ABC2 has been showing episodes of the UK series Songbook recently. The programmes run for an hour and feature singer/songwriters discussing and playing some of their tunes. The series is presented by music journalist and author of Guitar Man and Song Man, Will Hodgkinson. I caught three of the shows, featuring David Gray, Mick Hucknall of Simply Red and Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze appeared together.
Will Hodgkinson looks a little like a throw back to the 70′s type of journalist/presenter and has a very laid back, almost sleepy interview style.
Mick Hucknall discussed his hits and the ups and downs of his career. He was asked if there was a formula for writing hits and he said there was and admitted to becoming a bit of a slave to fame and sometimes writing songs specifically to get radio play. Glenn Tilbrook said pretty much the same thing, adding that in the early more successful part of their career their singles were often his favourite songs, but later, when they were striving for airplay, the album tracks were more appealing, as they were not written with that purpose in mind.
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You get to see some of the personality of the artists in this show. Hucknall came across a little as the tortured artist, never quite happy, either with, or without success. Difford and Tilbrook came across as quite down to earth blokes, with a good sense of humour and obviously enjoyed each others company. The David Gray interview was really the strangest. I began to wonder if he suffered with some form of autism. I don’t know much about the condition, but I understand that people with it can be very intelligent, bordering on genius, while having problems with social skills. Gray never looked directly at the camera and never looked the interviewer in the eye and once asked a question he would ramble on a long answer at quite a fast talking pace. I actually found it a little uncomfortable to watch.
All of these artists have sold millions of records, but Squeeze had only two hits in Australia, I believe, where they were called UK Squeeze. Presumably, due to a name clash with a local outfit. But I have never heard Aussie Squeeze. I saw Glen Tilbrook in Fremantle several years ago, doing a solo show. There were probably less than 20 people in the audience, which I found hard to believe for a man that has played some of the biggest venues in the world. But he proved a trooper and got the audience well involved in the show, even dragging them along outside around the streets of Freo while he continued to play and sing.
Difford and Tilbrook played one of their Australian hits on the Songbook episode and one of my favourite songs, Tempted. But it has now been pulled down from Youtube. The original version of Tempted featured Paul Carrack sharing vocals with Glenn Tilbrook. Carrack was also the voice on Ace‘s How Long and on some of the hits by Mike and the Mechanics.
Anyhow we have had to replace that clip with Up the Junction from Songbook, the only track we could locate.
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By Max Power