Chris Difford

TrackAlbum
Tight RopeI Didn’t Get Where I Am
Under the Moon Over YouI Didn’t Get Where I Am (Deluxe)
Come On DownThe Last Temptation Of Chris
On My Own I’m Never BoredThe Last Temptation Of Chris
Like I Did Cashmere If You Can
Passion KillerCashmere If You Can
GoldfishCashmere If You Can
Round The HousesPants
FlatPants
SobrietyPants

 

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Chris Difford playlist

 

 

Contributor: Gayle Ramage

Having seen this artist live last year at the Edinburgh Fringe where he regaled us with witty stories from his life, in between hits from the back catalogue of his band, Squeeze, I’m delighted to be able to recommend to you, dear reader, ten tracks from the solo career of double Ivor Novello Award winner, Chris Difford, who has built up a solid body of work since his debut album, I Didn’t Get Where I Am, in 2002. While his natural talent for skilful wordplay, autobiographical honesty and witty one-liners continues on, the music itself, at least initially, adopts a more folk-pop sound than the rockier, synthy tones of his old band.

 

And so we come to the first track on the list which, fittingly, is the first track on that very first album. Tight Rope, co-written with Paul Inder and Francis Dunnery, has a sparse beginning, with a melancholic piano melody the only accompaniment to Chris’s vocals as he sings about a troubled relationship. In fact, we’re almost a minute and a half into the track before the rhythm section kicks in. Singer Dorie Jackson, a collaborator of Dunnery’s, joins for the chorus and backing vocals and appears again in the album. For those only used to Chris’s lead on Cool For Cats, it’s great to hear the softer timbre of his vocals in his solo work. If you have the Deluxe Edition of I Didn’t Get Where I Am, do check out Cathy Come Home which is, essentially, a demo of Tight Rope with some lyrical differences and slight changes in the production. I had a hard time deciding which version to include here.

Lyric: There’s a tight rope between us / We’re still attached to the knots in the twine

 

We remain with I Didn’t Get Where I Am for the next track but this time we’re looking at the Deluxe Edition. It’s stated that Under The Moon Over You is a demo but it already sounds fully formed and radio-friendly. Its moody, atmospheric sound, with a sprinkling of slow jazzy piano, suits the lyrical content which is about trying to deal with emotions after a break-up. I find it a shame it was left off the standard album but can see why as, despite its status of being a demo, musically it’s quite different from the rest of the album.

Lyric: Don’t know where to go / If I go at all / Tongue-tied to a lamppost / Losing what I love most / Over you

 

Moving on to the second studio album, The Last Temptation Of Chris, the opener Come On Down is a good example of the wordsmith’s knack for storytelling and capturing relatable situations people can find themselves in. Come On Down is a fine, mid-tempo slice of folksy-rock that tells of a relationship that’s gone sour due to one half’s mismanagement of their own finances. I’m old enough to appreciate the subtle nod in the lyrics to the old British game show, The Price Is Right, whose host’s catchphrase was “Come on down!” This is the first album where Chris works closely with Boo Hewerdine, songwriter and singer with English rock band, The Bible.

Lyric: She lent me so much money I could have bought a yacht / But now I’m in the dog house I went and spent the lot

 

On My Own I’m Never Bored is the fourth track from The Last Temptation Of Chris and explores the idea of seeking contentment in solitude. Co-written with Boo Hewerdine, it’s a catchy, country-tinged, foot-tapping song. The lyrics sound optimistic and there’s a sense of breezy hope in the music, especially in the chorus.

Lyric: On my own I know I’m safe / I have no need to misbehave / And deep within I have a faith that keeps me tuning in / Each frequency will zing just like a chord

 

If I Didn’t Get Where I Am plays it safe for a debut with a set of laidback, folk-pop tunes, and The Last Temptation Of Chris builds on the confidence of having established a solo career, then third studio album, Cashmere If You Can, heralds the inclusion of a more eclectic, pop-rock sound. One of the stand-out tracks for me is Like I Did. This is an engaging little number where Chris compares himself as a younger self to how his own kids behave (He lays in bed, like I did, so how can I complain?). With a blend of staccato strings, reliable piano and quirky synth, it has a great energy to it. Listening to the track, you may notice an omission of the refrain “Like I Did” after the line about his daughter falling in love, which is the only time this happens in the song.

Lyric: And the wheels turn a few degrees / Nothing’s really changed / Life still looks deranged from each other’s point of view

 

Passion Killer, co-written with musician and composer Leo Abrahams, is a quirky pop-rock song about the frustrations that come from having kids in the house when you and your other half want to get a bit amorous. Full of honesty and wit, it’s no doubt something that many people can relate to!

Lyric: Down the hall they’re wide awake / You know they’ll hear the bedroom shake / So you turn over and hold your shape

 

The last track on the list from Cashmere If You Can, Goldfish, is an effective duet between Chris and guest singer Kathryn Williams. A folksy, gentle sound accompanies this tale of infidelity after a woman discovers a message on her husband’s phone and decides to leave, taking their goldfish with her. We get the point of view from both the wife and the husband. The first time I heard it I was reminded of the earlier duets of the Beautiful South who were no strangers to clever wordplay and witty lyrics, themselves.

Lyric: He came back home to see that there in the goldfish bowl / His phone was breathing bubbles, a lonely-looking soul

 

The last three tracks are all from the Pants album (2018), currently Chris’s last solo studio album. Round The Houses, the opener, has an interesting vaudeville sound to it and contrasts nicely with the lyrics which lament the change in fortunes of the singer’s career. This track and a few others from the album originally featured on Fancy Pants, a 2016 album by Chris and Boo Hewerdine (see above video), which was written for a proposed musical.

Lyric: In this house there is no stage / And in this house they’re all amazed / To see how far I’ve fallen

 

The penultimate track, Flat, has another good contrast between the music style which is ‘chirpy’ and the subject matter (when depression hits). The narrator informs us that even a seductive Brigitte Bardot, or a collaboratively-minded Bob Dylan, wouldn’t be able to improve the way he’s feeling today. Ably-assisted by Kathryn Williams on chorus backing vocals, this is a great little song with a nice slice of humour.

Lyric: Even if Brigitte Bardot walked into the room / I would hang my head down to my hips / Even if she said “I’d like to sleep with you” / I’d turn away and eat my fish and chips

 

 

We now come to the last track of this Toppermost and I’ve decided to include Sobriety. When I first heard this song, I couldn’t think of the style of music I was hearing, so I called it the “Shimmy” song – I’ve since learned it’s in the Bossa Nova style. It’s a catchy number and one of the highlights from the Pants album. Chris Difford can be very autobiographical in his lyrics and in this one he paints an honest picture of struggling with sobriety over the years.

Lyric: I sobered up and saved myself / From darkness and retreat / Each day was like a chapter / In a book I’d learnt to read

 

I’m not sure if Chris has plans for any more solo releases. This being the 50th anniversary of Squeeze, I know there’ll be two new albums from the band – one of songs they wrote back in the early days but never recorded, and a second album of brand-new songs. So regardless of whether there’s another Difford album in the future, it looks like we’ll get to enjoy his creative labours for a little bit longer.

 

 

 

 

Chris Difford official website

“Some Fantastic Place: My Life In And Out Of Squeeze”
Chris Difford – Weidenfeld & Nicolson – 2018

Chris Difford Songwriting Retreat

The Official Squeeze Website

Packet of Three: Squeeze, Difford & Tilbrook songbooks

Toppermost #1,006: Squeeze

Chris Difford biography (Wikipedia)

Gayle Ramage is a writer and a keen guitarist which keeps her out of mischief. More info can be found at her website. See also her Toppermost on Glenn Tilbrook.

TopperPost #1,101

1 Comment

  1. Paul H
    Jun 19, 2024

    This is great Gayle, thank you! I was a “fairly passive” Squeeze fan during their successful years, but for reasons I cannot really remember, I really got into Chris and Glenn’s solo albums in the early 2000s and saw their respective solo shows often even briefly having the chance to sing with Chris on one song which is still a dinner party story. I am very happy you have done such a great job talking about his solo albums which I think are amongst his best work, and I REALLY want to thank you for referring me back to the demos on the deluxe versions of “I Didn’t Get Where I Am”. I always loved TightRope and since Chris rarely sung it live, it’s fabulous to discover Cathy Come Home. Thank you! And very best of luck with your writing in the future

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