Difford's writing central to Squeeze's success
LENOX — Thanks to a robust touring schedule and a new memoir, Chris Difford hasn't had much time to write lyrics recently. Still, he doesn't try to force them into existence.
"When I do sit down to write, I just sit and wait for the words to come to me," the Squeeze lyricist said during a July phone interview. "I can't go chasing after them because sometimes it's disappointing to chase after lyrics. They have to fall in your lap. And I'm lucky like that, I guess."
Difford's words on "Tempted," for instance, have continued to resonate decades after Squeeze released the now (not so much then) famous tune about the perils of being wooed by the fruit of another. Helmed by Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, the British new wave band's other catchy tracks include "Up the Junction," "Cool for Cats" and "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)." Audience members can expect to hear some of Squeeze's most popular tunes when the group plays Tanglewood on Thursday night. (KT Tunstall and The Mavericks, quite notably, will open.) Songs from "The Knowledge" and "Cradle to the Grave," the band's last two albums, as well as some classic deep cuts will also figure prominently.
"In some respects, it's a wonderful opportunity to hear some pretty rare stuff, I think," Difford said.
Difford was in the midst of rehearsals for Squeeze's coast-to-coast U.S. tour when The Eagle called. Some lyrics had just come to him.
"I wrote something this morning and was quite proud of it. I had no idea it was coming, but there it is," Difford said.
He called it a protest song.
"It's about a man who spent his life protesting, but it's about what happened when he gave it all up and retired," he said.
For Squeeze, Difford writes lyrics with Tilbrook in mind. His collaborator usually handles the songs' music and leads their vocals.
"I'm thinking about what he would like to sing about and try to tease out of myself what would be appropriate for Squeeze at that particular point," Difford said, "and that's always been the way. When I'm writing with other people, it's similar. You have to kind of think about who's going to be singing the song, how they're emotionally dressed and what they're willing to sing about. It's taken me a lifetime to discover that that's what you're supposed to be doing."
The group has split multiple times during its four-and-a-half decade existence. Difford struggled with addiction, and his collaboration with Tilbrook has been challenging at times. But the two have been in a rhythm on the last two records.
"I think the key is to listen to each other and to respect what each other's needs are," Difford said. "That takes up a lot of energy, often, but records aren't easy to make. ... You have to dedicate yourself to the process, and I've not really done that over the years, I don't think. But as you get older, you have to concentrate a bit harder to get half the distance that you would've gotten when you were younger."
"Some Fantastic Place: My Life In and Out of Squeeze" recently captured many of Difford's reflections. He enjoyed the experience of memoir writing.
"What I wanted to put across in the book was to give back the kind of information that I've been given over the years about how difficult it is to be somebody who grows up in a band," Difford said, "because you're very confined to quarters when you're young and you're in a group. It was a book of discovery for me, and I learned a lot about myself by writing it."
He came away with more appreciation for his relationship with Tilbrook.
"There was a period when it was — I felt very flippant about our relationship and didn't sort of understand the depth of quality that was there, I suppose," Difford said. "It wasn't maliciously an attitude that I had; it just happened that way. But by writing the book, I think I discovered that the journey that we've both been on is incredible, really. The respect that I have for Glenn and his talent has always been very, very high."
It's why Difford doesn't just go solo at this point.
"I'm still drawn to our catalog," he said of Squeeze, "and I think, 'My God, I'm so lucky to have written all of these songs.'"
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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