Monday, February 8, 2010

Squeeze -- "Another Nail In My Heart"/"Pulling Mussels From The Shell" (1980)

I don't think A&M Records knew what to make of Squeeze or how to market them when they first landed in the US in the late 70's. It was a perfect storm of bad luck and timing that kept them off my personal radar, although my brother Scott was obsessed by them.

At first, they were known as "UK Squeeze," probably because of some legal hassle, and that was how they were named on their first album. Second, it was the height of the punk movement, they came from the UK, so they were falsely lumped together with that whole lot. The first UK Squeeze album encouraged this image by not showing the band, but a washed out colored-in photo of a circus strongman pushing his thick arms together.

I witnessed America's reception to them first hand -- during my time at university in Buffalo, they were the opening act at the Memorial Auditorium (was it Blue Oyster Cult?) and they were consistently booed, with things thrown at them on stage. I think I even heard that keyboardist Jools Holland got his hand cut open from that nasty welcoming committee. And if Blue Oyster Cult was the headliner, what the hell was Squeeze doing on the bill?

Still, my brother Scott was playing "Take Me I'm Yours" and "Cool For Cats" over and over, and I promptly ignored it. I think the words that came to mind were "cheap" and "cheesy," was these were low-budget recordings done on basic analog synths.

So imagine my surprise, post-graduation, running around in New York City, as punk slowly gave way to New Wave, that Squeeze got their budget upped and released ArgyBargy. WPIX-FM and WLIR-FM, the two brave local stations that spun a non-stop playlist of all this great new music, added "Another Nail In My Heart" to the roster.

Now, I could not avoid them and oh, they were a pop band! And I could not get that damn chorus out of my head now:

And here in the bar,
The piano man's found
Another nail in my heart.

What sealed the deal was the follow-up single, "Pulling Mussels from The Shell." My hats off to composinig team Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook for coming up with that title and not even bothering to create a rhyme for it. This second British invasion featured lyrics full of English slang, twist and turns ("the cricket's creepy?"), stories about single punters running into trouble and drinking heavily, all in compact little pop melodies. Were these the same guys who barely survived leaving the stage in Buffalo?

ArgyBargy broke Squeeze and finally we all could see past the misguided attempts to sell them as a punk band or whatever A&M was concocting. From there, Squeeze built upon each successful album -- they were a pop band, damn it, one of the best. And at some point, they had better make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

To bring the story full circle, Difford and Tilbrook reunited as Squeeze with two new hires, and toured the States in 2008. I bought tickets to one of their two sold out concerts at the Beacon on the Upper West Side, and my guest was my brother Scott, who had their number down all along.

How much adoration did these guys get? From the moment they hit the stage with "Take Me I'm Yours," the audience never sat down, singing along to every blessed lyric. The band barely took a break, seguing from one classic to another for more than 90 minutes straight. And who should open up for them? A more appropriate booking -- their brothers in pop, Fountains of Wayne.

Below, the official video of "Another Nail In My Heart" from 1980, and then fast forward to that 2008 reunion tour, where Squeeze stopped by the A&E cable TV show "Private Sessions" to do "Pulling Mussels From The Shell."

Squeeze Performs on A&E's Private Sessions!!! - For more funny movies, click here

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