thing between me and an imprint of the couch on my ass]

cfc.gifYes, I am addicted to VH1's Bands Reunited, thank you for asking.

It was great to see The Alarm again, even if Mike Peters sort of flattened out his hair, which was what attracted me to the band in the first place.

Today was Squeeze's turn. Surely you remember Squeeze? A band that is never given enough credit for their talents, Squeeze tends to get thrown into the slush pile of funny looking 80's bands that had a hit or two.

Unlike some other bands of that era that got famous because of their style or gimmick or just because they hit the right place at the righ time, Squeeze was oozing with talent.

Difford, Tilbrook, Holland and all those other guys who didn't matter as much as those three combined to make some of the greatest songs to come out of an era when great songs were not nearly as numerous as their overstyled, synth pop counterparts. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I loved the whole synth pop-new wave thing. I was just able to recognize that while most of the music of that genre was filled with fun beats that you could bop your head in time to after a few shots of tequila in a grungy-on-purpose club, Squeeze was different.

While a lot of people joined the Squeez fan-wagon when East Side Story (1981) came out (and some, not until Squeeze Singles in 1982), I had a head start on the band due to my employment at a radio station in 1980. Ok, I wasn't an employee so much as a phone volunteer, one of those people who answered the 24-7 request line and handled the contests and listened to a lot of heavy breathing and requests for sexual favors that were unheard of in my little, naive corner of the world.

Volunteering had its perks. Lots of free albums, meeting semi-stars, going on the air once in a while (I even made a few commercials) and getting a heads up on the up and coming bands, which proved to be a constant source of jealousy on the part of my friends when a band I predicted would become famous actually did and I could smugly say "I called that one!" Like I did with U2. But that's another story.

This one is about Squeeze and about a copy of Cool for Cats that made it into my hands in early 1980. The record had actually been released in '79, but New York radio was slow to pick up on it. The station I was working at, WLIR, went by the slogan "Dare to be Different," and they held true to that motto by daring to play the title song of Cool for Cats.

It was love at first listen. It was different, so far apart from anything I was hearing at the time. I grabbed a copy of the album and spent that night listening to it for hours, flipping the disc at least ten times. The lyrics to Up the Junction were simple, the rythmn almost monotonous. But somehow those two parts together formed a riveting song. Even Cool for Cats, with its machine-gun presentation of the lyrics (I give a little muscle, and I spend a little cash, but all I get is bitter and a nasty little rash) was just so out there that I couldn't help but love it. If I Didn't Love You (I'd Hate You). was the ultimate in relationship songs:

Singles remind me of kisses, albums remind me of plans .

Well, I thought that was pretty damn deep back then. In fact, I still do. And I still quote it.

I found a copy of U.K. Squeeze. - their first album and the original name of the band- in some dirty record story in the city. While it seemed to be made by almost a different band, it was still some good shit, as we used to say in the 'hood. Take Me, I'm Yours inspired many a late songwriting session on my part, trying to recreate that staccato delivery of passionate-in-an-odd-way lyrics.

Then along came East Side Story and Squeeze became a sensation. Tempted pushed them onto the charts and out of the dark, dingy clubs I had seen them in into Madison Square Garden. Elvis Costello worked wonders with the band, polishing their genius and creating a bigger, more diverse sound. Unfortunately, it was one I didn't love. I liked it, but I didn't love it the way I did Argy Bargy. I gave Sweets from a Stranger, their next album, a chance but was turned off when I found my mother singing Black Coffee in Bed.

Regardless of whether I liked them anymore or not, they were still damn talented. Jools Holland's piano playing always amazed me. Difford and Tilbrook wrote some amazing songs. And those other guys did...other talented-like things. In between the breakup of Squeeze and the reunion of Squeeze, Difford and Tilbrook released an album together, the highlight of which was a wonderful tune called Love's Crashing Wave's.

At one point, I pined for the days when Cool for Cats was considered exciting and new. When new wave finally crashed and burned, that was the one album I went to (ok, that and the 12 inch single of Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy's Kiss Me) when I wanted to sulk in my room and relive the glory days of night clubs, spiked hair and torn, black stockings.

So it was with trepidation today that I watched VH1 take their turn with Squeeze. And I was mostly relieved when the plans fell through and the band did not go through with the reunion. They probably would have played one of their later songs, anyhow. You know it wouldn't have been Cool for Cats or Up the Junction, and that's how I want to remember them.

The 80's nostalgia crap is getting to me. Someone stop me before I hunt down all the members of Aztec Camera and force them to play the entire track listing of High Land, Hard Rain. In my living room.

And if you are tempted to use the comments to say what band you would want VH1 to reunite, don't. That's for tomorrow's open mic night. Save it.

Update: This is the station I worked for. They officially went off the air this month after many, many years of providing great music to Long Islanders. This makes me incredibly sad. How sad? You'll have to wait until tomorrow's eulogy to a radio station.

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Comments

They were talking about this show on 'PLJ this morning. Where'd you intern/volunteer?

Thank you for reminding me, I love Difford and Tilbrook. I have the album on cassette, badly worn with over use. If anyone knows where to get a CD or MP3's I'd be really grateful.

Lord, I LOVED Squeeze. 'Cool for Cats' was one of the first "new wave" albums I ever owned. I could kiss you for liking them!

Up the Junction was the best ever.

My freshman year of college, the Squeeze compilation Singles - 45s and Under was one of the three records that everyone had, along with the Cure comp Standing on a Beach and the first Violent Femmes album.

Loved 'em. LOVED 'em. "Pulling Mussels," "Another Nail in my Heart," and especially "It's So Dirty," perhaps the best of all the skinny-tie tunes. (It has a Farfisa, which is a requirement for the genre.)

But then they got . . . odd. It seemed as if they were tired of the audience expecting hooks, and they seemed disinterested in providing more than one or two per album. And so we grew apart. (See also Costello, Elvis)

I was thinking the exact same thing about this show last night, especially after a nice, poignant Alarm reunion. Great show. Could easily be an attempt to embarrass these old bands, but it's not.

(re: Squeeze, I was studying overseas in 1989-1990, and was lucky enough to catch one of their concerts at Lancaster University, playing in this small college concert hall. An outstanding time, and one of my fondest memories of England.

The what-band-would-you-reunite thing was in during the last open mic, wasn't it?

Oh the countless hours my buddy Mark made me listen to groups like Aztec Camera! I still have a ton of 80's residue floating in my veins. As far as said band of this blog post, I think my favorite was Pulling Mussels or Black Coffee in Bed.

Give Me Prefab Sprout Or Give Me Death

UK - Squeeze was SOOO good. In regards to James' comment, I think the pressure of being dubbed "the next Lennon/McCartney" got to them in the end. The UK press hung that label on them very early in their career.

Ah, Michele, not only a mention of Squeeze (one of my fave bands ever) but also a mention of the little known Aztec Camera...

My vote for the band who should have got a lot more attention for some of the best songwriting and music of the 80s?

The Chameleons UK.

Oh man, that is sad. I haven't lived close enough in the last 8 years to be able to tune LIR on my radio except on very rare occasions . But when I did live close enough, I loved it. I didn't know it was off the air.

One thing that's been bugging me for years is I could swear that LIR used to play a John Doe version of Route 66, but I can find absolutely no reference to such a recording. Do you know if I'm just plain nuts, or did John Doe really record a cover of Route 66? Whatever version it was was the best damn version I ever heard.

Best Squeeze Song Ever: "Up the Junction"

Loved these guys. They, along with REM and the Go-Go's, were my soundtrack to the 80s.

P.S. Last night they did Berlin, who actually did reunite and play, and it was beautiful.

ooh. I always liked "take me I'm yours" and "is that love".

But.. Aztec Camera... i can still sing all the lyrics from the High Land Hard Rain album, and i had one wicked crush on Roddy Frame for a while, which was made even worse by their cover of "jump".

Buried in my records, i have Jimmy the Hoover's "Tantalize". If there was one song that could lift my spirits every single time, it was that one.

I was always a classic rock kind of guy. When Michelle worked at WLIR I listened non-stop to WPLJ when it was the greatest station in rock history with every great DJ in New York City. I always loved Squeeze, however. I saw them on their reunion tour in 1983 at Nassau Coloseum and they were excellent. They played all the great songs. My personal favorites are "Take Me I'm Yours" (love that minimalist harmony) "Goodbye Girl" and "Cool for Cats". A very cool band.

Finally saw VH1 Bands Reunite. Saw Flock of Seagulls. Can't wait to see more of them, minus the band Extreme. And what was up with Van Halen having Gary S. from Extreme fronting them for a year? That was horrible. Too bad Diamond Dave can't get his shiznit together enough to front for them again, I'd pay money to see that!