April 11, 1997 GOLDMINE #436

10cc : A Pure Injection Of Pop

Original Article By Dave Thompson


Chapter Five : Strawberry puts the ‘hit’ in ‘shit’!!!


Gouldman, of course, landed on his feet, taking up an offer to fly to New York to join the Kasenatz-Katz songwriting team. The major purveyors of ‘bubblegum’ music, K-K owned dozens of hit name bands (all made up of session men) and an equally large roster of staff writers who, in true Brill Building tradition, were allocated a desk and expected to simply keep the songs coming. “Kasenatz-Katz decided they wanted to get legit, so they wanted someone a little more valid in their factory. Artistically it was not a good move on my part, but there’s always good comes out of things like that, and actually they did contribute to 10cc coming together because I was working in New York, and I said ‘Look, I’m fed up here. I’ve got involved  in this studio back in Manchester, I want to take all the stuff we’re recording here, and do it with my own guys back in England.’ So Strawberry got a tremendous amount of business, and those records, the early ones, were Kevin, Lol and myself, and Eric was engineering them.”

The first Kasenatz-Katz sessions took place in London, while Strawberry Studios were being properly equipped; together, the Gouldman-Stewart-Godley/Creme team wrote and played on a host of Super K Productions records, released under varying names around the world. Graham’s biggest success during his Kasenatz-Katz period was Have You Ever Been To Georgia, a hit for many artists – including Tony Christie, another Kennedy Street act. A Godley/Creme composition, There Ain’t No Umbopo was a minor American hit for Crazy Elephant, while Graham wrote two Ohio Express hits : Sausalito and Tampa, Florida. Freddie and The Dreamers sold a million copies of Susan’s Tuba in France, with Graham writing and singing, while the Fighter Squadron’s When He Comes was sung by Kevin. Yet it was without Graham that the most immediate rewards from the Strawberry sessions were to be reaped. Eric had just brought in a four-track recorder, and with Kevin and Lol “banging about” while he got the sounds organized – Kevin played bass drum while Lol sang into it – they suddenly found themselves with Neanderthal Man.

“Dick Leahy, from Philips, came in and he said ‘What the hell’s that you’re playing?’” Stewart recalls. “I said, ‘It’s a studio experiment, a percussive experiment.’ He says ‘It sounds like a hit record to me…’ and ‘Can we release it?’ And we said ‘Yeah okay. What should we call it?’ And we had no name for the group, of course. But we had a girl at the studio… Kathy Gill, I think her name was, yeah… we had very, very nice legs and she used to wear these incredible hot pants. Green, leather hot pants. So we called the group, ah, Hotlegs.”

Restructured and released in the summer of 1970 by Philips, Neanderthal Man reached #22 in the US, #2 in Britain, #1 in Italy, and ultimately sold over two million worldwide. The record was enormous: the Idle Race, heading towards the end of their brief but glorious career, wrested one final hit from the jaws of oblivion when they covered the song for German and Argentine consumption. Elton John, eking out a pre-fame career as a jobbing sessioneer, recorded his own distinctive version for a budget priced collection of sound-alike hits. Naturally, Hotlegs put out an album; Thinks: School Stinks included both the single and a reworking of To Fly Away, the Godley/Creme song on the Marmalade sampler, and came in a school desk sleeve which would prove very useful for Alice Cooper two years later. It was not a particularly successful release. With the exception of one track, Um Wah Um Woh, little on the album bore any resemblance to the hit; rather, Hotlegs revealed themselves to be a very melodic, very gentle musical concern, a far cry from the proto-industrial crashing of Neanderthal Man. Certainly Capitol, Hotlegs’ US label, were so distressed that when it came to a follow-up, they went for a track which had not even been recorded for the Hotlegs project; a second, vastly superior version of Umbopo, which the quartet had released in the UK under the name Doctor Father in August, 1970. It was not a hit, and it fared no more successfully in the US; neither did Hotlegs’ final American single, How Many Times.

Undeterred, the trio (augmented by Gouldman) undertook a short British tour supporting the Moody Blues towards the end of 1970, but little more was heard from Hotlegs for another year, until September, 1971, when they released a new single, Lady Sadie. Simultaneously, Philips repackaged Thinks: School Stinks, omitting both Neanderthal Man and, more surprisingly, Lady Sadie, in favour of The Loser (the flip of Lady Sadie), and Today, a reworking of another Marmalade era song.

Again, it made no impact, and a further repackaging in 1974 met a similar fate. You Didn’t Like It Because You Didn’t Think Of It brought together all the previously available Hotlegs material including, for the first time on album, the title track; the original B-side of Neanderthal Man, You Didn’t Like it had since metamorphosed into Fresh Air For My Mama, the closing track on 10cc’s debut album. Hotlegs did, however, return to the chart that year, albeit as mere session musicians. Kennedy Street’s Harvey Lisberg had recently discovered a new talent named John Paul Jones; not the pop arranger turned Led Zeppelin bassist, explains Gouldman, “but a comedian who had the most wonderful rich voice.” Aware, though he was, that Zeppelin’s Jones already had some claim on the name, Lisberg went ahead with launching his new client’s career. “I still don’t know why he used it,” Gouldman marvels. “It was such a bizarre thing to do! But Harvey always liked the name John Paul Jones.”

All four of the Strawberry team played on Jones’ Man From Nazareth single, which was well on its way to being a Christmas 1970 hit when the other John Paul succeeded in getting a court injunction, forcing the artist to respell his surname Joans. The single had already reached #41 on the British chart; in the ensuing chaos, while RAK Records reprinted the label, Man From Nazareth dropped from the charts, reappearing in the New Year, when it rose to #25. (In the US, the name was truncated to simply John). Its momentum, however, was lost and Joans never followed it up. Strawberry continued opening its doors to an incredible array of talent – incredible, because Stewart remembers being told at the outset of the venture that it was a waste of time and money opening a studio so far from London. The Scaffold, Mary Hopkin, Barclay james Harvest, Tony Christie, the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Shep’s Banjo Band, Elias Hunk and the Fourmost (who cut a version of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer under the guise of Format) all passed through the doors in the first few years of the studio.

The Strawberry team were also involved in numerous sessions. The group played on Solomon King’s version of Lynsey DePaul’s When You Gotta Go, Dave Berry, Wayne Fontana and Mike Timoney, a virtuoso on the cordovox, all recorded with them; Peter Cowap teamed up again with Gouldman to cut a trio of singles for Pye, and a fourth, under the pseudonym Grumble, for RCA. The Herman-less Hermits cut around fifty tracks over the course of a year, although only two of them ever saw the light of day; while the Hermit-less Herman, Peter Noone, also recorded a single with Graham, one of several sessions Mickey Most’s RAK label sent Strawberry’s way.

“We were doing sessions and it was terrible,” said Godley. “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; real shit. We used to do the voices, everything; it saved them money. We even did the female backing vocals!”

Gouldman is more forgiving. “At that period of time, Strawberry Studios was doing everything and anything, and it also was providing work for myself, Eric, Kev and Lol as session musicians, we were the house band.” Comedians, night-club acts, you name it, Strawberry would record it, but the real money spinner came from sport.”

In British chart terms, it was the age of the football (soccer) record; teams of sportsmen trooping into a studio to lend their often dubious vocal talents to their team’s song. Strawberry Studios would be responsible for many of these, including several big hits; Leeds United’s imaginatively title Leeds United even breached the British Top 10, while both of Manchester’s professional teams, United (Willie Morgan On The Wing) and City (The Boys In Blue) enjoyed Strawberry’s services, with the former, an ode to one of the side’s most gifted players, even earning a cover version by the Ted Taylor Orchestra!

“We did the football things,” Gouldman recalls. “We’d be asked and ‘You know, it’s a football record, let’s try and make a good football record, and it’s business for the studio. Who are we to get picky?’ That was our attitude, and at the same time we were doing an album with Neil Sedaka, or an album with Ramases, and I think it showed we could turn our hands to anything, or in other words, there were no depths to which we would not sink.” Of all these projects, Ramases’ Space Hymns remains a genuine favourite. Ramases himself believed he was the reincarnation of the Egyptian Pharaoh of the same name, and Gouldman enthuses, “It was great. It was a really fine album to make. We would sit down on the floor with acoustic guitars, that kind of vibe, very hippy and mystical.”



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…