Thursday, October 6, 2016

Interview with Chris Difford – 1988

On two separate occasions, I had the privilege of interviewing one of my musical idols, Chris Difford of Squeeze. The story below is how the first one came about. The interview follows the story.

Squeeze was a British rock band that had their biggest success in the early 80s, though by 1988 they were having a comeback of sorts. I was a huge fan and always wanted to meet the band.

A couple of years before, I dated a woman who had pretty much met every musician she ever wanted to meet. She told me the key to it was never taking no for an answer. I should mention here that she turned out to be a bit of a stalker, which explains her success in meeting people who didn't really want to meet her. Nevertheless, she emboldened me and thinking of her words, I decided to try and interview Squeeze for my college newspaper.

The biggest snag of course, was that I didn't actually work for our college newspaper. Nor did I know anyone who was on the staff. Still, I figured that would be a minor detail that I could work out later.

I called A&M Records in New York and I told the publicity person I was interested in doing an interview with the band for Brigham Young University's Daily Universe. Note my brilliance in not claiming to actually work for the newspaper. (O.K., not necessarily brilliance. I was just worried they'd call the editor and verify my lack of credentials.)

To my surprise, delight and relief, they did no such thing. Instead, the person on the phone started looking at schedules for an interview. I guess since it was a college newspaper, they assumed it would be a good place to promote the new Squeeze album and tour.

Unfortunately, the idea of a face-to-face interview was quashed right away. She never said why, but I know now it was because they were going to be shooting a video for a new single from the album up in Park City:

Instead, the publicist recommended I do the interview in advance via telephone. That way, we could publish on the day of concert. This would help to promote the new album and the local concert at the same time. I readily agreed and was given information about when and where to call. I was going to be interviewing Chris Difford from the band.

I think it's important to point out again that I didn't work for the school newspaper. Not even a little bit. But drawing inspiration from my stalker ex-girlfriend, I told the publicist that would work perfectly.

So armed with that information, I called the school newspaper and told them I had arranged an interview with a member of Squeeze. I explained that the band would actually be in town and that they requested that the article be published on March 2, 1988. 

To my astonishment, the editor thought this sounded like a great idea and agreed immediately. Now, I knew it was still possible that they wouldn't publish it, but I figured if that happened and I got any static for it, I would explain that it got bumped for something more pressing. I wasn't aware at the time how desperate for relevant content many newspapers can be. I guess the editor of the Universe also saw the appeal a band story would have for the paper's audience.

On a snowy day a few weeks before the show, I called up Chris Difford at his hotel. I had to use a code name which I guess all of the members of the band used when they toured. That way, they wouldn't be pestered by fans. Chris' code name was "Terrance Bag." I thought that sounded Dickensian, though that was probably because I'd never actually read any Dickens. 

The interview as it appeared in print is below: