Picture sleeve for Squeeze's "Up the Junction"
Squeeze was formed in March 1974 by Chris Difford (guitar, vocals, lyrics), Glenn Tilbrook (vocals, guitar, music), Jools Holland (keyboards), and Paul Gunn (drums). The band played under several names, most frequently “Captain Trundlow’s Sky Company” or “Skyco” before settling on the band name “Squeeze” as a tribute to the 1973 Velvet Underground album of the same name. Gilson Lavis replaced Gunn on drums and Harry Kakoulli joined the band on drums in 1976. Squeeze’s early days were spent in Deptford in southeast London, where they were part of a lively music scene which included Dire Straits and Alternative TV. Their early singles and debut EP, “Packet of Three” (1977), was issued on the Deptford Fun City label; the band subsequently signed with A&M Records. Former Velvet Underground member John Cale produced the band’s debut EP and most of their first album. A&M found Cale’s recordings to be not commercially viable; consequently, the two singles from “U.K. Squeeze” (1978), “Take Me I’m Yours” (b/w “Night Nurse”) and “Bang Bang” (b/w “All Fed Up”) were the only two tracks from the album produced by Squeeze. The second album, “Cool for Cats” (1979), contained the band’s two highest-charting singles in the U.K.: “Cool for Cats” (b/w “Model”) and “Up the Junction” (b/w “It’s So Dirty”). The latter is today’s featured single.
“Up the Junction” opens with a drum fill, followed by Jools Holland’s keyboard, and soon we’re in the middle of one of Chris Difford’s neat little working class dramas: “I never thought it would happen/With me and the girl from Clapham/Out on a windy common/That night I ain’t forgotten”. The song is a simple three-chord mid-tempo tune (E, A, and C#m), and we find out about some poor dolt who meets a girl. He achieves a certain level of domestic bliss (“We spent our time just kissing/The railway arms we’re missing/But love had got us hooked up/And all our time it took up”), but soon his girlfriend finds herself in a family way (“She said she’d seen a doctor/And nothing now could stop her”). Although our hero tries to live up to his newfound responsibilities, soon he becomes a drunken lout and his significant other leaves him. He is left alone in their rented basement, left to ponder his fate: “Alone here in the kitchen/I feel there’s something missing/I’d beg for some forgiveness/But begging is not my business”. The drama of the song is enhanced, in my opinion, by the unsentimental delivery of the lyrics. There’s no chorus or instrumental break (at least not until the end, anyway) – just Difford exhibiting one of the hallmarks of a good songwriter: the ability to tell a story in a three-minute song.
The B-side of the single, “It’s So Dirty”, is a more conventional, upbeat rocker, but once again Holland’s keyboard plays a prominent role as Difford sings about having a good time: “Well you’d better not tell I’ve had a good night/Me and this bird she’s a bit of alright/Dancing to the sounds as the arches get searched/She is the business for a bit of old skirt”. The reason why “it’s so dirty” is because he’s fooling around with someone else’s girl: “Give it some gold to put round its neck/Bet her old man puts you on the deck”. The ebullient mood of the song is carried by Holland’s keyboards and a relatively simple chord progression (particularly the D-C-G-C-G driven home between each of the lines of the verses). There is an instrumental break at the end with a cool-sounding guitar solo. Overall this is an effective, bouncy antidote to the heartbreaking “Up the Junction”, although the former is the more memorable track.
The single (catalog #: AMS 7444) was released on A&M Records in May 1979. There was a picture sleeve (shown here). It peaked at #2 on the U.K. singles chart, making it, along with “Cool for Cats”, one of two Squeeze singles to reach that position. After the second album was released, John Bentley replaced Harry Kakoulli on bass and the band released “Argybargy” (1980), an album that proved a minor breakthrough in North America, since the first single “Another Nail In My Heart”, reached #56 in Canada, and the second single, “Pulling Mussels From The Shell” received significant airplay in the U.S. Jools Holland left the band to go solo after this album, and was replaced by Paul Carrack (ex-Roxy Music), and the band released “East Side Story”, which spawned another radio hit with the single “Tempted” (with Carrack singing lead vocals). The band released one more album, “Sweets From A Stranger” (1982), before Difford and Tilbrook disbanded Squeeze. They reunited in 1985, however, with the “Argybargy” lineup (with Jools Holland returning to the fold), and released “Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti” (1985). The band recruited Chris Holland (Jools’ brother) as a second keyboardist so the band could replicate some of the keyboard parts on the upcoming tour, but he was soon replaced by Andy Metcalfe. This lineup recorded “Babylon and On” (1987), a song which contained the band’s only two Top 40 singles in the U.S.: “Hourglass” and “853-5937”. The band’s status as a sextet was shortlived, as Metcalfe left the band in 1988. The remaining five members recorded the next Squeeze album, “Frank” (1989). The album was a commercial disappointment, and the band was dropped by A&M Records.
Squeeze was signed by I.R.S. Records, which issued “A Round And A Bout” (1990), which was also the first album to feature new member Matt Irving (keyboards). Jools Holland quit the band a second time in 1990, and was not immediately replaced. Instead, the band relied on session musicians such as Irving (no longer an official member) and others for their next album, “Play” (1991), released on Reprise Records. The album spawned no chart hits, but “Satisfied” and “Crying In Your Sleep” received significant airplay in the U.S. Gilson Lavis was let go in 1992, to be replaced by Pete Thomas, and Paul Carrack returned in 1993. Reprise dropped Squeeze after only one album, but they were re-signed by A&M, who released “Some Fantastic Place” (1993). This album spawned the single “Third Rail”, which peaked at #39 in the U.K., the band’s first U.K. Top 40 hit in six years. The band had a constantly changing lineup in the mid-1990s, and by now Squeeze was essentially the backing band for Difford and Tilbrook. Their next album, “Ridiculous” (1995), spawned three minor hits; one of them, “The Summer”, was remixed and re-released in 1996, and reached #32 in the U.K. Despite this, A&M dropped Squeeze from its roster. By 1997, Squeeze had dwindled down to just Difford and Tilbrook, but the duo formed a new Squeeze lineup and released a new album, “Domino” (1998). But in November 1999, Squeeze performed its last gig and the members went their separate ways, with both Difford and Tilbrook launching solo careers. Still, Difford and Tilbrook’s friendship continued, even as they were reluctant to work together in a band context again. But in 2007, Difford and Tilbrook were working together again, and put together a new Squeeze lineup, which toured the U.S. in August 2007. The two are working on material for a new Squeeze album, which is slated for a 2010 release.