Mention Glenn Tilbrook and most people may immediately think of Squeeze. After all, with his writing partner Chris Difford, Tilbrook was responsible for Top Ten hits all around the world such as “Tempted”, “Hourglass”, “Cool For Cats” and “Up The Junction”. Ever since their first EP in 1977, Squeeze has delighted audiences with their brand of honky-tonk new wave and pithy lyricism, while their stock in the music world has seen the likes of Jools Holland, Paul Carrack and Elvis Costello all contribute to their work.
However, since an acrimonious split in 1998 Squeeze has been on the backburner. Although you might forgive him for resting on his laurels after 13 albums and countless tours all over the world, Tilbrook has continued to write and perform with the same enthusiasm that he brought to Squeeze’s earliest recordings. With his two solo albums, “The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook” and “Transatlantic Ping-Pong”, he proved he’s lost none of the joie-de-vivre that became Squeeze’s trademark. For 2009’s album “Pandemonium Ensues”, he injected some fresh faces by recruiting new band The Fluffers and some prestigious guests in the shape of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. This has been complemented by a conversational live show that is delightfully shambling in its approach – Tilbrook loves blurring the boundary between crowd and performer by performing requests and even taking his audience for walkabouts to set up impromptu gigs!
Although a Squeeze reunion had always looked unlikely, Tilbrook and Difford’s paths slowly began to cross with more frequency, leading to a series of low-key gigs together in 2007. In 2008, super fan Mark Ronson presented them with the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, while Lily Allen called them the Robert De Niro of music when they received the Nordoff-Robbins Icon Award. With the addition of former Squeeze bassist John Bentley, and Fluffers pair Stephen Large and Simon Hanson, this lineup won fans all over again with gigs and festival appearances at the likes of V, Oxegen, Guilfest, T in The Park and Latitude, reminding us all of the outstanding back catalogue that Squeeze possess.
In 2010 Squeeze took hold of their own catalogue when they re-recorded 14 of their best-loved hits and released them under the name of ‘Spot The Difference’. An extensive and highly acclaimed UK tour followed capping an exhilarating year in which Squeeze performed at a number of festivals including a headline slot as part of the Greenwich Summer Sessions and an appearance at V Festival. The band also took part in the Concerts for Teenage Cancer Trust at the Royal Albert Hall. Accompanied by a 30 piece orchestra the band took to the stage with an exclusive set of instruments customised by Damien Hirst. Following the concert, the instruments were auctioned at Christie’s and were the first guitar and drum kit to be sold in Christie’s April auction of Post-War and Contemporary Art. This special sale raised money for Teenage Cancer Trust and Love Hope Strength Foundation, two music focused cancer charities.
Squeeze’s contribution to music was noted when they were honoured with the Classic Songwriter award at the Mojo Honours 2011, an award that has previously been won by Ray Davies, Paul Weller and Johnny Marr. This follows on from a number of recognitions for Squeeze in the last few years. In March 2010 they had the site of their first ever gig in Greenwich commemorated by a PRS for Music Heritage Award, one of only a few bands to receive this honour alongside Blur and Dire Straits, and they were awarded with the PPL / Radio Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, joining the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Gary Barlow and Trevor Horn.
In 2011 Glenn released the album ‘The Co-Operative’ a collaboration between Glenn and Nine Below Zero and took to the road for a three month acoustic tour, each show was recorded live and then made available at the end of the night from the merchandise stand. In 2012 Squeeze adopted this idea when they embarked on their Pop Up Shop tour, a 22 date UK tour on which Squeeze performed brand new material and hinted at a new studio album.
In October 2012 BBC4 screened a brand new documentary ‘Squeeze: Take Me I’m Yours’ which reappraised the song-writing genius of Difford and Tilbrook, and showed why Squeeze hold a special place in British Popular music.
While continuing to write with Chris Difford for future Squeeze material, 2013 will see Glenn releasing an acoustic solo record and touring the US and the UK to support his new release. Clearly, for Glenn Tilbrook playing is about enjoying the moment and it’s that desire and enthusiasm that sets him apart from so many of his peers. Whether he’s playing to a room of 50 people or to a festival crowd, Glenn Tilbrook still gets the buzz from playing and making music that is all too rare among his peers or those he has inspired, and marks him out as a performer to be cherished.
Away from music Tilbrook continues to make a mark. He is a member of the charity Love Hope Strength, set up by his good friend Mike Peters (The Alarm). Work for this has involved record-breaking treks up the likes of Everest, Kilimanjaro and Mount Fuji with fellow musicians, raising money to buy equipment to help cancer sufferers across the world.