How Squeeze seized the keys to their back catalogue

Glenn Tilbrook and co decided to reclaim songs such as Up the Junction – by recording them all over again

Re-recording your own songs … hmmm. Where do I start?

If one of my children was doing a life sentence in prison for a crime I knew they hadn't committed, I would do my best to get them out, no matter what. Having the recordings of my songs owned forever by someone else, with no chance of getting them back, is a little bit like that. So re-recording them is, thanks to a contractual loophole, a little bit like breaking that proverbial child out of prison. Those songs are free now, and back where they belong.

Of course there is a commercial element to be considered, which is that when the songs are deployed by Universal we only see a small percentage of the income. They might argue that they took the initial risk financially and are now reaping the rewards – that's business. But we have no control and most of our records, besides the hits, aren't available either on CD or on iTunes.

We understand that we come low on the label's list of priorities, but it's frustrating not to be able to have any kind of say when it comes to our own material (and they won't let us license them back, which is something we've tried to do on several occastions). So without moaning, and accepting certain commercial and legal facts, the best solution was for us to do this.

To think that we could now actually earn something decent from the use of our songs in TV ads or movies is refreshing. And the idea that we could actually know when they're going to be used (and even maybe have a tiny degree of control) is delightful. Would we undercut Universal on price? Absolutely! This is an invitation to ad agencies and music supervisors around the world: we are open for business! (Please visit for contact details.)

From a technical point of view, recording a load of our songs again was a labour of love that ended up taking three years of blood, sweat and tears in the studio between tours and solo projects. But – apart from the one time I stared at my studio floor for four hours, despairing at how things could have got so bad – I loved nearly every minute of recording the album.

If you are an artist or a writer, you'll understand. Think about this: in 1994, John Fogerty of the legendary Creedence Clearwater Revival was taken to court by the publishers of his back catalogue (who were also his manager and label back in the day) on the grounds that one of his new songs sounded like an old one. What, an artist who sounds like himself? Luckily, he won (though he had to pay his own legal fees). That the case ever came to court effectively suggests a song becomes nothing more than a piece of property to those who own it, while the person who wrote it or recorded it becomes a small inconvenience.

The copyright debate is a valid one, and it has to be said that the lobbyists from the record companies are doing a fairly good job of trying to get music copyrights more universally recognised and respected – albeit for reasons of greed. However, the fact we do not (and never will) own the recordings of some of our best work is simply not fair. This is our small contribution to the copyright debate.

We can't own the original recordings, but we can own flawless re-recordings that are the next best thing. We're fortunate in that our songs have outlived both the original recordings and the restriction on re-recording them – and that we were financially able to have another go. Most bands don't get that lucky.

Art over commerce, commerce over art? Who cares. We've broken Up the Junction out of prison, and now it's all ours.


Glenn Tilbrook

The GuardianTramp

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