Friday, 4 November 2016

Friday is Rock'n'Roll #London Day: Happy Birthday to The Great Chris Difford! @chrisdifford

Friday is Rock'n'Roll London Day!

The Rock'n'Roll London Walk meets at Tottenham Court Road Station every Friday at 2pm.

DC Editor Adam writes…

Happy birthday to Chris Difford of Squeeze, born on this day in 1954!

Squeeze are one of the all-time great London bands. Here's birthday boy Difford on lead vocals doing Cool For Cats…

Cool For Cats was the first coloured vinyl in my collection – the 12 inch version. I swapped it with a guy at school. The deal was Cool For Cats for a Bill Haley compilation album and an Elvis record – Moody Blue (there was a mini Rockabilly revival happening around our way at the time and so Elvis and Bill were good currency).

The two records that formed my end of the deal had been purloined from the family record collection. Theft, essentially. But I just had to have the Squeeze record. It was pink vinyl, your honour. Pink vinyl!

Cool For Cats was the first Squeeze record I’d been aware of. I’d seen them doing it on Top of the Pops. I was 10. Chris Difford – the one with the dark hair and the voice like a Deptford scrap yard in full spate – took the lead vocal.

When I next saw Squeeze, Glenn Tilbrook – the blond one with the sweet voice – was singing lead on the kitchen sink drama of Up the Junction. “Oh look,” I thought to myself, “they’re giving the other guy a go at the singing. Nice.”

First impressions last – to such an extent that I’m somewhere still slightly confused when I see Tilbrook, “the other guy”, and not Difford singing lead with Squeeze. I just can’t shake it.

The topic of Squeeze also came up at school. For homework we were always given five words and asked to write each in a sentence. When presented with the word “junction”, a girl in my class called Lesley came up with the sentence “Squeeze had a hit with Up The Junction”. I thought this deeply cool. Not so the teacher, who chided her for the use of junction as a proper noun in a song title.


But it was an early lesson, if not in grammar then at least in what girls like. And girls like pop music. And so it follows… Pop music good.

The voice and the argot of Cool For Cats caught my ear vividly when I was 10. This was pop music without an American accent. The first verse seemed, to my child’s mind, to be about a western movie, which was indeed cool for cats for me, as we – my dad, granddad and me – loved westerns. Ditto the next verse about The Sweeney. The pictures were painted clearly enough for me to enjoy the narrative, even through the meaning was outwith my frame of reference. The song's theme is pretty adult stuff, observing that life never quite meets expectation and sometimes we have to clamber out of great torpor simply to carry on. This sentiment is backed up musically by the pseudo-prog instrumental of the middle eight.

The references to getting one's end away in the last verses were lost on me back then. But the music hall tone was clear: this was a funny record. Bleak, but funny.

Great fade-out, too, over Jools Holland’s spivvy, rinky-dink keyboard part. I’ve always loved a fade-out.

It was a record I loved all through my teens, despite the vagaries of fashion and fad, and is a record I love to this day.

Happy birthday Chris Difford!

I've added both Cool For Cats & Up the Junction to The Big London Playlist. Catch up with that here…

The Rock'n'Roll London Walk is ONLY London Walk with its own dedicated comic book

Written by Rock'n'Roll London guide (and Daily Constitutional editor Adam) it's available in both print & digital formats at the London Bookstore online: and on The Rock'n'Roll London Walk on Fridays!  

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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