“WHEN HE GROWS A GOATIE, SHAVES HIS HEAD AND STRIPS TO HIS PANTS… THAT’S WHEN I’M OUT OF HERE,” SAYS TOUR MANAGER CARLY AS WE WALK TOWARDS A BREAKING BAD-STYLE R.V. PARKED UP AT THE BACK OF THE VENUE DUE TO HOST TONIGHT’S SHOW BY GLENN TILBROOK.
Despite a blue glow as I step up into it, the vehicle shows zero signs of Walter White-like activity. The Squeeze man shakes my hand with a friendly “You alright?” and, standing in socks which I am at liberty to tell are the same shade of green as his sweatshirt, tips me off about the vehicle’s ‘no boots’ rule.
I slide out of my DMs, take off my flat cap – though I’ve not asked what the hat policy is – and accept a cup of tea made by Carly. The R.V.’s comfortable but fairly domestic interior is large and dotted by cheerful bunting, and multi-coloured mood-lighting changes to illuminate the accumulated wares of it having been pressed into service for the last several weeks as a gigging musician’s home. A photocopier / printer sits where the oven’s hob ought to be; a few boxes (perhaps carrying t-shirts and advance CD copies of Tilbrook’s new album) sit against a wall; a guitar stands in the corner.
There appears, also, to have been a compulsion to visit antique or junk shops at almost all stops along the way; a pair of ornate vintage occasional tables nestle anachronistically beside a functional modern sofa-bed; a stack of yellowing Russ Conway LPs leans up against the wall next to a working record-player turntable; a cumbersome and presumably handmade presentation stand / bookcase dominates the corridor off from the kitchen to Tilbrook’s bedroom. “Actually, I can’t wait to get back home,” he says. “That thing’s been taking up far too much room since I bought it”. It’s unusual, three levels arranged like an Olympic medal stand. “I was attracted by its oddness. I can probably store things and do ceremonies,” he says.
On this cold mid-December evening we’ve travelled to the venue – a converted ropemaking factory in the shadows beneath the Humber Bridge – to meet up with Tilbrook as he reaches the final Northern date on a long tour. He and modest crew have been on the UK’s roads since early November, with six or seven weeks in the US before that. Tonight’s plan is to record an edition of The Mouthcast and film a live session performance at soundcheck. We’d agreed in advance on two songs, both to be lifted from Tilbrook’s forthcoming album, the slightly skewed camp-fire music-hall HAPPY ENDING.
I lobby for KEV AND DAVE – a wittily told tale of sibling differences, lyrics in best Squeeze tradition: “A Mexican stand-off that neither would trade / Kev runs a pub with his brother, Dave”… Tilbrook agrees, chooses another new song, RAY, and says he’ll also ‘throw in’ old Squeeze classic UP THE JUNCTION.
In the main hall of the venue a Speed Awareness course is moving slowly – crashing way over its allotted time, in fact. Tilbrook, Carly and roadie Miles haven’t yet had the opportunity to get tonight’s gear loaded in and set up. So we film the session at close quarters aboard the R.V. and, once done (watch all three songs via the playlist right), settle down on the sofa to chat for thirty minutes…
As the musical piece in a much-loved songwriting partnership with Chris Difford – which stretches back forty years – Tilbrook is responsible for many enduring hit singles, including COOL FOR CATS, BLACK COFFEE IN BED, LABELLED WITH LOVE and PULLING MUSSELS FROM A SHELL. In 2008 Tilbrook and Difford were awarded an Ivor Novello for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. Their songwriting has survived everything since early days sharing a house in London – from the ever-changing musical landscape around them to the band’s internal reshuffles, acrimonious breakup and tentative regrouping.
Tilbrook’s first two solo albums, THE INCOMPLETE GLENN TILBROOK and TRANSATLANTIC PING-PONG, proved he’d lost none of the joie-de-vivre which had long been his trademark in Squeeze. On 2009’s PANDEMONIUM ENSUES he injected fresh impetus by recruiting new band The Fluffers, plus prestigious guests Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. 2010 saw a return to his roots with Difford in Squeeze, and SPOT THE DIFFERENCE – a collection of the band’s best-loved hits re-recorded to be as close to the original versions as possible (whilst challenging fans to spot the difference).
In this new edition of The Mouthcast, Tilbrook reveals why he and Difford still have ground to cover in working out how to take the rejuvenated version of Squeeze forward; discusses the differences in songwriting for the band and for solo; and talks about how pastoral recordings by Tír na nÓg, The Incredible String Band and Tyrannosaurus-Rex inspired the sound of his new record.