Chris Difford: It’s a bit of a Squeeze
In his champagne years, Chris Difford lived in an eight-bedroom farmhouse. Now he’s in a mews flat – but he still has wallspace to hang the platinum disc
I moved to Hove three years ago, having spent 17 years on a farm in Rye. It was difficult to say goodbye to that place, but then it was amazing, a Crown Estate property. For £600 a month, we got a 700-acre farm. I loved it; who wouldn’t? The Crown Estate was very encouraging when we wanted to make improvements to it. You’d say that you wanted to decorate a certain room, and they’d give you the money for it. We put in a recording studio, and it’s still going strong today. Crown Estate property was effectively land that Henry VIII took from the Church, but when Labour came in 11 years ago, theydecided to sell it all off. We were given first refusal on our farm, but it was priced at £3.5m, so…
This flat couldn’t be more different. For a start, it has just two bedrooms while the last property had eight, but I’ve since split up with my partner [with whom he has two daughters, 16 and 12], so it suits me fine. I’m happy to rent, but the truth is I’m renting right now mostly because I don’t have the finances to put down a sufficient deposit on the kind of property I think would suit me.
My days of having loads of money, you see, are rather behind me. We had our golden-egg period, during Squeeze’s heyday, years ago, and everything was marvellous. The problem was, I cracked it open. How? By overspending, by being frivolous. I did like to spend money: on Concorde, fancy hotels, Maseratis. I went through a lot – enough, basically, for it to be a pain today. Do I regret it? I don’t think you should ever regret anything in life. Was it stupid? Possibly, but I had fun while it lasted. What I’m trying to do now is lay another golden egg. That’s the plan, at any rate.
After Rye, I did move back to London for a while to manage Bryan Ferry – lovely man – but then I met a young lady from Brighton, and ended up coming down here instead. She lives in her house nearby with her two children, and I live here. The arrangement suits us. I’m a very tidy person, but Emma [who works as PA to Norman Cook and Zoë Ball, who both live locally] could live in a skip, quite frankly. She does stay over sometimes. Do her children come as well? No, no they don’t.
When I moved in here, I was lucky because it had just been redecorated, so all I needed to do was bring my furniture, my paintings and myself. The sofas have been put together by a lovely lady in a shop around the corner. She reupholstered them in this lovely red velvet, and she’s now making me a suit to match.
The paintings are by a local artist, Julie-Anne Gilburt. All the local bistros display her work, but none are like these [which resemble Jackson Pollocks]. In fact, these were actually her studio floor. I told her I wanted it, so she took it up for me. If you look closely, you’ll see paperclips, cigarette butts, all sorts of things. A local restaurateur then saw them, loved them, and put one up as well. But when Gordon Ramsay paid him a visit, he threw it into the sea, saying that you’d never get people to eat there with that kind of stuff on the walls.
I work from home these days, in my studio downstairs. I write all my lyrics on my computer here in the front room, then Boo [Hewerdine, Difford’s songwriting partner], an engineer and I go into the studio [the size of a small bedroom] and lay down all the tracks. It’s terribly convenient.
I like Brighton and Hove. It’s changing all the time, and getting better. Ideally, I’d love to buy this flat but the landlord isn’t interested in selling right now. Never mind, I’m just relieved he’s a nice guy. The first landlord I ever had was back when Glenn [Tilbrook, the guitarist in Squeeze] and I were sharing. He became convinced that we were spies and had been planted in his house by the KGB, and that all the wires and cables for our amps and guitars were actually transmitting information about him back to them. He ended up being put away, poor bloke.
My current situation, couldn’t be more settled, and I’m grateful for it.
‘The Last Temptation of Chris’ is released on 7 April, and Chris Difford will be touring the UK from 3 to 27 April
Chris Difford was a founding member of Squeeze, one of the best-loved acts of the Seventies and Eighties. He has since written for other artists, and is about to release his latest solo album, The Last Temptation of Chris. He is 53, and lives in a mews apartment in Hove, in East Sussex
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