Chris Difford, (seen here on the left), singer, songwriter and founding member of British group Squeeze, chats with Kevin Cooper about the current Squeeze line-up, his cameo role in the BBC’s Cradle To The Grave, his autobiography Some Fantastic Place: My Life In And Out Of Squeeze and their forthcoming headline appearance at The Cornbury Music Festival.

Chris Difford is an English singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer. He is a founding member of the British group Squeeze.

Born in Greenwich, London, Difford has written lyrics for over thirty years, most notably in partnership with Glenn Tilbrook. According to Difford, he stole 50p from his mother’s purse to put a card in a local sweetshop window advertising for a guitarist to join his band, although he didn’t actually have one at the time. Tilbrook was the only person who responded to the advert and they met for the first time shortly afterwards and formed Squeeze.

The band have released sixteen albums altogether and some of their best-known songs are Pulling Mussels (From The Shell), Black Coffee In Bed, Cool For Cats, Up The Junction and Annie Get Your Gun.

After the break-up of Squeeze in 1983 Difford continued writing songs with Tilbrook for artists such as Jools Holland, Helen Shapiro, and Elvis Costello. He has also written lyrics for music by Elton John, Wet Wet Wet, and others. In 1985 Squeeze reunited, having hits in the US with Hourglass and 853-5937.

In 2017 Difford published his autobiography, Some Fantastic Place: My Life In And Out Of Squeeze.

Whilst busy rehearsing for Squeeze’s headline performance at The Cornbury Music Festival he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Chris how are you today?

I’m good thank you Kevin how are you?

I’m very well thank you and let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Hey no problem.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

I would have to say that life at the moment is pretty good. It’s my first day at home for, I can’t remember how long, so I am enjoying being here in my office doing interviews, it’s great.

Well I have to say that you have made me feel rather old today (laughter).

Have I really, why is that?

I was trying to figure out the very first time that I saw Squeeze and it was thirty eight years ago. You were supporting The Police at the Milton Keynes Bowl.

Oh my god that was a muddy old day wasn’t it if I remember correctly (laughter).

Yes it was, it was like standing in the middle of a field during a monsoon (laughter).

(Laughter) yes that’s right, it really was a quagmire.

And then the last time that I saw you performing solo was in August 2016 when you were guesting for Jools (Holland) at the Thoresby Estate here in Nottingham and guess what, we had another monsoon (laughter).

(Laughter) yes it was. It would appear that there is a pattern emerging here. Let’s just hope that Cornbury isn’t going to follow suit (laughter).

You mention Cornbury, this won’t be your first appearance will it?

No that’s right we have played there before; we played there back in 2010 and 2013.

And this year, you are once again headlining and closing the Festival on Sunday evening.

Yes we are, and why not (laughter). We have headlined it in the past and we have enjoyed it, we have been asked back and here we are. I really am looking forward to it; Cornbury is always such a tremendous event and I love it when people run events like this. They really do put their necks on the line for live music and I really do think that is terrific.

There were talks that last year’s festival would be the very last one but due to public demand they have decided to keep it going which I personally feel is great.

Yes I know and I have to say that it is a brave man who would do such a thing in this day and age. All credit to everybody who is involved with The Cornbury Festival for doing such a terrific job. What we need is more people like that who have an affiliation with music and who are prepared to stick their necks out and make it happen.

In my opinion it seems to go from one extreme to another. You have people like the guys who are organising Cornbury and who it has to be said are putting on a tremendous show then you have the ones who are organising an event on their local village green who are expecting to become millionaires overnight (laughter).

That’s right, I know exactly what you mean but let me tell you, from my own personal experience of such events they are shitting themselves. Every blade of grass here in the UK gets covered during the festival season but you simply cannot beat Cornbury; you can’t beat Glastonbury and you can’t beat The Cambridge Folk Festival. They really are the main ones for me.

I have to say that I have personally found that Cornbury really does have a great family feel to it.

It does and the audiences range from all sorts of ages which is great. My only gripe with festivals is that they make the audience stand too far away from the stage because of the security barriers but I guess that is down to all of the Health and Safety Regulations. I personally love having a crowd up close and I am really looking forward to playing Cornbury once again.

Being the headliners do you get to play a longer set?

Yes we do. They are giving us ninety minutes and surprise, surprise we have got a ninety minute set up our sleeve (laughter). That is what we will be doing and I really am looking forward to it.

Will it be your greatest hits plus tracks from the last two albums?

Yes it will although I have to say that there are all sorts really. As you say we will be playing a few tracks from our latest album together with stuff from Cool For Cats, Argybargy, together with all of the early albums too so I think that everyone will get something from seeing Squeeze.

I have been watching Squeeze now for a good few years and I have to say that you put on a great show and have never failed to impress.

Well that’s good, thank you. I’m glad that we can still pull it out of the hat (laughter).

Are Squeeze playing many festivals this summer?

No not this year, just a handful really but Cornbury is the most important one of them all I think.

I have to ask you, which do you prefer, the large outdoor festivals or the smaller and more intimate indoor gigs?

That’s a good question. As long as it is sunny and there is a lack of rain then I really do love the larger outdoor festivals. However, whenever we play indoors then it is the smaller the better for me. I can swing both ways as they say (laughter).

After a couple of recent changes, bassist John Bentley having left the band in 2015 and then his replacement Lucy Shaw moving on, you have bought in Steve Smith (percussionist and backing vocals) and Yolanda Charles (bass). Are Squeeze now a settled six piece band?

Yes we are, we are now a great six piece band. This current line-up really is terrific. Squeeze always have had great musicians and I think that now, more than ever, we have got a bunch of people who really care about the music and they are prepared to put a lot of time and effort into getting things right. It is extremely difficult being in Squeeze as the songs are not just rock and roll songs, they need to be both visited and remembered.

In 2015 you and Glenn (Tilbrook) wrote and performed Cradle To The Grave for the BBC drama of the same name which was an adaptation of Danny Baker’s autobiography Going To Sea In A Sieve. How was it working with Danny?

It was tremendous fun. Being on the set with Danny was simply a ridiculous laugh (laughter). I mean what’s not to like. That whole line-up, that whole event was just terrific. I believe that they are talking about doing another series and if they do I really hope that it does well. Having said that I have to say that I doubt that Squeeze will be involved in the next one.

You and Glenn did manage to get a cameo role in the series didn’t you?

(Laughter) yes we did although I don’t think that I will get an Oscar for it but there you are (laughter).

I have recently read your autobiography Some Fantastic Place: My Life In And Out Of Squeeze and I have to say that I found it fascinating.

Thank you, that is very kind.

Was writing the book something that you felt that you needed to do?

No not really, I just felt that I wanted to write about how I had managed to survive after being in a band all of these years. It has been a very difficult ride for me some of the time. Let me say that it had nothing to do with the other members of the band, it was purely down to my personality and me trying to understand myself. So the book really does tell the story of my journey in and out of Squeeze, and is nothing about other people. I am really pleased to have written it and I have to say that I got some of it right and I got some of it wrong. However, it doesn’t really matter; it has just been fun doing it.

Would you gladly sit down and do it again?

Yes, of course. It’s been an emotional journey and hopefully at some point I will be starting work on a poetry book which is very different of course. I think that being between the covers of a book, there is nothing really as good as that, it really is a lovely feeling. So I am looking forward to keeping myself in that frame. It’s okay making records and being in a band but there are other things to look forward to.

On the subject of music, are you always writing?

No, simply because I don’t have the time like I used to have. In the olden days as it were I used to just sit and write but now I am finding it really difficult to find the time to start. Hopefully I will win the lottery then I will be able to stick at it (laughter).

I was recently speaking to Glenn and he said that he thought the two of you being compared to (John) Lennon and (Paul) McCartney at that particular moment in time was the worst thing that could have happened to you. Would you agree with that?

I think that is certainly how Glenn sees it. I think that it was far worse for him because he took it all on board whereas I didn’t. I just thought ‘that’s kind of nice that is a really nice compliment’, but I didn’t take it any further than that. I think that if you go deeper into it then of course it is going to affect you, but it didn’t affect me as much as it did Glenn.

Glenn also said that for quite a while after both you and he went out as solo artists he found it very strange because he would look over his shoulder and you weren’t there. Was that the same for you when Glenn wasn’t there on stage with you?

That is a really lovely thing for him to say. When I first started doing my solo stuff I did miss that connection. Glenn and I did a duo tour a while ago now where we trod the boards together and we did some Squeeze songs acoustically and then we played some of our own songs. And I have to say that was an absolute delight and the audiences loved it. Being in Squeeze you have to be able to swing both ways musically. You have to be completely in the moment. Whereas when you are doing something on your own you can drift, you can get things wrong and it really doesn’t matter. You can stop and start and have a bit of fun; you can’t do that when you are in a band.

Is there anything left for you to achieve musically?

Oh my god I hope so (laughter).

Is there any one thing that you are working towards?

Well I am certainly not striving towards anything because striving is a thing of the past. I think that I would like to make a really unique jazz record with Glenn. I would love to record it with a fantastic set of musicians from that world and do something completely different from what we do. Glenn is a genius musically; I think that he can turn his hand to anything and I think that lyrically and musically we could both lean in that direction and we would come out with something really amazing. However, I am not striving for it, and at the moment I’m not sure that I can put any effort into it because the weather is far too hot (laughter).

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

That would possibly be getting out of bed this morning. I really haven’t got an answer to that (laughter).

What are your memories of the first time that you appeared on Top Of The Pops?

I remember it being really exciting like going to the fun fair; it was really great fun. It felt like Squeeze had finally arrived. I remember that we all had a great time and that being on the show was something which we had all aspired to and it certainly worked.

What next for Squeeze, are you currently working on anything?

No I’m not, and we are currently taking things day by day. That is a really important thing for us to recognise. I have no idea what will happen in the future, I really don’t have a clue. I think that we will just take it from one gig to the next. Hopefully something will drop into place but Squeeze is not the be all and end all of life. The be all and end all of life is to make sure that you get up in the morning; you go to bed and that your teeth are clean.

Taking you back to the early 90s when Jools (Holland) and Gilson (Lavis) left the band, was there ever a time when you thought that Squeeze were no more?

No I never thought that.

Can you ever see the original Squeeze line-up performing together again?

No, I doubt that very much.

Who inspired you to become a musician?

That was Glenn (Tilbrook).

What was the first record that you bought?

I think that was an album called With The Beatles.

Who did you first see performing live?

That was David Bowie.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Gee that’s a good question. That would most probably have been A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell.

On that note Chris let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great.

No, thank you for your time Kevin. It’s been a pleasure. You take care and bye for now.