Ever had a Squeeze fantasy? Chris Difford comes to your house and plays your favourite song? You fly to New York to see Chris and Glenn reunited? Mine was always hearing their unreleased songs. I was fascinated by the idea that you could have a band as brilliant as Squeeze and have an executive of the record company say “I don’t hear a hit,” and then have the cheek to suggest they go and record some more, write some better songs and make them a bit more catchy.
Universal Music Group is a big company, and I mean big. It makes Sony BMG look small, with a turnover the size of a small country. The original label for Squeeze, A&M Records, was bought by Polygram for $500 Million in 1989 and Polygram merged into Universal as part of Interscope. Big fish eat little fish. The Squeeze back catalogue is a tiny, tiny minnow, long swallowed by the biggest fish in the sea. Along the way, all the people who used to work with and for Squeeze have moved on, changed careers, got promoted. There are few people left in the industry who know their stuff, who recognise which singles were on which albums, who know which were hits and which were misses. (It’s easy – nearly all were misses.)
The CD market is a very, very tough market. Far eastern imports, bootlegs, illegal file-sharing and mp3 downloading coupled with pressure on margins from Internet retailers have all taken their toll on major record companies. The money’s not there to invest in new talent, and when it is, bands are dropped after their first album and forced to split for lack of sales and the loss of their record deal. Had Squeeze formed and released their first LP in the 21st Century, they would have been dropped after the failure of Bang Bang, they wouldn’t have been given another two decades to try to make it.
New bands are reacting by using viral marketing on the Internet, offering exclusive downloads from their own sites, releasing ringtones at the same time as their songs and becoming more accessible via blogs and in-store appearances. Major labels are reacting too. It’s no longer good enough to release just CDs for new albums there needs to be a limited edition live CD, or a CD and DVD combination, or a digipak with booklet, or a CD in a cloth-bound book. Similar changes are happening to the re-release market. Why buy a poorly produced re-release with no booklet when you’ve got the songs in perfect audio quality anyway? If you’ve ever seen the re-releases of Elvis Costello’s CDs, you’ll understand how much things have changed. There are sleeve notes by Elvis, all are double CDs with live tracks, demos and alternate takes. They’re simply an essential purchase, even for a casual fan. Universal recognise that. The same need to make it special applies to the Squeeze catalogue, with extra tracks and new sleeve notes and brand new graphics and unseen memorabilia. Which is where I come in. I’ve been working for the last six months on the Squeeze reissue programme. If your Squeeze fantasy is to hear some unreleased classics, then it might just be about to come true.
“Because dreams are made of this”