Squeeze legend meets music students

Beth Crouch (piano), Holly Davies (singer) and Maddy Smith (ukulele and vocals) with Chris Difford. Picture by Jim Holden
Beth Crouch (piano), Holly Davies (singer) and Maddy Smith (ukulele and vocals) with Chris Difford. Picture by Jim Holden
  • Beth performs on piano for prolific songwriter
  • Singing ‘Cool For Cats’ with the man who wrote it
  • ‘You can’t put price on access to this kind of talent’

Chiddingly student Beth Crouch met one of the legends of British pop – and then performed a special composition for him.

Squeeze frontman Chris Difford shared a lifetime’s experience of hit songwriting with 20 young Sussex musicians during a workshop at Lewes Old Grammar School.

The man who helped write the soundtrack for the Seventies with hits including Up The Junction and Cool For Cats joined the pupils for an intensive day-long songwriting session before dashing off to London to lay some new tracks of his own.

Chris, who with Elton John is currently mentoring emerging talent The Strypes, offered to coach a mixed class from Years 9 to 13 when he heard of music teacher Mark Orchin’s connection with Blues great Buddy Guy.

“During one of the modules, I tell the children about my experience playing in Buddy Guy’s Blues bar in Chicago. Chris got to hear about it and said he wanted to meet me … it went from there,” said Mark.

“Several of the parents nearly fell off their seats when they heard Chris Difford was coming in!”

During the day, pupils worked up their own ideas for songs, performing five of them to an invited group of family members followed by a once-in-a-lifetime chance to accompany Chris singing Cool For Cats.

Afterwards Chris paid tribute to Mark’s musical leadership and congratulated the students on their compositions.

He said, “Today has been really enjoyable and I’ve been totally inspired by all the music pupils.

“School should be fun and today certainly has been. Tonight I’m recording some new songs in London and I’d love to take you all with me!”

Mark added, “Chris is a giant of the music industry and continues to write and produce at a prodigious rate. You really can’t put a price on having access to this kind of experience and talent.

“He was very generous in sharing his songwriting skills, but he also talked more widely about the music industry, which inspired several of the children to think about it for the first time as a potential career. We are extremely grateful to Chris for making the time for us and we hope we can welcome him back again soon.”

Chris, who lives locally, will be appearing at Brighton Dome on September 28, as part of a Squeeze album tour. His autobiography I Never Thought It Would Happen is due out next year.

Chris has written lyrics for more than 30 years, most notably in partnership with Glenn Tilbrook. The two were primary members in Squeeze. According to Chris, he stole 50p from his mother’s purse in order to put a card in a local sweetshop window advertising for a guitarist to join his band, although he didn’t actually have one at the time. Tilbrook was the only person who responded to the advert and they met for the first time shortly afterwards.