April 11, 1997 GOLDMINE #436

10cc : A Pure Injection Of Pop

Original Article By Dave Thompson


Chapter Six : So That’s How They Got The Name…


Space Hymns apparently did very well in Holland, but in terms of really putting Strawberry on the map, the most notable sessions were those with veteran rocker Neil Sedaka. Sedaka had been drawn to Strawberry after hearing Umbopo, making the initial contact when Tony Christie recorded Sedaka’s Is This The Way To Amarillo and gave the songwriter his first hit in years. Sedaka would record two albums, Solitaire and The Tra La Days Are Over at Strawberry, a combination which gave Sedaka’s career a whole new lease of life with a return to both the UK and US charts. Despite all this activity, however, the team were not neglecting their own musical ambitions, no matter how hard-pressed they were to find time for them

Early in 1972, Gouldman got together with producer Eric Woolfson (later a member of the Alan Parsons Project, and later still, an aspiring solo artist, whose 1990 album would feature contributions from Eric Stewart), to record a new solo single, Growing Older. It was followed by a group decision that while session work was all well and good, it was not making any of them feel particularly fulfilled. There and then, Gouldman remembers, they made a pact. They wanted to create ‘something good and lasting.’

“It was Neil Sedaka’s success that did it, I think,” Gouldman reflects. “We’d just been accepting any job we were offered and were getting really frustrated. We knew that we were 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.” The first recording that the four made together, in the spring of 1972, was a Stewart-Gouldman composition, Waterfall. Stewart took an acetate of it with him when  he went to the Apple studios to master that first Sedaka album, hoping that he could persuade Apple to release it. Months later, he received a rejection slip saying that the song wasn’t commercial enough to be put out as a single – by which time, Godley and Creme had come up with another song which was. Donna was initially intended as a possible B-side to Waterfall, a falsetto-voiced rock ‘n roll spoof.

“But we knew it had something”, Stewart remembered, and with Waterfall having been written off, Donna was immediately promoted to the top of the band’s pile of potential singles. The trouble was, according to Eric, “we only knew of one person who was mad enough to release it, and that was Jonathan King.” The arch entrepreneur of British pop, King had known Eric since the early Sixties, when the Mindbenders were being followed around the country by a university student who claimed he could make them bigger than the Beatles. The band laughed him off, “and the next thing we knew, he’d had a hit with Everyone’s Gone To The Moon. We never saw him again.”

Since then, King had gone from strength to bizarre strength. If an annoying novelty record came within even sniffing distance of the charts, King was usually behind it, whether manipulating vari-speed voices for the Piglets’ skinhead anthem Johnny Reggae, protesting nuclear proliferation (and everything else) behind Hedgehoppers Anonymous, or conjuring up a version of Hooked On A Feeling that was even sillier than Blue Swede’s. Most recently, he had launched his own label, UK, and promptly driven rock purists insane by unleashing Bubblerock, an album which took some of the best-loved songs in rock ‘n’ roll history and then did weird things to them. “Would you believe Rock Around The Clock Waltz?” asked the album’s liner notes. Twist And Shout with a string quartet. And… why has nobody ever thought of recording Mr. Tambourine Man with an orchestra of 15 tambourines?”

Stewart called King that same day, and by evening, King was on his way to Strawberry. “He listened to Donna and fell about laughing, saying ‘It’s fabulous, it’s a hit.’” Stewart remembers. “So we agreed to let him release it on his UK label, and he was right. It was a hit.” It was King who also supplied the band’s name, 10cc; apparently it came to him in a dream. However a feature on BBC Radio Two unearthed several other accounts of how the name was conceived, from Peter Tattersall and Graham Gouldman. “It was either a very small motorbike,” Tattersall explained, “or it was the overdose of a heroin addict.”

Gouldman countered, “Mythology has it that the name 10cc came from the average male ejaculation being 9cc, and, of course, being big, butch Mancunian guys, we’re gonna be, ya’ know, 1cc more than that.” It took Eric Stewart to end the speculation. “No, the name actually did come from Jonathan King. He said he’d had a dream the night before he came up to Manchester to listen to Donna. And, he saw a hoarding over Wembley Stadium or Hammersmith Odeon or something like that and said ‘10cc : The Best Group In The World.’ Well, that sounds great to us, we’ll call ourselves 10cc. And that’s how it came about.”

Initial worries that the band would simply be dismissed as another of King’s little jokes were dispelled when the band appeared on Top Of The Pops in September, 1972. King had given them two alternatives: either appear wearing their normal everyday denims, or “go the whole hog, be outrageous and appear in polythene hot pants.” They opted for everyday wear and, as they walked into the studio, the program’s host DJ Tony Blackburn (whose choice of Donna as a Pick Of The Week had been instrumental in the record’s success) greeted them with the words “Good God, you’re normal! What a great gimmick!” Donna backed by the instrumental Hot Sun Rock (based around a track Gouldman had had lying around for several years) reached #2 on the British chart; immediately work began on a follow-up. In retrospect, the band admit that their choice was a mistake. Johnny Don’t Do It was another Fifties-type song, this time with the theme of a motorcycle accident; unfortunately the Shangri-Las’ Leader Of The Pack was reissued at the same time, and while that epic tale of teenaged dismemberment would reach #3, Johnny Don’t Do It sank without trace. You can have too much of a good thing.

10cc’s third single, Rubber Bullets (backed with Waterfall), also ran into problems, but of a very different kind. The British army had recently started using rubber bullets in their bid to bring peace to embattled Northern Ireland, and many BBC radio producers thought that with a title like that, the record had to have something to do with protest and banned it accordingly. In fact, the song dealt with a riot in an American prison, a fact which BBC TV (who must have actually played the record) were quick to recognise. In April, 1973, 10cc appeared on Top Of The Pops with barely a radio play to their credit. A month later. Rubber Bullets was #1, and well on its way into the American Top 75. The success of Rubber Bullets more than paved the way for the band’s eponymously titled debut album. It included all three of the band’s A-sides (although both Donna and Johnny Don’t Do it were remixed, while Rubber Bullets appeared in an extended form), plus The Dean And I, which further established the band in the singles chart when it was culled from the album in August. The six other tracks further compounded the belief that 10cc were fast developing into a force to be reckoned with. The Dean And I reached #8, and the similar success of the album prompted the band to make their first foray onto the live circuit. On August 26, 1973, with Paul Burgess operating as second drummer, to allow Godley to take his own vocal parts, 10cc debuted at Douglas Palace Lido on the Isle Of Man. The show was a success, and they followed it with intermittent gigs around the country until the start of November. That’s when they returned to Strawberry to begin work on their next album, sharing the studio with Mike McGear, who was recording the McGear album under the auspices of his brother Paul McCartney.

Working nights while the Maccas worked days, 10cc nevertheless made their presence felt on McGear, with Godley and Creme in particular lending a hand; ever since the Hotlegs days, they had been developing the Gismo, a device which enabled a guitarist to achieve maximum sustain, whilst duplicating a variety of orchestral sounds. McGear would mark the first public airing of this ingenious device. The McCartneys returned the favour.

“We often overlapped,” Gouldman remembers. “The studio was completely crammed with equipment, and there was this tremendous buzz – ya’ know, Paul would come in and we’d play him our stuff and vice versa. And I think that kind of inspired us as well. There was just… a tremendous atmosphere.”

10cc’s own second album was the next phase in what Stewart calls, the band’s “masterplan to control the universe. The Sweet, Slade and Gary Glitter are all very valuable pop, but it’s fragile because it’s so dependent on a vogue. We don’t try to appeal to one audience, or aspire to instant stardom, we’re satisfied to move ahead a little at a time as long as we’re always moving forward.”




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…