Squeeze founding member and guitarist Chris Difford writes their song lyrics. Says Chris: "This lyric was inspired by my picking up my notebook one day and seeing a coffee stain on it, which inspired the first line. It was a very vivid image for me and inspired this song of loss and regret."
Glenn Tilbrook, who is also a founding member of Squeeze and writes music for their songs, sang lead on this track. On many of the Squeeze songs from the '70s, Tilbrook and Difford would sing together, with Difford an octave lower. In 1981, Paul Carrack joined the band and sang on their hit "Tempted." Carrack departed before the Sweets from a Stranger album, and Tilbrook has handled lead vocals on most Squeeze songs since.
Tilbrook, who can be a little hard on himself, says of this song: "It's far too ponderous. It could never be a fast song, but it certainly had the opportunity to be slightly perkier. My vocal is mannered and not very good at all, and I can't stand to listen to it now. It was influenced by what Paul Carrack had brought to the table but without Paul's voice it didn't sound right. We recorded a great demo with Gus Dudgeon but we really f--ked it up for the record, which was entirely down to me. This is one of the few Squeeze songs I'd happily re-record because I think I could do a better version." (Read more in our interview with Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze.)
Elvis Costello and Paul Young (of "Every Time You Go Away" fame) sang backup. Costello produced some of the songs on Squeeze's previous album East Side Story, including "Tempted" and "Labeled With Love." Difford and Tilbrook sang on Young's 1985 album The Secret of Association.
MTV launched in 1981, and for a few years their playlists were heavy with British bands who had been making videos for some time, simply because there wasn't much else available (a notable exception is Devo - check out the Songfacts for "Whip It). Squeeze made a rather bizarre video for this song, showing the band looking moody and artful in perms and leather jackets. It did get some airplay on MTV, but failed to break the band in America.
Anthony from New York, NyWell reading some of what's written in the "songfacts" section I think Glenn Tilbrook is being a tad bit harsh on himself. It's a good song that's sung perfectly for the type of song that it is. Its easy to see this is a song about a rocky & difficult relationship that had ended & the singer expresses the pain & remorse of said relationship. Most of us have been there sad to say. Again this song is well written & perfectly sung & paced IMO anyway. Nothing to be ashamed of where you have to come out & say that you "cant stand to hear it" any longer but if that's how the man feels about it, I have to respect it, even though I feel differently than he does about it. Good song.