As a song-writer there are so many songs that inspire you, songs that make you love them for what there are but hate them for reminding you what you can never reach, that I could blog daily but never list sufficiently. But, and in no particular order (despite the obligatory numbering), I’ll give it the occasional go.
First out of the metaphorical hat, a song from the best song-writing duo to come out of London since Jagger-Richards. Yes, even better than Chas and Dave. I’m talking about Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook, the beating heart of Squeeze, and in particular, ‘Tempted’.
The song features, of course, that vocal by Paul Carrack, like warm toast on a winter’s morning; thick toast with oodles of butter on.
The soulful intro, setting it up nicely. The lyric starts, unromantic, practical:
‘I bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a flannel for my face’
What song starts with a shopping list? More to the point, what great song starts with a shopping list?
‘A hairbrush, pyjamas, new shoes and a case‘
Glenn Tilbrook, guitarist and composer with Squeeze, would have been well-practised at receiving lyrics from bandmate Chris Difford that didn’t fit the norm and making gold-dust from them; this would have been no different. A lyric stuffed with bare glimpses of images and places going by.
‘Passed the church and the steeple, the laundry on the hill‘
Difford wrote the lyric on the way to the airport, about to go on tour and all too familiar with the temptations that would bring. Who needs looks when you have an electric guitar and a clutch of hit singles?
‘Tempted by the fruit of another
Tempted but the truth is discovered‘
A young man about to leave a love familiar, a young man with a screaming libido that drives him to do things he’ll know he’ll regret but is only a little keen to resist.
‘Your body gets much closer, I fumble for the clock
Alarmed by the seduction, I wish that it would stop‘
Then the regret, the blunt stab to kill off the sickening guilt from the airport’s duty free.
‘I bought a novel, some perfume, a fortune all for you
But it’s not my conscience, that hates to be untrue‘
Despite the song not even tickling the top 40 anywhere it slipped into almost every mixed tape I ever made and remains high in the musical consciousness of anyone around in 1981 who possessed even the merest sniff of good taste.
Quintessentially British, more specifically South London, the quality of Tilbrook and Difford songs transcend regional parameters. That said, ‘Tempted’ felt different.
It’s soul-tinged production from Elvis Costello and a voice such as Paul Carrack’s; surely inspired by the likes of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, give the song more of a universal reach which help explain why it has grown and reached further down the years. But then great songs have a habit of doing just that.