By Damian Fanelli
Glenn Tilbrook has always been something of a rarity.
The Squeeze lead vocalist is one of the only frontmen of his generation of New Wave rockers—a generation that includes Elvis Costello, Paul Weller, Debbie Harry, Ric Okasek, David Burn and Ian Dury—who could write and sing a boundless collection of brilliant, hook-filled hits and then grace them with catchy, lightning-fast guitar solos.
His solos on some of the band’s best-known songs—including “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Another Nail in My Heart” and “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)”—are mini-masterpieces that draw from a host of influences, including R&B, blues and Sixties rock, while lesser-known tracks show a deep appreciation for country, rockabilly and jazz.
And then there are the songs.
A Squeeze concert is a reminder of just how huge Squeeze were from 1979 through 1987 and how many outstanding songs Tilbrook and his writing partner, guitarist Chris Difford, wrote. One after another they come—”Tempted,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Hourglass,” “Cool for Cats,” “Goodbye Girl,” “If I Didn’t Love You,” “Up the Junction,” “Take Me I’m Yours.” It’s enough to make you think the Lennon/McCartney comparisons weren’t so crazy after all.
A few years ago, I sat down with Tilbrook after Squeeze’s soundcheck at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey, to discuss guitar solos and more. For the rest of this interview, visit GuitarWorld.com.
GUITAR AFICIONADO: I’m going to name five Squeeze songs with what I consider exceptional guitar solos. Please tell me what comes to mind for each one—how they came to be, what you were going after, etc.
“Another Nail in My Heart” (from Argybargy, 1980): I think that was my first proper melodic solo. As I said earlier, I spent an afternoon constructing it drop by drop. The placing of the solo is really odd because it happens after one verse and chorus, but it somehow works. I used a Yamaha on that—I forget the model, but I play it in the video. It’s one of those double cutaways; it looks like an SG, but it isn’t.
“Messed Around” (from East Side Story, 1981): That’s when I felt relaxed enough to go back like that. Stray Cats were really happening at that time, and that was sort of a nod in their direction. And when Squeeze were forming, Jools [Holland, original Squeeze keyboardist and current U.K. TV presenter] really brought a lot of early rock and roll and boogie-woogie to the table, so I loved all that music. It was very easy for me to write in that idiom.
“Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” (from Argybargy, 1980): I think that’s an obstinant solo—just to stick on one note for half the solo. That’s my personality all over. It’s a delay, so I just play (makes the sound of an E note and waits … then again …) [laughs]. It’s like a series of false starts.
“Black Coffee In Bed” (from Sweets from a Stranger, 1982): It’s sort of a very 1960s, Motown-influenced solo. But I love the idea of a key change for the solo. And also for it to be quite jazzy, which the song wasn’t.
The weird slide solo on “If I Didn’t Love You” (from Argybargy, 1980): [Pausing] Yeah, that’s right—it is a slide, isn’t it? I don’t know why I stopped doing slide after a while—but I’ve never done it since. Yeah, that’s one of the most rock solos I’ve done, with an extra touch of New Wave weirdness thrown in.
That was five. Let’s consider this one an honorable mention—“Crying In My Sleep” (from Play, 1990): I was always trying to pull Squeeze toward R&B, and as a band, generally, until now, they’ve pretty successfully resisted. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Prince and Tony! Toni! Toné!. That sort of thing was really floating my boat. So that was my reaction to that.
Once again, for the rest of this interview, visit GuitarWorld.com.