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Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)

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"Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)"
Single by Squeeze
from the album Argybargy
B-side"What The Butler Saw"
Released9 May 1980
Songwriter(s)Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook
Producer(s)John Wood, Squeeze
Squeeze singles chronology
"If I Didn't Love You"
"Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)"
"Farfisa Beat"
Audio sample

"Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)" is a song by the band Squeeze. First released on the 1980 album Argybargy, it received positive critical reviews, peaked at No. 44 on the UK Singles Chart, and became one of Squeeze's most popular songs. The song is about singer and guitarist Chris Difford's experiences at a holiday camp.



The song "Pulling Mussels" was written by band members Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.[4] According to critic Chris Woodstra, it is an "observation of the British working class" and "offers a series of detailed snapshots of the different walks of life on a seaside holiday in Leysdown-on-Sea."[5]

The lyrics are based on Difford's own experiences. Rob Sachs interviewed Difford and wrote that the song "is about a memory he has from his time spent at a British holiday camp in, a budget resort type of place that includes basic accommodations, entertainment, and other facilities."[6] Difford came up with the song title "one fine day writing the words in a New York apartment".[7]

The lines "They do it down on Camber Sands / They do it at Waikiki" refer to a dune system in East Sussex, England, and the Honolulu, Hawaii beach, respectively.[8] The phrase "pulling mussels" was created by Difford and refers to the use of fingers to stimulate the female sexual organs.[9]

The song features a piano solo by keyboardist Jools Holland.[10] This is preceded by a guitar solo from Glenn Tilbrook, who said of this solo, "I think that's an obstinant (sic) solo—just to stick on one note for half the solo. That’s my personality all over. ... It's like a series of false starts."[11]



"Pulling Mussels" was the first track on Squeeze's album Argybargy, released in February 1980. The 7" single was released in April 1980 with the B-side "What the Butler Saw."[12]

The song has also been included on several of Squeeze's compilation albums, such as Singles – 45's and Under, Greatest Hits, and The Big Squeeze – The Very Best of Squeeze.[12] It was re-recorded for the 2010 album Spot the Difference.[13] A live version was included on A Round and a Bout.[12]



Critical reception


"Pulling Mussels" received positive reviews from music critics. It has been variously described as "a timeless cult classic", "a brilliant slice of pop genius", "a pop classic of the new wave era", and "a piece of pop mastery".[5][12][14][15] In 2007, Anna Borg wrote, "The build up before the chorus always gets me, even 25 years later."[16] Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the song as "a vivid portrait of a seaside vacation where Difford's vignettes are made all the more vivid by Tilbrook's bright, invigorating pop."[17] Cash Box called it "one of the most refreshing pop tunes to come out in some time."[18] Record World called it a "challenging yet totally consumable pop-rock [tune]...with stunning guitar/keyboard breaks."[19] It is regarded as one of Squeeze's catchiest songs.[20]

Chart performance


The single debuted on the UK chart at No. 52 on 10 May 1980. It stayed on the chart for six weeks, peaking at No. 44 on 24 May.[21]

Though the song did not chart in the United States, it became a hit on the country's college radio stations and in new wave clubs.[22]

Live performances


"Pulling Mussels" is a "crowd favourite" at Squeeze concerts,[23] and as of September 2020, it is the band's most played song in concert.[24] The band performed the song on Saturday Night Live on 20 November 1982.[8] In 2001, it was the finale of a Glenn Tilbrook show in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.[25] Squeeze performed "Pulling Mussels" as their encore on their 2010 tour.[26][27]

Track listing


7-inch vinyl[12]

  1. "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)"
  2. "What The Butler Saw"


Chart (1980) Peak
UK Singles[21] 44


  1. ^ Wagner, Vit (18 July 1988). "British band squeezed past glories into fast set". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  2. ^ LaBate, Steve (18 December 2009). "Jangle Bell Rock: A Chronological (Non-Holiday) Anthology… from The Beatles and Byrds to R.E.M. and Beyond". Paste. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  3. ^ "New Wave Music Songs". AllMusic.
  4. ^ "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b All Music Guide to Rock (2002). Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 1065.
  6. ^ Sachs, Rob (2010). What Would Rob Do? John Wiley and Sons. pp. 38–39.
  7. ^ Jackson, Tom. "Chris Difford on his new memoir, and his memorable songs". Sandusky Register. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  8. ^ a b Mann, Brent (2005). Blinded by the Lyrics. Citadel Press. p. 39.
  9. ^ Riley, Tim (1999). Hard Rain. Da Capo Press. p. 210.
  10. ^ Digital Audio and Compact Disc Review (1985). WGE Pub. p. 44.
  11. ^ Fanelli, Damian (May 2012). "Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze Talks Gear, Guitar Solos and Future Plans". Guitar World. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e Strong, Martin Charles (2003). The Great Indie Discography. Canongate U.S.
  13. ^ "Spot the Difference – Squeeze". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  14. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Glenn Tilbrook". MTV. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  15. ^ The Rough Guide to Rock (2003). Rough Guides. p. 999.
  16. ^ Borack, John M. (2007). Shake Some Action. PowerPop. p. 81.
  17. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Argybargy – Squeeze". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  18. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. 14 June 1980. p. 18. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  19. ^ "Single Picks" (PDF). Record World. 21 June 1980. p. 14. Retrieved 20 February 2023.
  20. ^ Pareles, Jon. "Rock: Squeeze, At Garden". The New York Times. 17 November 1987. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  21. ^ a b "Official Charts Company – Squeeze – Pulling Mussels". OfficialCharts.com. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  22. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Squeeze". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  23. ^ Augusto, Troy J. "Squeeze". Variety. 1 December 1993. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  24. ^ "Squeeze Tour Statistics". setlist.fm. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  25. ^ Damas, Jason. "Glenn Tilbrook". PopMatters. 15 November 2001. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  26. ^ Larsen, Peter. "Squeeze still a sharp blast from the past in L.A." Archived 18 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine. ocregister.com. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  27. ^ Perry, Andrew. "Squeeze, Hard Rock Café, London, review". The Daily Telegraph. 21 October 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2011.