Squeeze - The Knowledge

by Louis Barfe

Squeeze are one of those bands where recognition of and affection for their songs has never been matched by commercial success. Take their 1981 single Tempted, for example. chances are you’ve heard it on the radio many times. ‘I bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a flannel for my face,’ it begins. Of course you know it. From the way it’s viewed now, you might be tempted (arf) to assume that it was a monster hit. Nope. It didn’t even make the top 40. Number 41 was the highest it got.

Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have taken their fate with characteristic self-deprecating humour over the years. That was much in evidence when Difford, who specialises in the lyrics, showed Janice Long around Greenwich and Blackheath for A Long Walk With (Radio 2, Thursday, 9pm). His father told him, ‘you don’t want to be in rock and roll. You’ll end up an alcoholic, a drug addict and skint.’ He was absolutely right.

A large part of the programme was, very correctly, devoted to remembering the teenage Glenn’s girlfriend, Maxine Barker, who pushed Tilbrook and Difford together and inspired them to write songs. Difford remembered with great affection the book- stuffed Barker house and the kindness of Maxine's parents, Anthea and Felix, he being the evening news theatre critic.

Maxine Barker died, far too young, of cancer, but Difford and Tilbrook commemorated her in one of their very best songs, some Fantastic Place. As I listened to it, knowing the story, I don’t mind admitting my eyes began to fill up.

I also felt a bit emotional hearing the warmth and affection Difford has for his creative partner, especially when Difford observed that the relationship has outlived several marriages on either side, and that, ultimately, everything in their lives have been defined by each other. However they and their families feel about that, we’ve been very lucky.