10cc – More Potent Than You’ll Ever Be

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:

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

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.

Spotify link

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:”

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

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

27 thoughts on “10cc – More Potent Than You’ll Ever Be

    1. I will definitely check that out. I always like hearing the artists. There’s also a documentary online called “I’m Not In Love: The 10cc story.” I’m not entirely surprised this was a hit. I was working in an office at the time that always played soft-rock stuff like this, Fleetwood Mac, etc. Sometimes I’d work on the weekend and come in and turn it to a rock station. Then the manager from the plant (where it also broadcast) would come in and tell me to “turn off that pot-smoking music.” 🙂

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      1. He was probably right about the pot-smoke connection, but in my world, that’s a plus! It’s a soft song, but more intriguing and experimental than the Mac, I think. Closer in feel to Danny Kirwan-era than Buckingham/Nicks-era Mac.

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  1. 10cc is an interesting one – oftentimes a bit weird, yet quite brilliant at the time!
    I dig many of their songs: “Wall Street Shuffle” has a cool riff. “I’m Not In Love” is a very catchy ballad, which also received a crazy amount of radio play in Germany. And “Dreadlock Holiday?” Awesome groove! In fact, I haven’t heard this tune in a million year and will do so right now!

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    1. It’s interesting when you advise me what played (or didn’t) in Germany. I recall your saying that “Jump” was pretty much the only popular VH song there which is hardly even the sound they’re known for. I tend to assume what I hear in the States is what everybody is hearing but not even remotely true. Even the UK and US charts can be wildly different.”Dreadlock Holiday” is a great tune. These guys were (and are) tunesmiths for sure.

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      1. “Jump” was definitely the most played Van Halen song on German radio. “Why Can’t This Be Love“ also got radio play, if I recall it correctly. On the other hand, I don’t believe “Running With The Devil” or “Jamie’s Crying” did.

        BTW, I just finally watched that documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker.” A brilliant drummer, no question, but quite a disturbing personality. Ultimately, a quite lonely man, which is perhaps not surprising, given his behavior.

        I don’t even think he’s done many things deliberately. He just didn’t know any better. Kind of a sad story.

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        1. He does. It’s actually the documentary film maker, who visited him on his ranch in Africa he owned at the time! It happened at the end of the visit, though they also showed it at the beginning of the film!

          Baker’s ranch had a sign at the entrance saying “Beware Mr. Baker.” I suppose that explains the title.

          During the footage that showed him playing the drums – with Cream and other bands – he really looked like a madman!

          I think part of his behavior at the time this documentary was filmed was bitterness over the fact that unlike Bruce and Clapton, he supposedly hardly earned any money from Cream royalties. In fact, financial difficulties ultimately forced him to sell his ranch and the horses he had there.

          Despite his difficult personality, many drummers admired him. Even Bruce said he loved him, as did Clapton. I guess this all shows how damn good a drummer he was!

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        2. Air Force and just all over the place with the Spotify library. Lots of jazz and surprises. Thing is when Baker went to Africa it was not a safe place. Tells you the guys head space. I like the part when Winwood talks about Blind Faith. Ginger just kinda forced himself into the band.

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  2. Blimey this takes me back… all the way back to constantly spinning the 45 for Good Morning Judge – and it’s b-side Don’t Squeeze Me Like A Toothpaste – and whatever else my Dad had in his racks when I first got a stereo with a turntable back in the late 80s.

    I think Godley and Creme’s solo success was probably greater than that of 10cc even if the covers of their tunes (like Englishman In New York) were bigger hits their music videos remain great to watch

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    1. CB also mentioned Godley/Creme but I don’t know their stuff as much as 10cc. The band was far more popular in the States. And they were only well-known with ” Not in Love,” the others being random staples of FM. Funny you dhould mention “Toothpaste.” I’d never heard of it till I did my research and then listened to it because I liked the title. Again, Squeeze-like.

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      1. I’ve only recently started to enjoy Squeeze having “accidentally” paid attention to the lyrics on something. Very wry/dry humour that’s right up my alley.
        Godley and Creme perhaps most famous for “Cry” and it’s video along with those they made for others but worth checking out if you’re so inclined

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