10 Essential Squeeze Songs

Squeeze Songs

Feature Photo: Szarka, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

When you’re talking about British songwriting duos, the first one you talk about is, of course, Jagger and Richards, Lennon and McCartney., But the next one you talk about is Difford and Tilbrook. You may not know Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook by name, but you certainly know Squeeze, the prolific band responsible for some of the most melodic, new wave-influenced pop of the 1980s. While the band’s lineup has been somewhat fluid over the years, the core has always been guitarists Difford and Tilbrook, frequently with pianist Jools Holland. Drummers and bassists changed positions, and horns came and went, but at the heart of Squeeze was always the trademark Difford and Tilbrook sound: beautiful hooks, undistorted guitars, and lyrics that made you pay attention, all packaged in perfect three-and-a-half minute tracks.

Since 1978, the band has released 15 studio albums, all loaded with great songs. Plus, their compilation Singles — 45’s and Under is considered one of the best greatest hits-type albums around, even though it was released in 1982, long before they were done releasing great material. The band is still strong today; their most recent effort, The Knowledge, was just released in 2017. Culling their catalog down to the ten best feels like an injustice, as this could easily be a top 25 list, but still, here are our picks for the top ten Squeeze songs.

10 Essential Squeeze Songs

# 10 – Cool for Cats

It’s unusual when one of a band’s signature songs has a sound so different from what they usually create, but that’s the case with 1979’s “Cool for Cats.” Sort of a precursor to the rap music that would become so popular in the upcoming decade, the song features a driving bassline, a kick drum on every downbeat, and Chris Difford’s deep baritone on lead vocals. That last detail is especially noteworthy for Difford’s exaggerated cockney accent and the fact that Glenn Tilbrook was the band’s more frequent frontman. Still, this is definitely a Squeeze track, with its uncomplicated guitar riffs, tinkling piano break, and storytelling lyrics.

# 9 – 853-5937

By the end of the 1980s, everyone was sick of  Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny” song, but that didn’t stop Squeeze from coming out with this phone number-titled single in 1988, off their Babylon and On record. It sounds like a gimmick, with Glenn Tilbrook reciting the number and a few simple lyrics in a sing-songy melody, but then the break hits, with layered vocals and a brief but blistering guitar solo, and then the seriousness of the lyrics start to come through over the drum beat as the guitars drop out. By the end, you’re convinced: he really needs to talk to Angela because there is no way he can describe his feelings to her answering machine. Bonus points on this one for a fun video, too.

# 8 – Labelled With Love

Squeeze doesn’t do many waltzes, but they nail the triplets on “Labelled With Love.” Another story in song form, there are several standouts on this song from 1981’s East Side Story album. Glenn Tilbrook’s longing vocals rarely sound better, and the drums are kept spare so that the accordion and jangly guitars are more present. It’s as good a song for sulking over past mistakes as it is for drinking with old friends, and the refrain is relatable by anyone still feeling those pangs of sadness over a long-ago heartbreak: “The past has been bottled and labeled with love.”

# 7 – Another Nail in My Heart

Squeeze has always been known for writing great hooks, but “Another Nail in My Heart” has more hooks than a tackle box. Tilbrook’s treble-y guitar solo is brilliant, and Jools Holland’s keyboard chords provide a solid foundation. Off their 1980 effort Argybargy, its lyrics tell of love gone wrong and drinking away the feelings (a familiar story in many of the band’s songs), even if the words in the chorus are frequently misheard. For the record, they’re, “And here in the bar, the piano man’s found another nail for my heart.”

# 6 – Sunday Street

Squeeze may have had their heyday in the 1980s, but their 1991 album Play proved that they weren’t entirely done yet. “Sunday Street” is one of those days of the week songs, and while its lyrics aren’t as interesting as some of their other efforts, the sing-along chorus is glorious. The 1990s production may sound a bit too slick, especially after the band’s more bass-heavy tracks of the previous decade, but the horns on the track are a great addition, and Tilbrook’s guitar solo sizzles.

# 5 – Up the Junction

You know this song. Even if you don’t know Squeeze, you know this one. From 1979’s Cool for Cats album, “Up the Junction” is one of the band’s more popular tracks, which is interesting considering there’s no actual chorus. The title doesn’t get sung until the very last line when the song of working-class love gone all wrong comes to its sorry conclusion, and we’re just as exasperated as Glenn Tilbrook seems to be.

# 4 – Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)

You know you’ve got a band of great musicians when you have room for a guitar solo and a piano solo in one of your most well-regarded singles. “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)” is a killer 4/4 pop tune full of upbeat melodies, with a theme that got past all the censors because who uses the phrase “pulling mussels” to describe having sex? Yet the song is, for all intents and purposes, a summer vacation with a, shall we say, happy outcome. You’ll want to sing along, and you can do so safely because no one will know what you’re talking about.

# 3 – Hourglass

Sax on a Squeeze song? That’s new, but on their 1987 single “Hourglass,” it fits. And even if you’re not sure if you remember a Squeeze tune named “Hourglass,” you’ll surely remember its catchy chorus: a monotone repetition of, “Take it to the bridge, throw it overboard, see if it can swim, back up to the shore.” It was their biggest hit in the US, reaching 15 on Billboard’s singles chart, thanks to the signature Squeeze hooks, great guitar riff, and the aforementioned saxophone so prominent in the mix.

# 2 – Tempted

Here’s another Squeeze anomaly: “Tempted,” one of their best-known songs, features legendary British singer-songwriter Paul Carrack on lead vocals. Even though it’s a standard Difford-Tilbrook collaboration, Paul Carrack handles most of the singing, with other band members coming in on the second verse with a line or two and then relegated to back up “oooh oooh” vocals. Even though the music is classic Squeeze, as are the lyrics about cheating on your partner and knowing you screwed it all up, the sound with Paul Carrack at the helm is new. Still, the song has only grown in popularity since its 1981 release, and now, if you ask the average music fan to name a Squeeze song, this is the one they’ll remember.

# 1 – Black Coffee in Bed

Off 1982’s Sweets from a Stranger, “Black Coffee in Bed” makes the top of our list because it epitomizes everything great about Squeeze and their music. A great story about a disintegrated relationship? Check. Strong melody? Check. Soaring Tilbrook vocals, groovy keyboard, solid guitar lines? Check, check, and check. True, it’s less pop-oriented than some of their other singles, but when it comes to the maturity of sound and songwriting at its zenith, “Black Coffee in Bed” never gets old. You can’t say that about many songs.

Squeeze Songs

Photo: By Bruce Baker [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Essential Squeeze Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used are either supplied by the artists, public domain Creative Commons photos, or licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicRockHistory.com. 

DMCA.com Protection Status

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Drinking Songs
Top 10 Drinking Songs In Rock Music
10 Favorite Videos Of Rock Drummers Singing Lead
10 Favorite Videos Of Rock Drummers Singing Lead
Spooky Tooth Albums
Complete List Of Spooky Tooth Albums And Discography
Foo Fighters Songs
Top 10 Foo Fighters Songs
Stevie Nicks Albums
Top 10 Stevie Nicks Albums
Our Ten Most Listened To Albums Of All Time
Our Ten Most Listened To Albums Of All Time
Thin Lizzy Albums
Top 10 Thin Lizzy Albums
Sinead O’Connor Songs
10 Sinéad O’Connor Songs We Love The Most
Classic Rock Radio 104.3 FM Becomes New Home of NY JETS
Classic Rock Radio 104.3 FM Becomes New Home of The NY JETS
Ronnie Montrose Remembered 2024 Tribute Concert Review
Ronnie Montrose Remembered 2024 Tribute Concert Review
The Forgotten Pioneer: Bob Welch's Role in Fleetwood Mac
The Forgotten Pioneer: Bob Welch’s Role in Fleetwood Mac
Billy Joel's new single
Billy Joel To Release Brand New Song On February 1st 2024
AJ Mills Interview
AJ Mills Of KK’s Priest: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Frank Sidoris Interview
An Interview With Frank Sidoris of Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators/ Slash/ Mammoth WVH
Tim Lefebvre: 10 Albums That Changed My Life
Tim Lefebvre: 10 Albums That Changed My Life
Jeff Pilson of Foreigner Interview
Jeff Pilson of Foreigner: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Drake Albums
Complete List Of Drake Albums And Songs
Michael Jackson Albums
Complete List Of Michael Jackson Albums And Discography
Metallica Albums Discography
Complete List Of Metallica Albums And Songs Discography
Allman Brothers Band Albums And Songs
Complete List Of Allman Brothers Band Albums And Songs
Classic Rock Bands Still Together But Overdue For A New Album
Classic Rock Bands Still Together But Overdue For A New Album
When Glam Bands Went Grunge In The 1990s
When Glam Bands Went Grunge In The 1990s
25 Most Famous Female American Singers Now!
25 Most Famous Female American Singers Now!
The Grateful Dead's Keyboard Players
A Look Back At The Grateful Dead’s Keyboard Players
Led Zeppelin Compilation Albums
Complete List Of Led Zeppelin Compilation Albums And Songs
Foghat Night Shift Album Review
Why We Loved Foghat’s Night Shift Album
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Return of the Dream Canteen Album Review
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Return Of The Dream Canteen Album Review
The Chick Corea Elektric Band The Future Is Now' Album Review
The Chick Corea Elektric Band ‘The Future Is Now’ Album Review