April 11, 1997 GOLDMINE #436

10cc : A Pure Injection Of Pop

Original Article By Dave Thompson


Chapter One : Eric Stewart in Air Gun Revelation!!!


10cc’s last album, 1996’s Mirror Mirror, might not have been a massive hit, but there is no doubt that it certainly re-established the band’s credentials amongst the most collectible British bands of the last 30 years. At least two internet sites currently offer reasonably complete 10cc discographies; at least one all-encompassing band biography is in the works; but most telling of all, dealers all over the country report an upsurge of interest in the work of bands who might otherwise have remained mere footnote archives forever: The Whirlwinds, the Mockingbirds, Frabjoy and The Runcible Spoon. All three boasted one or more future members of 10cc in their ranks.

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, which featured another (guitarist Eric Stewart, born in Manchester, January 20, 1945), enjoyed two hits packages in recent times, while barely a month passes without someone reviving another old song by Graham Gouldman (born Manchester, May 10, 1946): he might have made his name as 10cc’s bassist, but his fame rests on the string of indelible hit singles he penned through the 1960s, a role call which only began with the Yardbirds, the Hollies, Herman’s Hermits.

10cc’s own back catalog has been revived on CD, with reissues and compilation albums now outnumbering the band’s actual releases, while the intervening years have seen I’m Not In Love, their 1975 worldwide hit, not only return to the UK chart in its own right, but also win covers from artists as disparate as Red Red Meat and the Pretenders. The original, meanwhile, has just become available on a bonus stacked remastered issue of the album from which it came, The Original Soundtrack.

Add to this the video work of drummer Kevin Godley(born Manchester, October 7, 1945) and guitarist Lol Creme (Prestwich, September 17, 1947), a canon which stretches from the Police and Duran Duran to U2 and the “Three-tles”; Eric Stewart’s mid-1980s work with Paul McCartney; and McCartney’s own contributions to both 10cc and Godley/Crème’s recording career, and clearly 10cc’s hold on the collector has a long way to go before it’s exhausted. Indeed, although their days as a genuinely creative force may now be behind them, there is little doubt that at the height of their powers, 10cc could (and did) lay very real claim to being one of the most important British bands of their era.

The four albums which the original quartet recorded between 1972 and 1976 bristled with an inventiveness and talent that the passage of time has done little to diminish. 10cc was a trademark of the very highest quality; and although the two basic units which emerged from their 1976 break up never did equal their former achievements, both the “new” 10cc, and Godley and Crème still went on to record some magnificent music.

10cc’s roots lie in the northern English town of Manchester, a city which has constantly been at the forefront of British pop. Today it is Oasis who carry the city’s banner; half a decade ago, it was the Happy Mondays; before them, New Order, who in turn sprang out of Joy Division. And then there was the Smiths, whose own vocalist, Morrissey, would subsequently pay his own tribute to 10cc when he recorded Graham Gouldman’s East West. Gouldman himself adores the version.

“Morrissey’s East West to me, is the definitive version,” he says. “It was always a very Mancunian song; it was about being away from Manchester, not being away from London or Amsterdam or Rome, it’s about being away from Manchester, and somehow there’s something about his voice which is not overtly Mancunian, but I heard that and I was really knocked out by it.”

Gouldman originally wrote the song for another local band, Herman’s Hermits, and it was they, through the 1960s, who swept all before them from a Mancunian base; the Hermits, the Hollies and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. (And Billy J. Kramer. And Monkee Davy Jones.) Of the three, it is the Mindbenders who history has worked the hardest to reappraise; not because their output was in ay way inferior to that of their contemporaries, nor because they were markedly less successful. It is because, when you think of the Mindbenders, you think of just one song… “when I’m feeling blue, all I have to do, is take a look at you…”

Carole Bayer [Sager], the American songstress who penned those immortal lines (with co-writer Toni Wine), later looked back and admitted, A Groovy Kind Of Love features some of the most cringe-making rhymes in popular music history. But it’s the biggest song she ever wrote, providing talents as disparate as Phil Collins and former Mud vocalist Les Gray with sizable hits, and though the Mindbenders’ version was not the original rendering, it remains the definitive. “Anytime you want to, you can turn me onto, anything you want to…”

A Groovy Kind Of Love, of course, was far off in the future when Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders first emerged out of apprentice telephone engineer Glyn Geoffrey Ellis’ daydreams of becoming a successful pop performer. Rechristening himself Wayne Fontana, after Elvis Presley’s drummer, D.J. Fontana, Fontana’s first band was the Jets, a staple on the Manchester circuit through 1961-62, but one which was doomed to failure. According to legend, the original Jets broke up when Fontana and bassist Bob Lang alone turned up for the most important audition of their young career, at the famed Oasis club. Fontana hurriedly pressed a couple of other local musicians – bystanders in the bar – into service: drummer Ric Rothwell and guitarist Eric Stewart. Stewart was already an old hand on the Manchester music scene.

“I had a wonderful air rifle, which all young boys of about 14 seemed to be into, and while firing it, I actually put a slug through a neighbour’s window,” Stewart recalls. “He threatened to take my head off, so I went to a secondhand shop on National Road, in Manchester, and swapped the air rifle for a really battered old acoustic guitar. I didn’t actually even know how to tune it up. Somebody showed me how to tune it and that was wonderful. Suddenly there were chords that actually worked!” He played with a couple of Manchester bands, Gerry Lee and The Stagger Lees, and then joined Johnny Peters and The Jets. That was still his regular band that evening at the Oasis.

Wayne asked me would I sit in and just dep for him and do three numbers. We’re all doing these same songs like Zippity Doo Dah and Johnny B. Goode and Hello Josephine. Then I came offstage and went to the coffee bar, and that was it as far as I was concerned. Then Wayne came in and said “Jack Baverstock, the guy from Philips, wants to give me a recording contract but he wants the guys who were on stage with me to be in the group. Do you want to join my group?” I said “Yeah, I’d love to”. So we had a recording contract straight away.”

Renaming the band after Dirk Bogarde’s then-recently released hit movie The Mindbenders (Fontana, of course, was allowed to keep his name!), the quartet’s first release, in June, 1963, was a cover of one of the afore-mentioned stage favourites, Fats Domino’s My Girl Josephine, re-titled Hello Josephine. It was not a major hit, peaking at #46, but according to Stewart, “in Manchester it was a big deal. We could get a lot more money for shows because we were a chart act. It was a big accomplishment.” Two further singles, For You, For You (October, 1963) and a cover of the Diamonds’ Little Darlin’ (February, 1964) were not so successful, but the label did not lose faith. After all, what sort of headlines would “Fontana Drops Fontana” make? The band plugged on, and in May, 1964, their version of Ben E King’s “Stop Look And Listen” made #37. Again it was a tiny drop in the ocean but this time the Mindbenders were able to capitalize upon it. By early fall, they were riding the Top 5 with a spellbinding take on Major Lance’s masterpiece of incoherence, Um Um Um Um Um Um.

The song had been brought to the band’s attention by the Rolling Stones’ manager, Andrew Loog Oldham: The Mindbenders and the Stones frequently crossed paths as they toured the country, and a certain friendship had developed between the two groups. With Oldham producing, the Mindbenders recorded the song at The Stones’ regular haunt in Denmark Street, London. Then confident that the legendary Loog’s Midas touch would bring them untold riches, they hurried the acetate round to Jack Baverstock at Fontana. He threw it away. “He said that he could do a much better version than that,” Stewart says. “And threw the acetate disc across the room, breaking it. We did rerecord it, but the two versions were about the same.”

As was standard at this time, single success swiftly wrought the opportunity for the Mindbenders to spread their wings further; with their second EP, titled after the hit (and featuring a spellbinding version of Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”), then a full-fledged album, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders. As was also standard at this time, it was recorded in one day, crammed into a schedule which included their first major British tour, supporting Brenda Lee.


Chapter 1

Eric Stewart In Air Gun Revelation!!!

Chapter 2

Graham Gouldman In Wrong Studio Revelation!!!

Chapter 3

Graham Gouldman In Songwriting Technique Exposé!!!

Chapter 4

The Runcible Spoon… What Exactly Is It?

Chapter 5

Strawberry Puts The ‘Hit’ In ‘Shit’!!!

Chapter 6

So That’s How They Got The Name…

Chapter 7

A Million Dollars Buys A Lot Of Loyalty!!!

Chapter 8

Strawberry Studios South… Now You’re Dorking!!!

Chapter 9

I Said ‘You’ve Got To Be Joking Man, It Was A Present From Me Mum’!!!!

Chapter 10

Headline Writer In ‘Stuck For Words’ Shock!!!

Chapter 11

Sometimes Having Wax In Your Ears Can Be A Good Thing

Chapter 12

And They Still Don’t Give A…