East Side Story – Squeeze (1981)
By now you know that I can’t resist a list. So after spending a month counting down my favorite 90s albums, I’m turning my attention to the preceding decade.
First, a disclaimer: My record collection narrows as I go back in time. The 80s spanned my life from age 8 to 18, not exactly prime territory as far as disposable income goes. So I don’t have the breadth of material to choose from that I do for the 90s and beyond. Many of my 80s albums were bought much later, as I sought to fill in the catalogs of artists I discovered mid-career.
That said, in addition to perusing my own album collection for candidates for this list, I also checked out several online lists to see what I might be missing. And for the most part, I don’t think I’m missing a whole lot. Maybe a few albums by the likes of Tom Waits and Sonic Youth that I’ve never heard, but who’s to say they’d make my list if I did hear them?
Another disclaimer: This is a list of personal preferences, not an attempt at capturing the decade’s music in terms of cultural significance. You might be shocked to not see Michael Jackson’s Thriller, an 80s touchstone that shattered records and changed the face of popular music. That’s because, while I enjoy Thriller, I happen to enjoy 20 other albums more. This is a list of albums I enjoy.
Kicking things off is a record I enjoy immensely, Squeeze’s 1981 gem East Side Story. Originally planned as a double album, with each side produced by a fellow musician the band admired (Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Dave Edmunds and Paul McCartney), the set was eventually stripped down to a traditional album produced by Costello (with Edmunds handling those duties on one track).
You can see the skeleton of the grander plan, as East Side Story stylistically jumps from New Wave to country, R&B to rockabilly. And while it would have been interesting to see them explore each of those styles in greater depth, the scaled-down result makes for a real carnival ride of an album.
This record featured one of the band’s biggest hits, ‘Tempted,’ on which new band member Paul Carrack performed the lead vocal at Costello’s suggestion. As much as I love that song, I refuse to feature anybody today but Glen Tilbrook — one of my favorite pop vocalists.
I’ll pick you up with a little luck, all prim and proper.
Shaven legs and calls to fred,
It all depends o’ alright then, I can not stop her.
The makeup box has always got,
Ever such a lot of odds and sods, in there to offer.
She needs paints to make her face,
And make her late again and again
So I’ll knock her
The tick is tocker.
Mumbo jumbo words to say,
Are you coming out,
Coming out to play?
With a broken nose on a sunny day,
I would bet,
I would bet,
None of these girls would ever care,
Or get upset.
Or get upset.
Short and fat with a fishnet hat,
And a hungry cat in a nice new flat, with her scrabble.
Sits by the phone when she’s all alone,
And on her own it’s a mental home, full of babble.
Writes with charm to uncle farm,
With a broken arm in a broken barn, feeds the cattle.
She hears the hens as she takes the pen,
And it’s now and now it’s then,
She would saddle.
The dip is dabbled
Kissing curls and boyish girls,
For all the pearls in all the world, wouldn’t have me.
If I had oil and money to spoil,
I’d mix with loyal and I get some royal, little lassie.
I’m up at nine down the line,
To watch the time ’till half past five.
I wish they’d sack me
She’s at home the milkman’s home
To have a farm and seeds to sow
It makes her happy
The chip is chappie.