As one of the most traditional pop bands of the new wave, Squeeze provided one of the links between classic British guitar pop and post-punk. Inspired heavily by the Beatles and the Kinks, Squeeze were the vehicle for the songwriting of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, who were hailed as the heirs to Lennon and McCartney's throne during their heyday in the early '80s.
Unlike Lennon and McCartney, the partnership between Difford and Tilbrook was a genuine collaboration, with the former writing the lyrics and the latter providing the music. Squeeze never came close to matching the popularity of the Beatles, but the reason for that is part of their charm. Difford and Tilbrook were wry, subtle songwriters that subscribed to traditional pop songwriting values, but subverted them with literate lyrics and clever musical references. While their native Britain warmed to Squeeze immediately, sending singles like "Take Me I'm Yours" and "Up the Junction" into the Top Ten, the band had a difficult time gaining a foothold in the States; they didn't have a U.S. Top 40 hit until 1987, nearly a decade after their debut album. Even if the group never had a hit in the U.S., Squeeze built a dedicated following that stayed with them into the late '90s, and many of their songs -- "Another Nail in My Heart," "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," "Tempted," "Black Coffee in Bed" -- became pop classics of the new wave era, as the platinum status of their compilation Singles 45's and Under indicates.
Chris Difford (b. April 11, 1954; guitar, vocals) and Glenn Tilbrook (b. August 31, 1957; vocals, guitar) formed Squeeze in 1974. Tilbrook answered an advertisement Difford had placed in a store window, and the pair began writing songs. By the spring of 1974, the duo had recruited pianist Jools Holland (b. Julian Holland, January 24, 1958) and drummer Paul Gunn, and had named themselves Squeeze, after the disowned Velvet Underground album that featured none of the group's original members. Squeeze began playing the thriving pub rock circuit, although their songs were quirkier and more pop-oriented than many of their peers. By 1976, the band had added bassist Harry Kakoulli and replaced Gunn with Gilson Lavis (b. June 27, 1951), a former tour manager and drummer for Chuck Berry. They had also signed a contract with Miles Copeland's burgeoning BTM record label and management company. Squeeze had already recorded several tracks for RCA, including two cuts with Muff Winwood, that the label rejected. BTM went bankrupt before it could release the band's debut single, "Take Me I'm Yours" in early 1977, but Squeeze were able to work with John Cale on their debut EP, due to a contract Copeland had arranged with Cale.
Squeeze released their debut EP, Packet of Three, on Deptford Fun City Records, in the summer of 1977 and soon arranged an international contract with A&M Records, becoming the label's first new wave act since their disastrous signing of the Sex Pistols. The band entered the studio with producer Cale later that year to work on their debut album, provisionally titled Gay Guys by the group's producer. Cale had the group throw out most of their standard material, forcing them to write new material; consequently, the record wasn't necessarily a good representation of the band's early sound. By the time the album was released in the spring of 1978, the group and A&M had abandoned the record's working title, and it was released as Squeeze. In America, the band and album had to change their name to UK Squeeze in order to avoid confusion with an American band called Tight Squeeze; by the end of the year, they had reverted back to Squeeze in the U.S.. Preceded by the hit single "Take Me I'm Yours," the album became a moderate success, but the group's true British breakthrough arrived in 1979, when they released their second album, Cool for Cats. More representative of the band's sound than their debut, Cool for Cats generated two number two singles in the title track and "Up the Junction." Later in 1978, the EP 6 Squeeze Songs Crammed Into One Ten-Inch Record EP was released. Squeeze tried for a seasonal hit that year with "Christmas Day," but the single failed to chart. Kakoulli was fired from the band after the release of Cool for Cats and was replaced by John Bentley.