2020 Album Draft- Round 6- Selection 4- Music City Mike selects- The Squeeze- Argybargy.
It was early 1980 and I had just left the musical paradise of New York City for a life in South Texas with the girl of my dreams. I had seen Squeeze live once at The Bottom Line however at this point, I had yet to truly discover the magnificence of this band and Cool for Cats, their fantastic sophomore LP. Their first John Cale-produced LP was a bit of a throw-away with only a few good songs and one great one in “Take Me, I’m Yours.”
I had yet to really plug into the San Antonio music scene, but quickly and surprisingly learned that it was one of the Heavy Metal capitals of the world. It seemed like even the mediocre metal bands were playing to large crowds at the Arena. Fortunately, I eventually found that musical paradise wad just 90 miles away in the hip town of Austin.
One Saturday, my young bride and I took a trip to Austin and I made my first trip to the late great Inner Sanctum Records that I had been advised about. Imagine my surprise when by chance we happened to walk right into the middle of a record-signing by Squeeze. The ink was still wet on my Texas passport and I had yet to check concert listings and was totally unaware there were playing in town that evening. How exciting this was to pick up a copy of their new LP, Argybargy and get it signed by them all.
Thankfully my Dad had just mailed my stereo and turntable to Texas. But I was adjusting to a new hectic job and found little time to play records. And forget about hearing the new Squeeze LP on the radio. But it seemed every time I came home from work, my wife, still a college student, was spinning Argybargy!
To this day, my sweetheart lays claim that I would have never gotten to love Squeeze without her! While I appreciate her speeding up the process, there’s no doubt that my musical circle would have eventually led me to this brilliant pop record! So, where do we start?
Let’s start with the fact that the duo of Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford are without a doubt a songwriting team in the class of Lennon and McCartney. They are genius at writing short clever pop songs, low on nonsense and packed with interesting subject matter. Difford’s words are set to music by Tilbrook and how they get created without them ever working together in the same room is to this day a musical miracle.
The musicianship of the band on this record is also first rate. The rhythm section of John Bentley and Gilson Lavis is rock solid and back then, that eventual star of British television, Jools Holland was banging away on the piano. Jools can boogie-woogie with the best of them as well as play it straight. He usually got one song per record and on this one we hear him on the lively “Wrong Side of the Moon” in his signature New Orleans style.
The musical MVP of Squeeze though is Glenn Tilbrook. He is a blistering guitar player and in my book is the best in rock music when rated on the combined talents of singing and playing. His voice is so strong it could stop a truck, or should I say lorry?
Ah yes, that’s another thing that is so endearing about Squeeze. They chose not to Americanize their music and as a result, have taught us all some great British words and expressions through Difford’s lyrics. Argybargy’ s “Separate Beds” had us “peeling the spuds” and having “breakfast at half seven.” They also took us to places like Camber Sands and Borstal. “Separate Beds” and “There at the Top” are also a fine example of their story songs which are like mini novelettes. Listening to Squeeze was an adventure indeed.
While the record failed to include a mega-hit for the band on either side of the pond, the LPs first two tracks remain through today as sing-along staples of their live show, “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)” and “Another Nail in My Heart.” Both are near perfect pop songs. And how clever was it of Tilbrook to create one of the all-time greatest guitar solos in the simple form of replaying a single note for 15 seconds in “Pulling Mussels?”
Looking for more cleverness in a pop song, how about the repeated “if I’s” in “If I Didn’t Love You” following the line “The record jumps on a scratch?” That’s one thing so endearing about Squeeze—there’s so much to discover in their songs and Argybargy is chock full of discoveries. And with such fun peppy songs to boot!
Many Squeeze fans consider their next LP, East Side Story, to be the band’s crowning achievement. For that Elvis Costello-produced LP, Jools Holland was replaced on keyboards by Paul Carrack whose lead vocal on “Tempted” catapulted them to greater fame here in the Colonies. While I do love that album dearly, I will follow my wife’s lead and stick with Argybargy as the Squeeze record I take to the island.