April 11, 1997 GOLDMINE #436

10cc : A Pure Injection Of Pop

By Dave Thompson


Chapter Four : The Runcible Spoon… what exactly is it?


Following the break-up of the Mockingbirds, Gouldman decided to try his hand at solo success, debuting in February, 1966, with Stop Or I’ll Be Gone. A pleasant, up tempo ballad, it was nevertheless not one of his finest compositions; indeed, Gouldman himself later expressed the wish to forget it entirely, and lost himself instead in preparing that most quintessential of 60s pop star businesses, a boutique called Zoo. His partner in this short-lived venture, incidentally, was Peter Noone. Gouldman was also working with Friday Browne, a Manchester singer who was to be involved in several Gouldman projects, as well as having a later single, Ask Any Woman, produced by him. In November, 1966, she joined Graham, former Country Gentleman Peter Cowap, Phil Dermys, Clem Cattini and John Paul Jones in the High Society, an ad hoc combination whose sole single, People Pass By, remains a forgotten classic.

The same team then became the Manchester Mob, and recorded Bony Maroni At The Hop for a March, 1967, release, and later that year, Gouldman, Noone and Jones began work on what would become the songwriter’s first solo album, The Graham Gouldman Thing. Or rather, Gouldman and Jones began work. Noone simply got his name on the record in a bid to boost sales, and most of the studio work was done by Eddie Kramer.

“It was a lot of fun” Gouldman recalls. “Eddie, John and myself, and lots of people dropping in. I remember one night, I was doing Pamela Pamela and Steven Stills walked in. All he said was ‘nice, that’s nice’ then he left again.” Largely comprising Gouldman’s own versions of the songs he had written for others, the album (which would be released in America only) was prefaced with a new single, a cover of one of the UK hits he wrote for Herman’s Hermits, No Milk Today, backed with The Impossible Years, hitherto remembered as one of Wayne Fontana’s latter-day flops. Gouldman’s own version did not change the song’s luck. A British 45 coupling two unheard songs, Upstairs Downstairs and Chestnut, followed unsuccessful suit, and by the time Gouldman had linked with the Mindbenders, even he was wondering why RCA were still planning to release The Graham Gouldman Thing. It finally appeared in August, 1968, around the same time as his first (and, it transpired, only) single with the Mindbenders, the peculiar Uncle Joe, The Ice Cream Man.

“I wasn’t an official member” Gouldman relates today. “I only joined right at the end of their career, when Eric was the only original member left. I’d known him for a while, it was just Eric doing the clubs, and he said do you fancy coming on the road with us, so I did.” Nevertheless, both he and Stewart still recoil from the memory of the group’s final release.

“We were recording that at Olympic Studios, and The Stones were next door working on their album,” Stewart remembers. “Mick Jagger popped his head round while I was doing the vocal and said ‘Why are you singing this shit?’ It was the final nail in the coffin.” The Mindbenders broke up almost before the record was in the racks, calling it a day at the Liverpool Empire on November 20, 1968, the last night of a UK tour with The Who, Arthur Brown, Joe Cocker and – on some dates – the Small Faces. Immediately upon the band’s dissolution, Stewart turned his attention to a brand new enterprise. Linking with Peter Tattersall, a former roadie for Billy J. Kramer’s Dakotas (Graham Gouldman later became a third partner), Stewart took over the dilapidated Inter City studios, then situated over a hi-fi shop in Stockport.

“The studio area we had lined with egg boxes ‘cause we thought that we couldn’t really afford acoustic tiles and that was the nearest thing,” Tattersall says. “It was very basic. But, believe it or not we did some quite good things in there. We even had the original Syd Lawrence Orchestra. But then we had to move because it was… the studio was next to a listed building, and we were classed as a fire hazard.”

“Then the lease ran out,” Stewart says, “and they kicked us out. So we had to make a big decision, whether we were going to build a real studio, or just give the whole thing up. And, fortunately this building came up in Stockport, at a very low rent, but a really really good size. So we leased the building and got some money together to buy some more equipment, went to the bank to get some money and we renamed it Strawberry Studios after Strawberry Fields Forever, the Beatles.” From these humble beginnings, Strawberry would rise to become one of the best, and best appointed studios in Britain.

Gouldman, meanwhile, returned to his maverick wanderings; one particularly bizarre release around this time was an instrumental rendition of Noel Harrison’s recent hit The Windmills Of Your Mind, credited to the Graham Gouldman Orchestra. He was also playing some sessions for Giorgio Gomelsky’s newly founded Marmalade label. “We recorded a few tracks” he says, “although it wasn’t like we were going to do a Graham Gouldman album. I think it was just the odd track. It’s a bit vague that period. What was I doing? I dunno.” Nevertheless, it was through these auspices that Kevin Godley and Lol Creme finally found themselves preparing to hit “the big time.” The pair had spent the past several years studying for diplomas in graphic design; together, they designed the card board models that went out with such movies as The Railway Children and Cromwell. Godley later recollected “Altogether, I think I must have spent about 11 years at art college. I just dug being a student. About that time I was working with Lol on various projects that were vaguely to do with music, and getting further away from painting and drawing all the time. We were, like, writing shows and ideas for shows and crazy, sort of multimedia things which, at that time was pretty avant garde. So it was more a matter of deciding whether to go into that properly or whether to do art or whatever.”

By the end of 1968, the pair were making demos, funded by Jim O’Farrell (part of the Kennedy Street management structure which still handled Gouldman and sundry former Mindbenders). One day, Gouldman asked Godley to join him at a Marmalade session. Gomelsky took one listen to Godley’s ethereal falsetto, and promptly offered him and Creme a deal.

Renamed Frabjoy and the Runcible Spoon, the duo began work on an album in September, 1969. Basic tracks were recorded at Strawberry Studios, with Eric Stewart on guitar and Gouldman on bass, and things were progressing so wonderfully that by the end of the month, Frabjoy and the Runcible Spoon’s debut single, I’m Beside Myself, was on the shelves. Another track from the sessions, To Fly Away, appeared on Marmalade’s 100% Proof sampler (where it was mistakenly credited to Godley and Gouldman), while the same team convened for a Graham Gouldman cut on that album, the whimsical The Late Mr. Late, about a gent whose time-keeping was so slipshod that he missed his own funeral. Unfortunately, Marmalade was not to be so lucky. The label folded only shortly after this pair of release, and the Frabjoy album was abandoned. Hopes that Marmalade’s parent label, Polydor, might pick up the option were raised briefly, when I’m Beside Myself found its way onto a Polydor compilation, but nothing came of it.



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…