I can’t think of 10cc without thinking of Squeeze who, I think, traversed much of the same melodic ground.
The initial members of the band that developed into 10cc were Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley, Graham Gouldman and the fabulously named Lol Creme. Most of the guys had been childhood friends in Manchester, England. The four of them did not initially form 10cc but got there in a roundabout way, working together in various combinations.
In 1964 there was a band that Gouldman* was in named the Whirlwinds that did Lol Creme-written songs. They then became the Mockingbirds which included Gouldman and Godley and went nowhere. Godley and Creme got together in 1967 and did a single which caught the attention of impresario Georgio Gomelsky who, among other things, managed the Yardbirds.
Godley and Creme tried to make a go of it in the late ’60’s but never really got anywhere. Eric Stewart had been in Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders who had a few hits, notably 1965’s “Game of Love.” Gouldman joined this band but by then it was too late. Whatever magic they had was now gone.
Stewart became a partner in the now-defunct Strawberry Studios in Stockport, Manchester. (Named for “Strawberry Fields.”) Stewart said, “It was a very tiny studio with some stereo equipment and the walls lined with egg boxes to provide sound insulation. There was a makeshift sort of control desk tied together with sellotape and string, but it was good enough for what I wanted to do, and it was the only studio near Manchester.
What I wanted to do was to make some demos of some songs I’d written – put them down myself and then try to sell them. At that time I was infected with the idea of becoming a recording engineer and building a studio where I could develop my own ideas as to what a studio should be like.”
All four members of what would become 10cc were by now recording there but it hadn’t yet occurred to them to form their own band. What they did wind up doing – one suspects the primary reason being money – was start churning out bubblegum tunes for a purveyor of this stuff named Super K Productions. Artistic integrity-wise, it is not their finest hour. But one has to pay the bills I suppose. It did enable them to build the studio up.
Godley said, “We did a lot of tracks in a very short time – it was really like a machine. Twenty tracks in about two weeks – a lot of crap really – really shit. We used to do the voices, everything – it saved ’em money. We even did the female backing vocals.”
The turning point for them was backing Neil Sedaka on the albums Solitaire (1972) and The Tra-La Days Are Over (1973). (Yes, both albums are 100% Neil Sedaka backed by 10cc.) Gouldman said, “It was Neil Sedaka’s success that did it, I think. We’d just been accepting any job we were offered and were getting really frustrated. We knew that we were worth more than that, but it needed something to prod us into facing that. We were a bit choked to think that we’d done the whole of Neil’s first album with him just for flat session fees when we could have been recording our own material.”
Rejected initially by Apple Records for not being commercial enough, what would become one of the world’s most commercial pop bands then got signed by UK Records on the strength of a doo-wop parody called “Donna.” Even though they sometimes denied the origin of the name 10cc, it was well-known – and they later admitted – “that the band name represented a volume of semen that was more than the average amount ejaculated by men, thus emphasizing their potency or prowess.”** (I thought the average male ejaculation was “Oh, Fuck!”)
Their first album, 1973’s 10cc, included “Donna” and one of my favorite dopey songs of their, “Rubber Bullets.” (There was some controversy about this tune as the British Army used to use rubber bullets on protestors in Northern Ireland. The guys say the tune wasn’t inspired by that but they could definitely be accused of insensitivity.)
Let’s face it – you can tell these guys have some bubblegum on their shoes, but damn their shit is catchy:
That song was written by Creme, Gouldman, and Godley. But the band had an unusual make-up songwriting-wise. Stewart and Gouldman wrote more of the pop stuff; Godley and Creme the more experimental, “artistic” side. This division was one of the contributors to their ultimate split-up.
The single and album did well enough that they put out a second one in 1974 called Sheet Music. The guys were recording all their stuff at Strawberry Studios and were a totally self-contained unit, writing everything, playing, singing and producing.
This album contains another one of my favorites of theirs, “The Wall Street Shuffle.” Slowly, 10cc’s reputation was building as a more-than-good pop group:
Every band that sticks around long enough has their breakthrough album and for these guys, it was 1975’s The Original Soundtrack. This album included the goofy-but-catchy “Life Is A Minestrone” and the chart-topping “I’m Not In Love.” You couldn’t walk three feet in 1975 without hearing the latter. Stewart apparently wrote it to respond to his wife who said he didn’t tell her he loved her enough. So the lyrics of the song cleverly refute the title:
This is an incredibly well-produced song whose beginning sounds remarkably similar to Hall and Oates’ 1973 hit “She’s Gone.” Stewart spent three weeks recording Gouldman, Godley and Creme singing “ahhh” 16 times for each note of the chromatic scale, building up a “choir” of 48 voices for each note of the scale. The woman who briefly speaks “Be quiet, big boys don’t cry,” was the office secretary. Axl Rose was a big fan of this tune.
By 1976, the disparate writing of the two teams began to expose a rift. Godley and Creme left the band to pursue other projects and the other two guys added drummer Paul Burgess, essentially becoming a Dan-like duo. 1977’s Deceptive Bends yielded the hit, “The Things We Do For Love:”
And there’s one more tune you need to hear, which is the terrific reggae number “Dreadlock Holiday,” from 1978’s Bloody Tourists. The guys say some of this stuff actually happened:
The four guys eventually reunited for an album in 1992 called … Meanwhile but the world had moved on and they haven’t put any albums out since 1995. All the guys are still around and musically active. Will there be a 10cc reunion someday?
*Gouldman wrote some great tunes for others notably “Heart Full of Soul,” “Evil Hearted You,” and “For Your Love,” for the Yardbirds; “Look Through Any Window,” and “Bus Stop” for the Hollies; and “Listen People” for Herman’s Hermits.
**How, exactly, do they know this one wonders.
Source: Wikipedia; band web sites