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The piano man’s Grand Tour Jools Holland’s greatest architectural hits – from 14th-century Nuremberg to the 18th-century Gothic Revival. By Louise Flind

Blog | By Louise Flind | Sep 28, 2023


Anything you can’t leave home without?

I’m a very keen tourist, and I used to take John Michell’s Sacred England and the National Trust Handbook.

Is there something you really miss?

Quite a lot of musicians take their own pillow. Noel Gallagher takes his pillow and if the pillow in the hotel is more comfortable, he swaps it.

What is your favourite destination?

The late-medieval world in Flanders and Germany.

What are your childhood holiday memories?

My father took me to Paris when I was 14. I had long, black, oily hair and I’d had it turned into an embarrassing mullety bouffant. He took me to this little jazz club, and there was a noted American jazz pianist playing. I had a play, and my father said, ‘Do you think he’s any good?’ This old pianist said, ‘He’s not going to do anything else.’

Do you come from a musical family?

Both my grandmothers played the piano and probably the first thing I heard was my mother playing Careless Love Blues when I was about four.

At what age did you first sit at a piano?

When I was about eight, I heard my uncle playing the boogie-woogie.

Did you teach yourself the piano?

Essentially, yes. I became obsessed with trying to figure out the boogie-woogie.

Did you do any music at school?

I was the only person who picked music, and the elderly teacher liked only classical music. He showed me the theory of music. So I could read chords.

What was your first big break with Squeeze?

We’d start playing in a pub and the landlord would give us money. That turned into a group who were signed with a label, toured in America – the things you dreamed of. We got a gold record and Gilson Lavis, the drummer,

said, ‘Great. I can put it over the damp patch in my sitting room.’

How did you join Squeeze?

There was an ad in a paper-shop window.

Are the Squeeze songs very much about the background of the band? I think all great music is an expression of what the person is.

Do you prefer performing live to television?

You get a confidence on stage and knowledge of how to engage with an audience, and that gives you the confidence to do the stuff on television.

Do you prefer performing solo to playing in a band? The most effective thing is with a big band, but, equally, if it’s just me, the piano and Ruby Turner, that’s really great too.

What’s the secret of your TV show Later... with Jools Holland that’s run since 1992? It’s unbelievable. The show is a mix of things with the great legends of music, people on their way up and contemporary stars. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a million viewers watching and afterwards millions more on YouTube.

Do you have intensive rehearsals before your show? I’ve never done that in my life.

How do you look after yourself on tour?

I’m very nosy, and I like walking around

at twilight when people have their lights on. In Europe, I always have a bicycle.

What is the most exotic place you’ve ever played in? We played in the Dubai Jazz Festival and there was a sandstorm – if you opened your mouth, it was filled with sand...

And the least exotic?

Early on, Squeeze played the Hope & Anchor in Islington and there were three people and a dog watching, and one by one the people left and then the dog left.

What’s your favourite building and your favourite architectural style? The 18th-century Gothic Revival anywhere in Europe, and Nuremberg – the high-Gothic, late-14th-century

stuff there.

Who would be your dream person to play with? Betty Smith and Bach doing the string arrangements, John Lennon playing rhythm guitar and T-Bone Walker playing lead.

What’s your favourite food?

When I was small, Nan’s roast dinner. And in very grand hotels or houses, you get something similar.

Do you speak any languages?

No – it’s my biggest regret.

The strangest place you’ve ever slept?

In Leverkusen, we couldn’t get into a hotel. We stayed in a centre for Hare Krishna people and all the seats were orange. I slept very well.

Do you like coming home?

Always – the same way I’m delighted to get out of church...

Do you have any travelling tips?

If a car doesn’t have a spare wheel, don’t buy it.

Jools Holland is on tour in August, November and December. Joolsholland.com