Squeeze: “Annie Get Your Gun”
Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, the primary songwriters in Squeeze, were often hailed back in the early ’80s as the modern-day Lennon and McCartney, in various reviews of their music. I was a big fan of their early albums, up through (but only partially including) 1982’s Sweets from a Stranger, but even loving those albums as much as I did I hesitated to place them quite in that league, although they were certainly among the best of the Beatles’ direct musical descendants. For a few years, they were one of the most creative songwriting teams in popular music, and their early albums still hold up all these years later as some of the catchiest and smartest pop of the last 40 years. Although Squeeze was often lumped into the New Wave genre, that’s misleading, as they’re more guitar-based pop than that tag would imply (albeit with plenty of great piano and organ provided by Jools Holland — who has since gone on to host the excellent “Later with Jools Holland” music show).
For those uninitiated to Squeeze, other than probably having heard the ubiquitous “Tempted” (which I don’t actually consider to be among the best of their best), their compilation Singles: 45’s and Under is one of the best greatest hits collections you could ever hope to own. Although their first few albums are all well worth hearing in their entirety, the quality of their singles alone makes for a nearly perfect listen from beginning to end. When they released Singles: 45’s and Under in 1982, they had actually just broken up; they reformed in 1985 with a somewhat revamped lineup and released several more albums over the next few years, but none of those later albums came anywhere near what they’d done previously. But they did put out one last parting shot of greatness on Singles: “Annie Get Your Gun,” which never appeared on any other album. It’s a worthy end to their greatest period, with great lyrics, energetic singing by Glenn Tilbrook, and full of the supreme catchiness that few other bands could make look as easy as Squeeze did. The hyper-strummed guitar riff is just one chord, but what a great hook it is, and the call-and-response chorus is inspired. If Squeeze had never reformed, “Annie Get Your Gun” might have been seen as one of the strongest final singles that any band had ever gone out on. In any case, it was still a fantastic way to end their great 1978-82 era.