April 11, 1997 GOLDMINE #436

10cc : A Pure Injection Of Pop

By Dave Thompson


Chapter Three : Graham Gouldman in Songwriting Technique Exposé!!!


Reservations aside, Gouldman’s career as an internationally successful songwriter was off and running, and the Mockingbirds could only look on in dismay. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with their records. Both their second, and final, Columbia flop, I Can Feel We’re Parting and a one-off for Andrew Oldham’s Immediate label, You Stole My Love, are as sparkling as anything Gouldman wrote for anyone else – the Yardbirds, in fact, would later record their own version of You Stole My Love, during their Little Games sessions. Meanwhile, the Mockingbirds’ own version offered a veritable cavalcade of stars: it was produced by Giorgio Gomelsky and Paul Samwell-Smith, and featured Julie Driscoll on backing vocals. In fact, the only person missing from the session, laughs Gouldman, was Immediate chief Andrew Oldham himself.

“I remember meeting him once, I don’t think he ever came to the studio. But he was a mythical being… Andrew Oldham, a God! I can’t remember any conversation we had, maybe because we didn’t have one, and that was it. But the Immediate label was great.” So was You Stole My Love, but it wasn’t a hit, a fate which also befell the Mockingbirds’ final brace of singles. By mid-1966, the group was no more.

“I was writing songs for everybody and anybody,” Gouldman admits, “but everything the Mockingbirds recorded was a failure, and everything I gave away was a hit. Gradually I realized that the Mockingbirds weren’t going to make it, that there was some vital chemistry lacking.” Still, the Mockingbirds’ lack of success remains unbelievable. They were the regular warm-up band for the BBC’s weekly pop fest, Top Of The Pops (then being recorded in Manchester), while Gouldman had spent more time on the chart in 1965 than anyone outside of the Beatles-Stones axis. The Yardbirds (For Your Love was followed by Heartful Of Soul and Evil Hearted You) and the Hollies (Look Through Any Window) had both reaped the rewards of his talent, Jeff Beck, Cher and Herman’s Hermits had all recorded, or were preparing to record, Gouldman compositions.

“Graham wrote No Milk Today, Listen People, East West, Ooh She’s Done It Again, he was just a phenomenal songsmith,” Peter Noone recalls. “I mean, everything he played to me, I loved. And it’s the construction. We turned down Carole King songs and Neil Diamond songs, but we never, ever turned down a Graham Gouldman song, and I, still to this day, say “Why didn’t I get him in Herman’s Hermits?” The Shadows covered his Naughty Nippon Nights on their classic From Hank, Bruce, Brian and John album, while Getting’ Nowhere was tackled by Friday Browne, Tony Basil and P.J. Proby (on his Enigma LP), the last two re-titling the song I’m 28. He had turned his hand to production, handling a single for Little Frankie, while the quality of his work was such that another of his songs, The Cost Of Living, was released in its original demo form by the Downliners Sect. And of course, he wrote Bus Stop, quite possibly the greatest pop song ever, and one which he introduced to Graham Nash in the decidedly unfabulous surroundings of the men’s room at Stoke Town Hall, where the Hollies were about to go on stage. If Wayne Fontana was feeling confident as he recorded Pamela Pamela, he had every right to. Or did he?

Gouldman himself has described Pamela Pamela as one of his very favourite self-compositions. That isn’t how Eric Stewart remembers it, however.

Pamela Pamela… was actually written by Godley and Crčme”, Stewart says. Parts of an entire musical which the duo were then working on, it remains the only song from this piece to have seen the light of day after they sold it to Kennedy Street Enterprises, the management agency which now handled Gouldman as well as the Mindbenders and Wayne Fontana. They received “about 20 pounds, I think” Stewart continues, adding that all Gouldman did was “take it and change it around a little bit.” No matter. Pamela Pamela only just missed out on a Top 10 placing, and Wayne Fontana was promptly given the green light to record his first solo album, the optimistically title Wayne One. Unfortunately, it bombed, a fate it shared with the singles that followed. All around, the tides of pop fortune were turning: the era of psychedelia was approaching from one direction, the age of the big voiced romantic, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, from the other. Wayne Fontana never stood a chance.

Neither did the Mindbenders.

Although Eric Stewart had developed into a very strong songwriter in his own right, contributing one song (My New Day And Age) to the newly emergent prog rock favourites Family, and coming up with another, Yellow Brick Road, which has been described  as “the best record Traffic never made,” the Mindbenders continued looking outside for new material. It was not necessarily a bad decision; their taste, after all, remained impeccable. Their final release of 1966, I Want Her, She Wants Me for instance, was written by the Zombies’ Rod Argent, and handed to the Mindbenders a full year before it reappeared on the Zombies’ own Odesssey And Oracle album. Once again, the gift came about by accident; the Zombies were another band the Mindbenders knew from the road, and finding themselves in adjoining studios, Stewart asked Argent if he had any spare songs. The keyboard player handed him what would be the Mindbenders’ next single… unfortunately, it would also be their first flop.

Fighting hard to keep abreast of the changing currents, the Mindbenders next embarked on their most audacious, yet strangely prescient, move yet, a full-blown concept album. No matter that, several months before Sgt Pepper and even longer before SF Sorrow and Tommy, nobody had even heard of concept albums, the Mindbenders’ With Woman In Mind remains a gem in that genre. And yet, despite the presence of both I Want Her, She Wants Me and Ashes To Ashes, plus a startling new Graham Gouldman song, the lascivious Schoolgirl, it is an undiscovered gem as well. Unreleased in America, it did little anywhere else, ad disappeared as quickly as the accompanying single, yet another Bayer-Wine composition We’ll Talk About It Tomorrow.

Faltering ratings and drooping self-confidence, of course was not necessarily an insurmountable hurdle. Screen-Gems’ music publishing house, for whom the Mindbenders had now made an awful lot of money, were preparing the soundtrack to the Sidney Poitier movie To Sir With Love, and had no hesitation at inviting “number one hitmakers the Mindbenders” to contribute. The band appear in the school gymnasium, performing It’s Getting Harder all The Time and Off And Running, both sides of their next single.

Unfortunately, not even major celluloid exposure could break the Mindbenders’ run  of bad luck. Neither could an infusion of new blood, after drummer Ric Rothwell quit, to be replaced by Paul Hancox. By the end of the year, the band was reduced to recording covers of current American hits, which could be rush released in Britain in the hope of beating out the original. Art had been reduced to a crap shoot, and even as the first of the Mindbenders’ efforts, a version of the Boxtops’ The Letter ground its way to #42 in September, 1967 (the competition, by the way, reached #5), it was clear that the end was in sight. The Mindbenders made one final stab at reversing their fortunes, re-recording Schoolgirl from With Woman In Mind, and pulling out every psychedelic rock trick in the book. A BBC ban (that lasciviousness again), however, kept the single a good arm’s length from either the radio or the charts. Still Gouldman shrugs off the song’s failure. “Well, it got banned, that was good. In a way it was quite modern, it was the warning. You could call it a contraception song if you want.”

A reading of Robert Knight’s Blessed Are The Lonely followed Schoolgirl into the dumper, in March, 1968, at which point Bob Lang finally quit (he would reappear as a member of soft rockers Racing Cars in the mid-1970s). The bassist was replaced by Graham Gouldman, taking what would prove o be a permanent break from his previous guitar playing duties. “I was playing bass and guitar at the same time; I was making demos at home, and I originally took up bass because I wanted to put bass on the track and it was easy enough to play. Then I got really interested in it and I used to do a lot of work with John Paul Jones”.



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…