Once hailed as one half of the “new Lennon and McCartney”, Chris Difford now combines a successful music career with a new title – “man of memoirs”.
Harrogate fans of Squeeze’s co-songwriter will get the the chance to sample both strings to his bow when the south east London-born Difford brings his The Acoustic Book Tour Live to the Warehouse Recording Co on Wetherby Road for two shows on May 12-13.
Its an intimate venue, made famous over the past 18 months by legendary music broadcaster Bob Harris, and it's perfect for what is a very intimate tour of songs and stories.
Speaking in those clipped, measured but pithy tones, Chris said: “I played in a village hall last week which held 150 people.
"The PA was tinny. There was hardly any lighting but the crowd were very enthusiastic. It’s a type of event I enjoy playing but I also enjoy being at the Royal Albert Hall with Squeeze. There’s something to be said for both."
Called Chris Difford: Some Fantastic Place – My Life in and out of Squeeze, the tour brings to life parts of his well-received autobiography of the same name published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson to widespread acclaim.
Chris admits it’s not the type of show he would have contemplated in the days of classic hits like Up The Junction, Take Me I’m Yours, Labelled With Love and Cool for Cats.
He said: “People who come have mostly read the book. They want to hear me tell stories as well as playing the songs.
“But telling stories on stage isn’t something natural to me. It used to be terrifying.
“It’s been a learning curve for me over the years.”
At the age of 60, the Ivor Novello award-winning Difford switches easily between solo albums and Squeeze's current reunion which has flourished since he renewed his musical partnership with Glenn Tilbrook on the From The Cradle To The Grave album in 2015 which started life as the soundtrack for a BBC 2 sitcom about writer Danny Baker’s early years in London.
Like Baker's sitcom, Difford nostalgic and witty book was inspired by his working class roots in Greenwich Park where he grew up in the 1960s, an era when a sense of community came naturally.
Even the music scene was different in those long-gone days.
Chris said: “It was very much a golden era in the 1960s and 70s, in music certainly, which has never been repeated.
“People cherished music then in a way they don’t particularly now. It was harder to access music then. Today it’s there in an instant. People don’t collect records and follow the charts like they did.”
Difford will be playing a Saturday night show when he visits Harrogate and a Sunday lunchtime show, with a live performance by support act Arcelia and drinks from Whispering Bob’s Bar Americana.
For the peckish, Sunday's gig will even offer a Sunday roast baguette, courtesy of local food hero Andy Annat.
Difford proffers the idea that the timing of the lunchtime show on the Sunday means the lucky audience will still have the chance afterwards to pop into Sainsbury’s next door for a bit of shopping.
Still down to earth, still funny, it’s a sign of good character in a man who does his bit at Sir Paul McCartney’s music college – the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
Chris said: “It’s a fantastic college. It’s run by really great people. It’s added art to music.
“It’s not a factory like other performing academies. It doesn’t spit you out the other side. It’s tougher times for musicians but LIPA nurtures young people and their talent.”
I’m pleased to hear that but what is McCartney like in person?
Chris said: “He is gentleman. He is the person that he seems to be.
“Not many people work as hard as music as he still does. But what else would you expect Paul McCartney to do?”