Squeeze in mainland Europe have never been big news. There was a spate of cancelled tours in the early Eighties that besmirched our reputation for reliability, and the invitations have been thin on the ground ever since. So when asked if we would play the Langeland Festival '94 in Denmark, our response was, 'You betcha'. We had been to Denmark only twice before, to play one-off gigs, so this one, we hoped, could be third time lucky.
The alarm bells should have rung when we agreed to play with no sound check and rented equipment, which is a bit like agreeing to go to a job interview in a borrowed suit that you don't know the size of and haven't seen before. But you know - put your best chin forward and all that. Anyway, we had nothing to lose: we have the sort of profile in Denmark that the Lars Lilhold band (playing in prime position at the festival on Friday night) enjoys in Britain.
The coach that had picked us up from the airport deposited us at our hotel early on Friday night, just enough time for a quick wash and brush-up before going down to the restaurant for supper. It was some time later that I noticed the tape they were playing at a subliminal restaurant volume.
I say some time later with authority. Half an hour after sitting down, without being handed a menu, I thought I'd go up and ask for one. The restaurant manager looked at me as if I'd asked him to sing 'The Lambeth Walk', and simply said: 'Why?' I mentioned, in a not at all impolite way, about being hungry, the half-hour delay and that we'd not even been offered a drink. His reply was simple and effective. He told me, in the manner of a headmaster dealing with a persistent and irksome troublemaker, to go and sit down and the waitress would bring us one.
Which I did. It was only about half an hour after that - drink-free and menu- less, naturally - that my ears fell upon the aforementioned music: the sound of Roger Whittaker's Greatest Hits. This was followed by Gilbert O'Sullivan's Greatest Hits. By a quirky twist of fate, these were the very two records that Chris Difford and I had exchanged in a particularly hostile round of present- giving one Christmas. Truly a night to remember.
The next day we were on stage at 5.30pm, with one and a half hours to prove ourselves. The sound onstage was bad and stayed bad. 'Manya tac' - phonetic Danish for 'thanks very much' - is what I say to the crowd after the first song, and it's about as animated as I get. There's a whole list of things to say which I've written out on cue sheets, but most of them remain unused. Having done enough gigs to recognise a dog when I hear one, I realise I should just ride it out and not try anything too drastic.
So why was I reminded of that moment in 2001 - a Space Odyssey when a bone is thrown up into the air and seems to hover motionless in space? Because at the end of the last song, I threw my guitar up into the air, searching for one redeeming moment of rock 'n' roll abandon. And I looked up at it, awestruck, as it hung motionless above me at the apex of its flight. But then it started on its return journey, in slow motion but gathering speed, and aiming straight for my head . . .
Still, if you're ever in Denmark playing in a band and are stuck for something to say at the end of your show, I can offer you this off one of my unused cue cards: E ha veir ut fantastishka taag for dee. I kell heura poor us, ve air (insert your name here), Tak four e aften. It should go down a treat.Reuse content