Singer/composer Glenn Tilbrook teamed with lyricist/guitarist Chris Difford to lead Squeeze, one of the most acclaimed and longest-lived bands to emerge from the new wave era.
Often regarded as the Lennon and McCartney of their generation, the duo's smart, sophisticated brand of pop never achieved commercial success commensurate with their critical favor, although singles like "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," "Tempted," and "Black Coffee in Bed" remain timeless cult classics. Born August 31, 1957, in London, Tilbrook studied guitar and piano from age six onward and at 13, he made his public debut at a local talent show. He began writing and performing with Difford in 1973 and the following year, they formed Squeeze; the group's self-titled, John Cale-produced debut LP followed in 1978, yielding the minor hit "Take Me, I'm Yours." 1979's Cool for Cats was Squeeze's U.K. chart breakthrough, generating a pair of number two singles, "Up the Junction" and the title track. The follow-up, Argybargy, yielded the lesser hits "Another Nail in My Heart" and "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," but solidified the group's critical standing on the strength of Difford's wry, literate wordplay and Tilbrook's crisp, clever melodies.
Squeeze's masterpiece, East Side Story, followed in 1981, scoring the band's biggest U.S. hit to date with the memorable "Tempted"; though 1982's Sweets from a Stranger cracked the U.S. Top 40, buoyed by the single "Black Coffee in Bed," creative exhaustion forced the band's breakup soon after. A 1983 hits collection, Singles 45's and Under, ultimately went platinum. Tilbrook immediately resumed his collaboration with Difford, however, composing songs for fellow Squeeze alum Jools Holland, as well as Paul Young, Billy Bremner, and Helen Shapiro. The duo also mounted Labelled with Love, a short-lived 1983 stage musical adapted from their songs. A self-titled 1984 album credited simply to Difford and Tilbrook also appeared, but the following year they reunited Squeeze to release Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti; 1987's Babylon and On was their biggest U.S. hit, notching a pair of Top 40 singles in "Hourglass" and "853-5937," but subsequent efforts appealed almost exclusively to their devoted cult following.
The '90s found Tilbrook guesting on albums by artists including Aimee Mann and the Soft Boys' Kimberley Rew. He officially kicked off a solo career with the release of the single Parallel World on his own Quixotic Records in late 2000. The following year brought the release of another single, This Is Where You Ain't, and his first full-length album, The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook, which included songs co-written with Aimee Mann ("Observatory") and Ron Sexsmith ("You See Me"). The documentary/concert DVD Glenn Tilbrook: One for the Road (issued in 2006) followed the man on his 2001 North American tour. 2007 proved to be a busy year indeed, with a short Squeeze reunion/tour (their third) as well as the release of the first two volumes (of a proposed five-volume set) of remastered demo recordings, The Past Has Been Bottled and In the Sky Above. In 2008, Tilbrook began working with a new group of musicians and released the four-track teaser Binga Bong!, which was filed under Glenn Tilbrook & the Fluffers. The first full-length from the new group, Pandemonium Ensues, was issued in March of 2009 and featured cameos by Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis (the couple did not appear on the same song, however).
Tilbrook reunited with Difford in 2010, recording new versions of Squeeze's greatest hits (cheekily calling the album Spot the Difference) and mounting a reunion tour. In 2011, Tilbrook collaborated with Nine Below Zero on an album called The Co-Operative. Over the next couple years, he and Difford worked on new Squeeze material while Tilbrook continued to pursue a solo career, writing and recording Happy Ending, which appeared in April 2014. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi