Friday, January 12, 2007

There's A Stain On My Notebook Where Your Coffee Cup Was

I caught a solo show by Glenn Tilbrook at the tiny Five Spot here in Atlanta last night, and as usual, it was tremendous. Glenn's shows are consistently brilliant, to use his favorite adjective, and the crowd last night was treated to the usual parade of classic tunes, more recent favorites, and a blistering cover of "Voodoo Child," complete with behind-the-head guitar pyrotechnics (and on an acoustic!).

It's astonishing, though, that so giant a talent, and so significant a figure in pop music over the past 25 years, is playing such tiny venues these days. During his tenure with Squeeze, from the very late 70s to the mid 90s, Glenn was a master of the gorgeous and unconventional melody, and along with lyricist Chris Difford, he more or less established the template for the perfect modern pop song. In fact, if you stop and look back at that body of work ("Up The Junction", "Goodbye Girl", "Pulling Mussels From The Shell", "Tempted", "Is That Love?", "Picadilly," "Black Coffee in Bed", "Hourglass," "King George Street", and on and on), not to mention the two excellent solo records he's released since 2001, you have to realize that only a handful of writers -- with names like Costello, Partridge, Westerberg and Mann -- have amassed comparable catalogs of indisputably great and memorable songs. As if that weren't enough, the guy has one of the sweetest and most dextrous singing voices in the history of rock and roll (which, at age 49, is not diminished one bit), and is a criminally overlooked virtuoso on the guitar.

So why is this guy not packing bigger venues, when lesser artists do it with ease? I guess for the same reason Squeeze was never as huge as crap bands like Duran Duran.

Here are some favorite Glenn Tilbrook moments, which I hope will inspire some of you to buy your favorite old Squeeze album on CD, get out and see Glenn when he comes to your town and/or check out the wonderful work he's done more recently:

> "Another Nail For My Heart" - The Squeeze classic from 1979's Argybargy, and a prime example of the early Difford-Tilbrook formula: impossibly catchy melody, lyrics any heartbroken punter can relate to, and a guitar solo by Glenn that comes off so effortlessly that you scarcely notice how intricate it is.

> "From A Whisper To A Scream" - Glenn's ripping duet with Elvis Costello, from Trust in 1981. The story is that Elvis had a horrible cold during the Trust sessions, asked his mate Glenn to cut a guide vocal for this track, and then couldn't bear to take him off. It isn't hard to hear why. Elvis returned the favor the following year by producing the record that I consider Squeeze's masterpiece, East Side Story.

> "Parallel World" - From The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook, Glenn's solo debut in 2001, which showed the world that he didn't need his old partner to write a gorgeous pop song.

Also, One For The Road, a documentary of Glenn's solo U.S. tour in 2001 -- featuring a now-infamous incident at the Atlanta show, which I attended, when Glenn led the entire audience out of the theatre, paraded us about 6 blocks up the street, and finished the show in an audience member's living room -- finally got a U.S. release on DVD last year. Netflix it now.