Here’s a clip of South-East London new wave pop craftsmen Squeeze with their 1979 hit single ‘Up the Junction’ as taken from their album Cool for Cats.
If this song seems more like a novel or a film than it does a chart-topping pop song, its because it sort of is. Nell Dunn wrote a novel called Up the Junction, depicting life in the Clapham-Battersea area of London in the early 60s. And much like the song, it uses colloquial speech, and deals with the gritty lives of an industrial sector of London. That seems like a weighty series of subjects to jam into a three-minute plus pop song, doesn’t it? And while Squeeze songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook aren’t telling the same story as depicted in the novel, they are able to capture some of its spirit. This is what writers Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford brought to the table – storytelling, with plenty of pop hooks.
As for the song they wrote, there are a few people I know who think that this tune is lyrically lightweight, with many of the couplets falling flat. But to me, that’s kind of the point. This is a story about a schlub, a chancer who’s caught in a relationship that is ultimately beyond him. It was always doomed to failure, perhaps given away by the first line “I never thought it would happen with me and a girl from Clapham…”. You expect a schlub to talk like that, and it wouldn’t do if the guy spoke like Shelley and Keats.
Difford &Tilbrook pack all kinds of interesting tidbits in between with a narrative that is both funny and sad, too. And I think that they understand that conveying characters, and the way the language sounds in the context of the song is just as important as the melody and the chords that carry them along. And listen to all of those chord changes! And the chunky drum fill at the beginning after the riff – didda-dit-DAT(and)didda-dit-DAT – I love that!
At the time that Squeeze began churning out impossibly hook-laden tunes – “Goodbye Girl”, “Cool For Cats”, “Take Me I’m Yours”, and many others – they were gaining the burdensome reputation for being ‘the new Lennon & McCartney’. Where there are similarities, mostly having to do with how they focused so well on melody and unexpected chord progressions while still making their music accessible, the comparison was always just music journalism hyperbole in which comparisons almost always do a disservice to both parties.
Difford & Tilbrook are unique.
For more information about Squeeze, check the official Squeeze website.
And for even more, investigate the Squeeze MySpace Page.