Glenn “Casey Stengel” Tilbrook thinks, Can’t anyone here play this game?
Glenn “Casey Stengel” Tilbrook thinks, Can’t anyone here play this game?
I don’t know what to make of the Anchor and Hope in Charlton, UK.
They have made some form of pact with the Devil and they get Glenn Tilbrook to play in there like a regular old busker. Am I missing something? I mean, I’m missing a lot, I understand that, but have I lost my perspective? What is he doing in this place, and what am I doing someplace else?
[Earlier on Sippican Cottage: Inside Baseball and the Beatles]
(Earlier on Sippican Cottage: Another In The Long List Of Songs I Don’t Like That I Like )
There appears to be a magical barroom somewhere in Great Britain where you can stumble in on an odd night and find Glenn Tilbrook, along with a motley assortment of other musicians — and some people just dragged out of the audience at random — in the corner, banging away at whatever song comes to mind. Glenn Tilbrook was the driving force behind Squeeze, if the name doesn’t sound familiar.
When I started playing music for money, I more or less stopped going to musical performances. I really couldn’t derive any enjoyment from them, and simply fidgeted until I could bug out early. The only exceptions were performances that were so unlike what I was doing that they didn’t even seem like the same thing. I went to La Boheme with my wife, for instance. That’s another galaxy removed from pop covers in the corner of the pub, so it didn’t count. There’s no way my lizard brain could transmogrify my presence just behind the orchestra pit while How Cold Your Little Hand Is soared overhead into the urge to be facing the other direction and helping out.
Another exception to attending other musicians’ performances was Glenn Tilbrook, although it didn’t start out that way. A fellow musician and friend dragged me to a geriatric music tent in Cape Cod to see Squeeze, and it turned out they’d gone bust and were touring as two buskers instead of a power pop band. It was there that I came to the realization that Glenn Tilbrook is the most talented busker in existence. Every venue on this planet with a liquor license should have entertainment like this in the corner all the time, and never does any more.
I was the worst of the bad musicians I generally played with. But the last bunch I ended up with did entertain people, without exception. Whoever showed up got a show from us. Four people or four thousand, we DID THE SHOW. Glen Tilbrook DOES THE SHOW. It’s nice to see.
That YouTube video is the first time in a long time I’ve seen THE SHOW being performed anywhere. It’s almost exactly the format for what we used to do. None of us were a shadow of the singer or player that Glenn Tilbrook is, but the bones of the thing are there. We’d drag people from the audience, and make them play a note or sing a word, or pretend to sing along, or just dance around with us and have fun. We talked to them, and they to us, and if a pretty girl and her tubby friend said they like Brown-Eyed Girl A LOT, we’d play it two times in a row to make them happy, because what’s the harm?
This is sort of uncanny for me to see:
Twenty years ago, my friend Paul, the stand-up drummer, would halt our show, and mockingly threaten our audience: “If you don’t start dancing, (Sippican) is going to sing Tom Jones!” He’d repeat the threat mordantly from time to time, like reeling in a fish, and then we’d trot it out if things got quiet. Stevie would throw me a wig, and the two guitars and drums would start vamping It’s Not Unusual. There was an ubiquitous TV commercial back then, featuring a bald guy with a muskrat glued to his head, selling weaves or wigs or something, called the Hair Club for Men, with the tag line: “I’m not only the Hair Club president; I’m also a client.”
So then I’d stuff the wig partway down the front of my shirt, and Paul would say that I was not only the President of The Chest Hair Club For Men, I was also a client, and then I’d sing an amusing version of It’s Not Unusual — amusing being the only kind of version of it I could sing, because I never could sing, really — and when we’d come to a hard pause at the end of each line, I’d bow my head like some exhausted Fat Elvis while running my fingers suggestively through my nylon chest hair, and wordlessly lever my wrist to point the microphone I was holding towards the audience, and without exception, no matter whether the audience looked like a nursing home or a biker bar, guys and girls, young and old, deaf and dumb, mean or jolly, drunk or sober, labor or management, barfly or barkeep, every manjack of them would roar in unison: BA DA DA DA DA DAHHHHHHH.
It was glorious. I think I improved our approach to the thing when I started stuffing a second wig down the front of my pants for the full Tom Jones effect, but then again, I’m not sure it was possible to improve the effect of the original.
Something approaching perfection in a pop combo. Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers.
I heard a little while back that Glenn was in the market for a skinny bass player, but he never called. Look what he had to settle for. I mean, she plays OK, but I’m much prettier.
Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze still sings for his supper every night.
My Pop Singer Is Superior To Your Pop Singer
Glenn Tilbrook makes me happy and breaks my heart.
He wrote 154 pop songs better than anything that came out of the radio for the last thirty years. He plays better than anyone that just plays, sings better than anyone that just sings, and then does both at the same time. And he’s amusing; an entertainer. It’s a rare thing, and getting scarcer all the time.
I never go to pop music shows. It had to do with performing music for money. You just don’t know how to behave in an audience anymore after you do it for work; you forget how to enjoy yourself. My good friend Steve dragged me to the last show I saw, quite a while ago, maybe a decade, which was the first one I’d seen in ten years, too. It said Squeeze on the tickets, but it was just Tilbrook and the little croaking fellow, Chris Difford, playing like buskers in a tent. It was amazing, and a little wistful. Tilbrook was, as near as I can remember, the most entertaining person I’ve ever seen perform, and that’s saying something.
I’m not privy to any inside information, but they appear to have lost all their money late in their lives, as so many in the music business do, and now they have to sing for their supper like anyone else does. They re-recorded all their hits, note for note, a while back, which points to ownership by others, and an attempt to gain a little money by selling stuff they own the rights to again. I know how the music business works, and they were probably trying to hide their money from the taxman, and their accountant hid it so well that only he could find it. Something like that.
Now Tilbrook is out and about, here and there, on his own, or with a little combo he calls, amusingly, The Fluffers.
He can still write a pop song, can’t he? I used to play the bass and sing the Squeeze song Pulling Mussels From A Shell, and it was the most difficult thing I ever had to play and sing at the same time, and that includes Motown songs. Pop songs are more sophisticated than they appear sometimes, and rock anthems a whole lot shallower.
After I poked around YouTube awhile, and saw videos of Tilbrook wasting away in glorified General Business gigs. (I’m not sure if that term is still in use. It meant “Wedding Band” hired for non-wedding gigs back when I worked) I said to my wife: I feel sorry for Tilbrook a little. He has all this talent, and it looks like he’s lost everything, and he has to work harder than he did when he was young; why doesn’t anyone help him? How can the world waste all that ability?
“And you feel sorry for him?”
Paul 2.0 got the upper hand, John Lennon 2.0 just croaks in his midlevel monotone harmony as usual, Ringo 2.0 is taller and less jovial; but in a million zillion years George Harrison 1.0 could never learn to play the guitar like that.