Memories of interviewing magical musical double acts

glenn tilbrook stephen foster

Glenn Tilbrook reunited with Foz at BBC Radio Suffolk in 2017 - Credit: Stephen Foster

Broadcaster Stephen Foster recalls interviewing brilliant songwriting duos, in his latest On Air in Suffolk column.

When Ipswich faced Charlton in the play-offs in 1998 I must have been the only Town fan who bought a copy of our opponents’ CD release. I covered the second leg at The Valley for BBC Radio Suffolk but my top priory when I arrived was to get my hands on Athletic’s latest club song, written and recorded by a favourite group of mine - Squeeze.

I have been a big fan of the south Londoners’ music since the very early days when Jools Holland was in the line-up. The driving forces behind Squeeze, then and now, are the songwriting legends Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.

I have been lucky to interview both of them on numerous occasions but it’s always been with just one of them. The pair haven’t always been the closest of friends down the years and seem to prefer to do their own thing when they’re not in the public eye on Squeeze duty.

I first met Glenn at the Ipswich Regent in 1989. The group were on tour promoting their album Frank and I soon sensed a frostiness between him and Chris backstage, so much so I suggested to Glenn we go into the car park outside the building to do the interview, leaving Chris to his own devices.

It’s always been the same - it’s been one or the other but never the two of them together. I have the greatest admiration for the pair who have masterminded several classic albums and singles.

Squeeze have been a big part of my life and I’ve seen them in concert many times. They never fail to disappoint and it was great to see them sell out their three most recent appearances at The Regent.

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It shouldn’t really come as a big surprise that they’re not exactly joined at the hip. Songwriting partnerships are often just that - a union of two or more people bringing their individual skills to the table with the same endgame - composing a successful record. 

Glenn Tilbrook and Stephen Foster at Portman Road

Squeeze star Glenn Tilbrook laughing in the rain with Foz during half time at a game with Charlton at Portman Road in the late ‘90s - Credit: Ipswich Town

I recall chatting to The Everly Brothers’ keyboards player Pete Wingfield before the duo’s last ever show in Ipswich. I was really surprised when he told me they never shared a dressing room on tour. “Why would they?” he said. Good point well made Pete.

There are countless double acts in many different walks of life who don’t live in each other’s pockets. As long as they can get along when it matters most then there’s no real need to be best buddies 24 hours a day.

Another example of a famous pair who didn’t always sing from the same song sheet is Status Quo’s Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt. They had many a fall-out but together on stage or in front of the TV cameras they were united in the name of the band that had made them rich and famous.

As with Squeeze, I’ve interviewed the two Quo front men many times in my radio career and again it’s always been a chat with one or the other. They created their magic together on stage but in my experience they preferred to stay apart the rest of the time.

I love observing body language. It’s fascinating to watch and I’ve had lots of opportunities to see famous double acts at close quarters. I’ve not witnessed any big bust ups (more’s the pity) but there have been times when I could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.

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