Turn on any classic hits radio station, and sooner rather than later, you'll hear "Tempted" by Squeeze. Its catchy melody has crept into my mind more than once, usually while trying to concentrate on a test or while unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep. The song has become an earworm in American pop culture through its use in ad campaigns by companies like GAP, Burger King, Heineken, and Fruit of the Loom. You can hear the record's producer, Elvis Costello, singing backup on the verse. The band rerecorded the track for a scene in Reality Bites, wherein '90s "It Girls" Winona Ryder and Janeane Garofalo croon along and dance to it in Ryder's junky BMW. It even shows up in the video game Grand Theft Auto. Not bad for a single that never cracked the Top 40.
One of the architects of the song will be in town on Saturday. Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook is on the road promoting his new album, Happy Ending. The record is being sold in a vinyl bundle that includes a CD and download of the album. I asked Tilbrook what he thought about the recent resurgence of wax — which 10 or 15 years ago was basically seen as an archaic format.
"I've always loved vinyl. I have a huge collection. Some of which are doubles and triples. But I don't think I ever really thought about it making a comeback. The idea of selling the new album as a three-format package was to try and include everyone. When you get to be my age, you can sometimes feel alienated with technology developing. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for new technology, but I also love the old things that worked."
Happy Ending is an acoustically orchestrated album. Gone are Squeeze's lush, layered sounds — replaced instead by orchestral acoustic guitars and percussion. The record is a collection of character sketches, the best being "Rupert," which which tells the tale of the phone hacking scandal involving News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch. "Dennis," "Peter," "Kev and Dave," and "Persephone," follow in the character sketchbook from which Tilbrook draws. He weaves a tapestry of whimsical narratives across the album's 12 songs.
Tilbrook formed Squeeze in 1974 with Chris Difford. The pair had a run of hit singles in their native England, with Difford penning the lyrics and Tilbrook composing the music. Tilbrook sang most of their hits, but "Tempted" was actually sung by new keyboardist Paul Carrack, whose previous band Ace, had scored a huge single with "How Long." Squeeze had other minor hits in the U.S. with "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)" and "Black Coffee in Bed." As someone who had sold a lot of records, I asked Tilbrooke how he felt about music streaming services. "I think Spotify is an amazing source to listen to such an eclectic mix of music. You stumble across different genres and sounds that you might not usually listen to if you didn't have so much choice available. I love listening to new music. Whether it's newly released or just new to me, and I encourage everyone to listen to as much as they can."
After Squeeze's second breakup in 1999 (their first hiatus came in 1983 when Tilbrook and Difford took a break from Squeeze and released a record entitled, appropriately enough, Difford & Tilbrook), Tilbrook set out on a solo tour. A documentary, One for the Road, followed Tilbrook on his 2001 American solo tour. Directed by first timer Amy Pickard, the film chronicles his trip across the country. Gone were the tour buses and hotel rooms, replaced instead by the RV Tilbrook drove himself, sleeping in campgrounds and facing multiple vehicle breakdowns with good humor. His performances became known for their conversational style and walkabouts during the concert that would often lead the entire audience out of the venue and across the street to a bar for drinks and more songs. If you're lucky, maybe your Saturday night will end with Tilbrook serenading you from atop the bar at the P&H.