Some Fantastic Place – The Chris Difford Story
From the moment I first heard Argy Bargy, I was struck by Glenn Tillbrook’s soulful delivery of Chris Difford’s clever wordplay. Difford’s prose weave stories that turn ordinary moments in time into poetry. For a full appreciate of his lyrical genius (and some really great stories), Difford gives us his autobiography entitled Some Fantastic Place.
From the early chapters covering his childhood through post-Squeeze, we’re given a behind the scenes glimpse of his teenage years (Difford was once a skinhead) and his close relationship with his brothers. He places an ad in a shop window looking for a guitar player. It would be weeks before someone would respond. When the answer came, it was through Maxine, Glenn’s then girlfriend and the subject of the Squeeze song “Some Fantastic Place”. Then, things would really take off.
At times, Some Fantastic Place feels like a cathartic exercise as the Squeeze lyricist opens up about his alcoholism, failed relationships and inability to be honest with himself and others. And then there are the frequently amusing anecdotes about life in the studio or on the road.
Our first date was in New Jersey at The Lighthouse in Bethlehem on 23 May 1978. We literally played to one man and a dog. We were forced to play a second set by the owner. The dog left.
Not Who We Thought He Was
John Cale was a major influence of the band and a hero of sorts. Cale’s methods taught Squeeze to be more inventive in their approach to music. Cale also managed to hide the band’s commercial strengths. Acting as producer on their first record, he had the guys throw out all of the material they’d written in favor of brand new songs with lyrical topics assigned by the master himself. Cale was incoherent during much of the recording and was too drunk to help with the production of “Take Me, I’m Yours” – a stroke of luck as it would turn out. With Cale’s influence all but nullified, it would become the album’s hit single.
I was beside myself. My hero from the Velvets was coming to hear us play….Cale walked in, sat down and asked us to play for him. We raced threw twelve new songs. He fell asleep. We prodded him but he wouldn’t wake up so we moved the PA closer to his head and ploughed on. Still no life.
Then Jools grabbed a marker pen and wrote “I am a c*nt” on his forehead. We woke him up and sent him on in a cab to his hotel. The next day he came back to the room. The writing was still clearly visible on his head though it was a little faded.
In the stories that follow, Difford has some very interesting things to say about his encounters with Elton John, Brian Ferry, and former band manager Miles Copeland.
Miles (Copeland, long time Squeeze manager) now manages a troop of belly dancers. I think that says everything we need to know about karma.
Above all else, the reader is struck by Difford’s genuine affinity for his writing partner, Glenn Tilbrook. The author understands that despite the obstacles that he’d overcome, there are many things that inexplicably went right. And he’s clearly grateful to be where he is today.
Get Your Copy of Some Fantastic Place
Back in 2004, Difford and Tilbrook gave us Squeeze: Song by Song. While it was heavy on analysis, it gave only a brief background narrative. Now, with Chris Difford’s Some Fantastic Place, we have a more complete picture, a context for each of these songs that makes them all the more meaningful.
Make no mistake. Some Fantastic Place feels very much like the diary of an alcoholic. And while it’s both amusing and startling, I can’t help but think Difford was holding back just a little bit. Still, Some Fantastic Place was a terrific read and well worth picking up. Get your copy of Some Fantastic Place at Amazon or any number of fine book sellers.