Probably anyone between the ages of 40 and 60 would be surprised to learn that Squeeze’s most familiar song didn’t even crack the top 40 in the US, much less the top 20. Still lingering on album rock radio and later on a movie soundtrack (Reality Bites), on TV commercials and even the Grand Theft Auto video game, it seems it’s much more pervasive now than it was brand new back in ’81.
But the relative pervasiveness bothers me none. “Tempted” is a delicious helping of blue-eyed soul from the other side of the Atlantic, as good as anything Hall and Oates were making during this time. And Paul Carrack, the primary vocalist on this song, is someone I think of as a kind of Britain’s answer to Daryl Hall.
Carrack bounced around bands and made a tentitave start to a solo career after Ace broke up, making his mark for being the brains and voice behind Ace’s one hit, “How Long” (#3, Hot 100). He came to Squeeze in 1981 to replace the daparting Jools Holand at keys, just when this UK new wave act was hitting its stride. Most lead vocals were handled by principal songwriters and guitarists Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford — Tilbrook a lot more so — but except for the second verse (sung in tandem by Tilbrook and producer Elvis Costello), the reins for “Tempted” were handed over to Carrack.
Nothing wrong at all with Tilbrook’s voice, but Carrack added a tinge of toughness to match that tough beat and the vintage soul of his B3 sounding organ. And everyone remembers Difford’s endearing matter-of-fact lyrics recounting a trip to the airport that everyone can sing along to:
I bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste
A flannel for my face
Pajamas, a hairbrush
New shoes and a case
I said to my reflection
Let’s get out of this place
Carrack was gone from the band by the time the year was up and later sang the hits for another band, but Squeeze was on its way thanks to Tibrook and Difford’s catchy but mature and funky little number, brought to life by England’s ultimate journeyman singer.