Chris Difford: Not Only…But Also
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, 29th November 2023
It’s been one of those quintessentially British weeks. Subjected to near farcical “hospitality” on Sunday for a whole day, then our weather impacted on every conversation and then I found myself alone in the pub after being stood-up on the night of the gig. In the hands of a lyrical poet these experiences could inspire some inventive songs…
“Christ, it’s bloody cold!”… was the rejoinder that greeted us as Chris Difford – founding member of Squeeze – and one of the most underrated song writers to come out of New Wave, opened his night of anecdotes, recollections and songs from the last 50 years. Difford was complemented by Melvin Duffy on his electric guitar who enjoyed every note, chord and joke as much as the audience; the tone of Duffy’s guitar was as warm as a three bar fire, if you had 50p for the meter.
The opening anecdote of Difford and his Skinhead mates talking all those years ago, set the tone: “I’ll be honest Diff, you were not much of a skinhead as you would be sat on a wall writing poetry.” The throwaway line in the 70s was always “write about what you know” and consequently Difford did just that over the last 50 years.
The songs penned by Chris Difford from his heyday with Squeeze were warmly and unconditionally greeted; much like the manner I was greeted at the Huntingdon Hall by their well-dressed ushers. The tales of romances gone wrong, drunken nights & days, social hardships, dead-end jobs and failing relationships – with the signature tinge of melancholia – were as familiar to the audience as pebble-dashed walls in the late 70s…
The Difford’s next door neighbours, when Diff was growing up, had both pebble-dashed walls and their own caravan at the seaside, which inspired: “Pulling Mussels (From A Shell)”. The song provoked a timid holiday camp sing-along on the night… how very British. “Tempted” caused the room to relive the heady days of Squeeze and their perennial attendance in the charts. “Labelled with Love” exposed the lives of those living in quiet desperation and viewing life through the bottom of a glass; the whole room seemed to nod and sway along in a very reserved way.
Not content to live in the past, as nostalgia is not what it was, the duo proffered new songs. “Cowboys were my Weakness” elicited a spontaneous cheer from the room. Difford seemed to be visibly moved. Lines from new songs captured fleeting moments precisely, the image of Freddie Lakers planes offering hospitality in the form of “Cheese sandwiches and Branston pickle” during Squeeze’s first forays into touring the states…show Difford has not lost his eye for detail.
The anecdotes on the night were gingered-up with tales of meeting Benny Hill in the pub. One Punchline to a joke was spiced up with names of Legs & Co and Clive Dunn. A humorous aside comparing the appendages of male partners from Peters & Lee and Dollar was edited with polite euphemisms. In many respects it was a very British night all round.
The bloody cold walk back to the car was a carefree one, as I hummed “Cool for Cats” involuntarily, and savoured the fact I had enjoyed the night, the venue and a seat all to myself. How very British?
By: The Swilgate Scuttler