Cool for Cats: The music that made me

Cool for Cats: The music that made me
Chris Difford

As they get ready to play in Ireland, Chris Difford of Squeeze tells Richard Fitzpatrick about some of his favourite albums

In 1973, Chris Difford placed an advert in a sweetshop window in Deptford, south London, looking for a guitarist to go on tour with a band, citing influences “The Kinks, Lou Reed and Glenn Miller”. There was no band and no tour.

Difford — who placed the advert at the cost of 50p — was chancing his arm. Only one person replied, 15-year-old Glenn Tilbrook. Difford and Tilbrook hit it off. They formed the band Squeeze, which included keyboardist Jools Holland among its band members. Within a few years they were appearing on Top of the Pops and turning out timeless New Wave classic singles like ‘Up the Junction’, ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ and ‘Cool for Cats’.

“Glenn Miller was not really [an important influence],” says Difford. “I was just being stupid. I had one of his albums that I kind of liked and it was odd that I put a Glenn Miller reference in there and ended up meeting a guy called Glenn, but maybe that was meant to be.”

Here are several of Difford’s important musical influences, including the Velvet Underground, whose final studio album Squeeze lent its name to Difford and Tilbrook’s band; incidentally, John Cale also produced Squeeze’s first album.

The Beatles

“The first record that has stayed with me is With the Beatles [1963]. It was a favourite album of mine. All the songs are brilliant, very short. It drew me into the Beatles as songwriters. I very quickly learnt to sing along with them. There wasn’t anything in particular about it just the greatness of what it seemed like to be in a band.

"I bought the album in a shop in Greenwich in south London. I was very young obviously. I went with my brother to buy it. At that time life was just hanging about with my friends, living quite a simple life. My friends were more into football. That was the divide — music or football. I never got to see the Beatles live. I’ve met Paul McCartney a couple of times.

He’s just like anyone else who’s got millions in the bank — he’s a lovely guy. I’ve never seen him live either but I’d love to — he puts on a fantastic show.

The Chieftains

“My mum was from the North of Ireland. She was from Coleraine. I went there lots of times as a kid, every year for summer holidays. I really enjoyed it. I’ve always loved traditional Irish music. It reminds me of my youth, from the Chieftains to young people playing folk music in clubs. I loved the traditional sound of the Chieftains. It can’t be beaten.

It’s an incredible sound. They did part of the soundtrack for the Stanley Kubrick film Barry Lyndon [1975]. I really enjoyed that. Great music.”

Elvis Costello

Get Happy!! by Elvis Costello and the Attractions [1980] was a big album for me. I just loved the lyrics. I loved the performances on that record. It’s brilliant. He’s a very energetic human being and full of inspiration, a wonderful person to work with.

We had a great time making a record together — Elvis was the guy who produced the East Side Story album [1981], which to me is one of the greatest Squeeze records.

"It was probably the best time to be in a band at that point because we were writing great songs and just being in a band.

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground records were always fantastic. They were very simple and kind of poetic and full of charisma and darkness. I was drawn to that darkness at that point.

“Lyrically, Lou Reed was head and shoulders above everyone else. I met him once. It was very brief. It was in New York. We happened to be in the same Chinese restaurant.

- Squeeze will perform at the Cork Opera House (Monday, 14 October) and Vicar St, Dublin (Tuesday, 15 October).

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