Friday, January 05, 2007

"Tempted" / Squeeze

One day I was in a music store buying a turntable (which tells you how long ago this was -- 1981, to be precise) and to show off his equipment, the clerk put on this record. Suddenly the whole store was filled with Squeeze's delicious pop vibe; as I looked around, I saw every customer in that store start to grin and groove. For just a moment, this bunch of strangers was drawn together by the same bit of music, just like magic.

Knowing that this single was released during Paul Carracks' stint with the band -- that's him on lead vocals -- makes it extra cool for me (Carrack later played with Nick Lowe, and you know how I am about anything associated with Nick Lowe). My guess is his keyboard technique led to the soulful syncopation that makes "Tempted" different from Jools-Holland-era Squeeze tracks like "Pulling Mussels From the Shell" or "Goodbye Girl." That funky beat may explain why this was Squeeze's only U.S. Top 50 hit; it sure was the first I ever heard of them. The lyrics, though, make it totally English -- as the singer packs his "case", he throws in "a flannel for my face," then drives out of a town that's quintessential British pastoral -- "Past the church and the steeple / The laundry on the hill." For me, the British references are a plus, but that's just me.

Anyway, the British incidentals aren't important; what this happens to be is a sexy song about an illicit affair. (Which makes that ripe, languid rhythm even more essential.) Just sink into that chorus: "Tempted by the fruit of another / Tempted but the truth is discovered / What's been going on / Now that you have gone..." Feel that tension, the way those "tempted" lines hammer away at one pitch, then swoop low for "what's been going on" -- this reeks of adultery, and guilty secrets, and danger, which makes that sweet English village he's ditching extra poignant.

In the third verse, we jump on into bed: "At my bedside empty pocket / A foot without a sock / Your body gets much closer / I fumble for the clock / Alarmed by the seduction / I wish that it would stop." I'm riveted by that "foot without a sock," and the pun of "clock" and "alarmed" -- Squeeze's lyricist, Chris Difford, knows that God is in the details, and what the details add up to is an almost cinematic visual. It's a jumbled, wrought-up scene, because this guy isn't entirely cool with sleeping with this woman -- but he's doing it, inn't he? And that pelvis-shifting beat, the craving moan of Carrack's singing, makes you want this affair as much as he does.

Did everybody in the record store that day pick up all these nuances? Nah. They just liked the teasing beat, the bright melody, the ripe vocals. Good enough. But it's 25 years later, and that turntable got retired long ago...and I am still listening to this song. And loving it.


IƱakink said...

Nice song! But don't tell blamo you like it... ;)

Julie said...

Great song. It's on my shuffle now, sounding as fresh as the day it was released.