Coffee Tune Tuesday, Coffee Song #1: Squeeze, Black Coffee In Bed
Coffee Tune #1
Squeeze was the first band that I discovered without the help of adults. I remember my brother, sister, and I busting out of our urban Catholic grade school and walking through the streets of downtown Lexington, KY. We took turns lugging a boom box on our shoulders blasting Squeeze, REM, The B-52’s and the occasional Def Leppard. #rebels. We would often wander over to the local new wave clothing boutique and hang out with all of the strange and artsy people who came in and out of the store. We would spend hours at the local indy record store flipping through records that we would occasionally buy and that would sometimes blow our minds. Bands like Squeeze, X, The Talking Heads, Elvis Costello and The Attractions, and The Plimsouls– all bands I listen to to this day.
In Squeeze’s heyday critics felt Glen Tillbrook and Chris Difford were writing the best pop songs since The Beatles. That seems like a tough place to live. Regardless, they did put out a string of really great records in the eighties and capped them off with their “Singles, 45’s, and Under” collection that was a sweet pop music victory lap. “Black Coffee In Bed” was originally released on 1982’s “Sweets From A Stranger”. ’82 turned out to be their breakthrough year in the US. Black Coffee was one of two big hits– with “Tempted”– that made a big splash on MTV.
I love the first lines of the song– “There’s a stain on my notebook where my coffee cup was.” You can see the poor dude sitting in his boxers at the kitchen table smoking a cigarette and writing piney song lyrics. A lot of songs talk about coffee as an aside. I like the way Squeeze puts the coffee cup (and its stain) front and center as symbol of loss.
Difford and Tillbrook’s harmonies are tight. I think they are up there with The Beatles, Big Star, Gram and Emmy Lou, New Pornographers and some of those people. They use harmony as an instrument as opposed to something more incidental. Back in the day I learned to sing harmony in my bedroom listening to Squeeze records and emoting. My poor family.
“Black Coffee In Bed” is a great song. I thought maybe I would give it a SCA cupping score equivalent, but thinking about that, it seems kind of lame. The quality of a song, like a coffee, is measured differently by every person according to personal taste. All that considered, “Black Coffee” tastes pretty good to me.
What do you all think?