April 11, 1997 GOLDMINE #436

10cc : A Pure Injection Of Pop

Original Article By Dave Thompson


Chapter Eight : Strawberry Studios South… Now You’re Dorking!!!


October, 1975, saw Justin Hayward and John Lodge take a break from the Moody Blues and chart with Blue Guitar, a song which featured the members of 10cc as both producers and accompanying  musicians. Then, the following month, 10cc re-emerged  in their own right with Art For Art’s Sake, their seventh British Top Ten entry (but a lowly #83 in America). An uncharacteristically unmemorable song, Art For Art’s Sake, had not been 10cc’s own choice for a single.

“[Phonogram] wanted a single out in America to coincide with the tour, and to follow up I’m Not In Love as quickly as possible,” Lol Creme acknowledged. “Because there’d been too long a delay already. They thought Art For Art’s Sake was a good idea, so they released it there, then Phonogram in England released it here. We just went along with it, thinking we’d give them the opportunity to make that sort of decision, and in fact they were wrong in America… it didn’t happen there, but it did happen here. [But] if it had been up to us, I doubt we’d have put it out.”

It was not the band’s greatest ever record; many fans actually preferred the B-side, a non-album ballad called Get It While You Can, which itself would reappear later as Anonymous Alcoholics on 1978’s Bloody Tourists album. Unfortunately, however, it proved an all too accurate introduction to the new album, How Dare You. The four writers in the band had always naturally gravitated into two distinct schools of thought (Godley/Creme and Gouldman/Stewart), with the most entertaining results usually occurring when they swapped partners. Throughout How Dare You, however, the once healthy friction between the pairs was becoming uncomfortable. The band were evidently struggling for ideas, and while a handful of tracks (notably I Wanna Rule The World and I’m Mandy Fly Me – another hit single) did bear repeated listening, the collection as a whole showed 10cc to be suffering from an acute dearth of inspiration.

Creme himself admitted the title track itself was “three or four” years old, “it was on experiment we tried, which somehow worked its way into that song.” There again, Lazy Days sneaked into the soundtrack of the soft porn epic Emmanuelle 2, so obviously 10cc were doing something right!

Their live credentials, too, came under sustained assault when it was revealed that not only were they incapable of reproducing several of the greatest hits (The Dean And I and I’m Not In Love) live, without resorting to a ton of tapes, the new album, too, was utterly unsuited to the concert environment. Iceberg, one of the better tracks on the set, was hastily dropped from the show, but bootleg evidence suggests that even the songs that did remain were on very dodgy ground. The band’s appearance on Don Kirshner’s Rock Show in early 1976, for instance, offers up very shaky renditions of Don’t Hang Up and Head Room, alongside a studio heavy I’m Not In Love, and a simple mindless thrash through Art For Art’s Sake.

Neither were the band members impervious to this abuse; indeed, further damage was done when Eric Stewart, enraged by a scathing review in the New Musical Express, wrote an indignant letter to the editor, which of course was duly published in all its apparent spoiled brat glory. As another magazine, Street Life remarked, “it was predictable that [NME] would allow the reviewer equal space to reply, and so make Stewart’s impassioned outburst look rather silly. The NME always has the last word.” Band interviews from the time appeared as strained as their music.

“I remember a  conversation with Lol in the front office of the studio,” Gouldman recalls. “We’d just recorded I’m Mandy Fly Me and we’d almost finished recording it. Eric and I were really pleased with it; we thought it was just really good. But Lol was, sort of, mewing about it, ya’ know, like ‘Is this the direction we should be going in? Was it interesting enough? And, was it music? And was it this?’ And, I thought, ‘What are you talking about?’ For me, the seeds of doubt were planted then; that this was leading to some inevitability; that the end was nigh.”

It was, in October, under the banner headline, “We’re Not In Love,” the now defunct British rock weekly National Rock Star reported that Godley and Creme had left the band to work on a “revolutionary new instrument they have invented and developed.” This, of course, was the Gismo, and while the duo’s initial intention was to simply record a single which would showcase the Gismo’s many talents, by Christmas the project had become a triple album telling the story of “man’s last defence against an irate nature” – Consequences. The pair had already  begun work on this ambitious project before announcing their departure. “I heard the first side of [it] as they were doing it,” Eric Stewart remarked at the time. “Just before the split, and that was the last thing I really wanted to know about what they were doing.” Later, he would admit, “If you must know, I thought Consequences was absolute rubbish. I think Graham and I held them in check when they were in the band, and when they left… I don’t know, they just lost control.”

Gouldman and Stewart, meanwhile, decided to carry on as 10cc (rumours that Moody Justin Hayward was set to join them proved unfounded), and having moved their base of operations down to the recently completed Strawberry South studio in Dorking, leaving the Strawberry studio with drummer Paul Burgess. “We read everywhere that the creative side [of the band] had gone,” Stewart complained to Melody Maker, “and everyone brought us down. We were the commercial ones, we were looked down on because we weren’t stuck in a garret in Stockport anymore, so we felt we had more to prove.”

Well, they certainly proved they were still commercial. The Things We Do For Love, the truncated line-up’s first single, appeared in time for Christmas 1976 – a pleasant pop romp which reached #2 in Britain, #5 in America, and joyously previewed the early 1977 release of their new album, Deceptive Bends, a set which itself duplicated the single in proving totally innocuous to all but the most cynical palate. Gouldman willingly concedes this point. “I’m very proud of the early period, and I understand why the earlier period is the definitive 10cc,” he admits today. “In a way there were always two main writing teams, so there were already two separate teams, but of course it was the combination  of the four of us. Kevin and I wrote a song called The Sacro-Iliac, which I think is a charming little piece, Lol and I wrote Worst Band In The World. There was that chemical thing, you can’t get it back. I listen to the records, and I understand why it was so great and why it was different. When Kevin and Lol left, it was a blow, an artistic blow and although we carried on and we had hits, and some tracks show all the humour and imagination and style of the early 10cc, we lost Kevin and Lol’s abstract, bizarre attitude, and there was nothing we could do about it.”

While Deceptive Bends was the commercially most successful of these releases, making the Top Ten and spawning a second trans-Atlantic hit single, Good Morning Judge, Consequences was by far the most adventurous, and was thereby truer to the original intentions of 10cc, intentions which Godley and Creme would continue fulfilling over much of the next decade. Several themes from Consequences, meantime, have resurfaced in the most unexpected places – cigarette commercials, TV incidental music and so on, but though sales for the actual album were at least respectable, pushing it to a peak at #52, Mercury eventually issued a single album drawing together the most popular moments from the original six sides, a venture remarkably similar to the white label promotion album released just prior to the original release. In commercial terms, the, 10cc would remain the kings of the castle. In early spring, 1977, 10cc, complemented by Tony O’Malley (keyboards), Stuart Tosh (drums) and Rick Fenn (guitar), undertook a major tour, later captured for posterity on the Live And Let Live double package. A particularly unsatisfying venture, the album merely duplicated all but one track from Deceptive Bends, peppering the remainder of the show with “highlights” from the original line-up’s repertoire – all Stewart/Gouldman compositions, naturally. It was a sad indication of how far the band’s standards had declined : expecting fans to fork out for the same songs twice in less than eight months was pure and simple exploitation, and the album’s chart placing was deservedly low.


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…