My Top 1000 Songs #142: Tempted

I've written frequently, both here and in my book, about the outsized role Squeeze's 1981 LP East Side Story played in showing me that the best new music wasn't getting played on the radio or MTV. Tracks like "In Quintessence" (my personal favorite), "Mumbo Jumbo," and "Piccadilly" were all wonderfully fun pop tunes that seemed perfectly designed for pop radio. But "Tempted" went even further, shedding the new wave/power pop elements of those other tunes for a wholly traditional (yet newly refurbished) Motown pop sound, aided immensely by Elvis Costello's production. And that this tune got zero traction in my suburban corner of the world (though it's caught on a bit in the decades since) tells me everything that's wrong with the unwashed masses.

The song also had a secret weapon in short-lived member Paul Carrack, who'd earned his journeyman blue-eyed soul credentials in British pub-rock band Ace (whose 1974 hit "How Long" I knew well from classic rock radio by that time). He joined Squeeze as keyboardist for East Side (and later briefly rejoined for 1993's Some Fantastic Place), and Costello pushed the band to let him take the mic on the track. I personally love frontman Glenn Tilbrook (who wrote the song's music, with co-leader Chris Difford writing the lyrics), and I like the song perfectly fine when he sings it; but there's no question that Carrack gives it the soulful heft that makes it stand out. (I'm also a sucker for the bit in the second verse where Tilbrook, Elvis, and Difford trade lines.) 

Of course, enjoying Carrack's vocal contribution doesn't detract from the song's showcase for Difford/Tilbrook's well-earned Lennon/McCartney comparisons. The melody is a wonder, with a chorus to die for; as are plenty of Carrack's simple yet evocative observational couplets ("I said to my my reflection let's get out of this place" is an all-timer for me).

Difford & Tilbrook duetting earlier this year: