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New Wave Band:


by New Wave Dave


The Velvet Underground is famous for having launched countless imitative garage bands. But they also indirectly helped spur success for a leading New Wave band, which took its eventually famous name from the poorly reviewed Velvet Underground album Squeeze. (There's also a more direct connection, as Velvet member John Cale produced some of Squeeze's early recordings.)

Founded in London in 1973 by friends Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, Squeeze released its first recording, an EP called Packet of Three, in 1977. They first earned wide notice, though, with 1979's Cool for Cats, which produced two New-Wave-tinged hits: the pleasantly relaxed working-class tale "Up the Junction" and the faster-paced, consciously Brit-accented "Cool for Cats". Each of those singles hit #2 on the UK chart.

No two-hit wonder, they scored again the next year with Argybargy, which charted in the UK, the US, and Canada. Popular songs from that album included the moody "If I Didn't Love You" [" ... I'd hate you"]; the raucously harmonized "Another Nail in My Heart"; and "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)", with symbolic lyrics that are widely believe to be sexual innuendoes.

One measure of Squeeze's New Wave "cred" is that Elvis Costello helped to produce their next album, 1981's East Side Story. The most enduring number from it, "Tempted", which ambiguously describes the singer's heartbreak over some type of affair, was Squeeze's first single to chart in the U.S. They followed a year later with Sweets From a Stranger and a pair of minor hits, "Annie Get Your Gun" and the jilted-lover ditty "Black Coffee in Bed", featuring harmonies by Elvis C.

While other band members came and went, Difford and Tilbrook carried on the Squeeze tradition. Even when Squeeze temporarily broke up in 1983, the founding pair worked on another album, released in 1984 as Difford & Tilbrook, though it failed to match their earlier sales successes.

Re-forming in 1985, Squeeze kicked off the second stage of their existence with Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti, which didn't regain their former glory. But just as their momentum seemed to be lost, they found another gear with 1987's Babylon and On. Buoyed by the infectious "Hourglass", which had fans around the world trying to sing along with the high-speed chorus, this may have been their biggest commercial smash.

As the 1980s turned into the '90s, and New Wave lost its popularity, Squeeze fell from the spotlight, but they continued to play and record. Another half dozen albums, along with some compilations of earlier material, have kept the Difford and Tilbrook influence alive. They're not just resting on the laurels which, by any reasonable standard, made them one of the best — and best-loved — New Wave bands.