Stage Times: Chris Difford of Squeeze

Chris Difford talks us through the most memorable live shows from Squeeze’s five-decade career

There’re very few huge UK rock acts of the last few decades who haven’t had something to do with Squeeze. R.E.M, The Jam and The Specials all played early shows opening for Squeeze. Blur, Kasabian and Razorlight all cite them as influences. They have both opened for and been opened for by U2. Their influence even extends to major American acts like The Killers and Dire Straits, the latter of which is yet another heavyweight that once supported the British rockers.

It’s a staggering legacy. Now, with sixteen studio albums and countless tours under their belts, the band are preparing to hit the road once again.

“Like with every tour, I’m feeling anxious, but excited, if that makes sense,” says Chris Difford. “We’ve not played the Apollo in London for many, many years. So I’m looking forward to that, I have to say. We played there many times supporting a band called the Tubes back in the 70s. We did a run there for six nights or something – it was ridiculous. And it was great, great fun. So I have great memories of being young and playing there.”

Squeeze began with a 50p advertisement in a shop window for a guitarist, to play in a band that a then nineteen-year-old Difford had yet to form. When co-founding member Glenn Tilbrook responded, it set the two of them on a path that they could hardly have predicted would have seen them still touring their much-loved songs nearly fifty years later.

We caught up with Difford to discuss a few of the many, many memorable shows that Squeeze has played over the years.

Squeeze - Cool For Cats (Official Music Video)

The First

I think the first gig we ever played together as a band would have been Catford Girls School in South London. Four o’clock in the afternoon playing to a lot of girls sitting on the floor wondering what the hell was going on. I think we got a guarded reception. We were very nervous.

How did that ended up being your first gig?

I have no idea! I have no memory of why that should be the case. It was probably through a friend of a friend.

Squeeze - Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)

The Best

Oh, I can’t really pin one down because they’ve all got different qualities. You know, I could say something like Madison Square Garden – that would have been one of the gigs. But equally I could say, maybe, Glastonbury. Probably Glastonbury, I would say. For me, it was when we were a band that were firing on all cylinders and the songs all came together very, very emotionally. You know, there’s something very special about playing on the Pyramid Stage. So all of those factors sewn in together made for an amazing afternoon.

Squeeze - Another Nail In My Heart (Official Music Video)

The Biggest

I’m sure it’s hard to pick just one.

Yeah, it really is! Probably Croke Park in Dublin, supporting U2. That was exciting. There was 70 or 80,000 people there. It was an exciting show, that’s for sure. These days, if you’re playing to a large crowd, you have to kind of imagine them as being just in your living room. Which can take a while. But yeah, it works.

Were you at that point when you played that show?

No, I can’t remember a thing about it!

Squeeze - Cradle To The Grave (Official Music Video)

The Smallest

Oh, so many small gigs. For Squeeze, I suppose one of the smallest gigs would have been for Catford Girls School. I mean, that wasn’t hugely attended. So yeah. Probably that one as well. It’s everybody’s ambition in a band to get to a big crowd. So for us, it was a gradual climb up the ladder. You know, it’s it takes a while for those things to to become reality. Many, many years in some cases.

Squeeze - Nirvana (Official Music Video)

The Weirdest

Oh, we played in a place called Chislehurst Caves, which basically is a cave. And we played in the cave, and it was cold and horrible. The sound was terrible. And I don’t think many people came. But I can always say I’ve played in a cave. I don’t remember how it came about – it was very early on in our career. I can’t remember further than last week at the moment!

We kind of would’ve played at the opening of an envelope if we could do, back then. We’ve played so many different venues, and we haven’t turned down many that I can imagine.

Squeeze - Up The Junction

The One That Made You Want To Play Music

I saw David Bowie in 1972. And I just found him so incredibly exciting. And inspiring. I just thought, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do.” Lyrically he was very impressive, of course, and just the whole emotion of that gig made me, like, “Yeah, I think I want to do this.”

Find tickets for Squeeze’s UK autumn tour here.