Lex on Chris Difford (Squeeze, solo)
In the late 80’s I spent a lot my time in Law class at Los Angeles City College. I had no idea what I wanted to study, and I assumed that Law would somehow grow on me. I didn’t really give it a chance because I was too busy writing out lyrics penned by Chris Difford on giant, yellow legal pads.
I first heard Squeeze sometime in the early 1980s, but didn’t really pay close attention to the Top 40 hit they had called “Tempted.” It was one of my sister Annette’s favorite Top 40 radio hits at the time, and I didn’t want to be bothered with her listening choices. At the time, I was really into the music of the 60s and paid little attention to anything else.
Clover Club Larry really introduced me to Squeeze during the summer of ’89. I had just joined his band, Optional View, and we were just starting to know each other musically. He loaned me a Squeeze album called Argybargy, which came out in ’80. I took it home; his copy of the album stayed on my turntable for months.
It was the most brilliant pop rock album that I had heard in a long time. Pieces like “Pulling Mussels From A Shell” and “She’s At The Top” contained memorable hooks, riffs and melodies that were thoughtful, descriptive, and English. It was right up my alley! Of the songs from Argybargy, the song that got constant play on my turntable was “Another Nail In My Heart.” Sure, it made me think of my own pathetic attempts at romance at the time. It also made me aware that if I stood a chance at writing songs in a band context, the test would be creating a song as infectious and bouncy as “Another Nail.”
And then Clover Club Larry loaned me an album called East Side Story.
Along with Argybargy, East Side Story would be the “Squeeze” faction of my songwriting education. Some of my first attempts at writing for a band were based on Squeeze’s sense of melody, hooks, and smart lyrics. I would study Chris’s phrases, using them as a jumping-off point to create my own lyrics. There was something about the imagery in songs like “In Quintessence,” “F-Hole,” and “Mumbo Jumbo” reveled a sophisticated use of words, like a novel.
“Messed Around” and “Laboured With Love” really changed the way that I looked at lyrical content. As a young writer, I tended to concentrate more on the musical rather than the lyrical. It’s because of Chris’s gift for creating such strong visual images in a playful manner that made me consider making my own lyrics try to do the same.
Sidebar: Clover Club Larry and I used to so a pretty good acoustic version of “Messed Around.” I’d sing Glenn Tilbrook’s vocal part, with Larry adding harmonies that were a composite of 3rds and 5ths. It sounded great. Performing the song with Larry is one of my most treasured musical memories. Sadly no tape exists.
There were lyrical ideas that I found on other albums, and those songs can be found on a couple of different Squeeze compilations. I highly recommend the greatest hits album called 45s And Under. You can find some really great songs with Chris’s lyrics. Dig “Take Me, I’m Yours,” and “Cool For Cats.” For a really great short story in a single song form, try “Up The Junction.” It’s very telling, very honest, and has great sense of character development. Awesome words, awesome storytelling.
I can just blather on about Chris Difford all day, but I just want to say that Chris’s work caught me at a time when I was just starting to write. He inspired me to use words not only for conveying my own emotions, but also to create other worlds with words. Chris’s work also gave me the guts to face facts – I was not cut out for law! Thanks, Chris! Happy Birthday, man!
(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost. Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com/).
Note: Original release date of the ‘currently listening’ album below is listed as May 15, 1981.
East Side Story