10cc: 10cc

A NEW STRAIN of music has been developing of late, unheralded except by those who delight in new studio techniques applied in loving parody to old pop cliches. Roy Wood, with Wizzard and on his solo LP Boulders, has already done much in this vein, but he is no contender against the combined talents of Jonathan King and his latest sensation, 10cc.

King himself has accounted for untold pop formula masterpieces in recent years, mostly with faceless manufactured acts. 10cc is an exception, although they are in complete sympathy with King’s approach to making records. The group consists of Eric Stewart (who’s been around since 1964, when he started with Wayne Fontana & the Mind-benders), together with Lol Creme and Kevin Godley (with whom he had a short-lived group called Hotlegs whose ‘Neanderthal Man’ was a minor hit around 1970) and Graham Gouldman (who wrote hits for the Yardbirds, Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, Cher and others in addition to cutting some nice records on his own).

Their debut album fairly bursts with originality, each idea fully realized and perfectly on target. Their grist is the entire world of pop, with emphasis on the early Sixties when pop contrivance was at its former peak. Vocally, they move with ease from airy Beach Boys harmonies to bass-tenor counterpoint, overdubbing and multitracking themselves into some impressive complications. And they’re no less capable instrumentally, as likely to throw in a bit of ‘Poetry In Motion’ one minute as ‘Across The Plynth’ the next. Small wonder Neil Sedaka insisted on 10cc to back him on his latest album.

What brings everything together into an entrancing whole, however, is the content of the songs. Each is a world unto itself, one rarely, if ever, visited by pop music. ‘Hospital Song’ seems to be a collection of ravings by a patient in extreme paranoid delirium; ‘Johnny Don’t Do It’ is the best satire of teenage motorcycle death songs since ‘Leader of the Laundromat’, featuring harmonies lifted from Tommy; ‘Sand in My Face’ is a Charles Atlas ad set to music; ‘Donna’ parodies Fifties teen ballads and the Beatles’ ‘Oh Darling’ at the same time; ‘Headline Hustler’ is the boast of a callous junior journalist, somewhat reminiscent of the Beatles’ ‘Taxman’; and, ‘Ships Don’t Disappear in the Night (Do They?)’ is just the thing to play after a Friday night Creature Feature double bill.

The album’s highlight is a long version of ‘Rubber Bullets’, a monster hit single in England and a disappointingly slow climber here. The obvious comparison is with ‘Jailhouse Rock’ – a bouncy shuffle beat leads through several verses which establish that an outbreak of dancing and “balling in the street” has taken place at the local jail, with Sgt. Baker and his men being ordered in with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Sgt. Baker lapses into a dream sequence, musing in falsetto harmony over how nice it would be if the slugs were real, then giving the chaplain one more chance to get through to the prisoners. No longer ‘Jailhouse Rock’, we’re somewhere between Riot in the Big House and ‘Attica State’ as the group comes back for a verse asking if it isn’t Uncle Sam that belongs behind bars.

There aren’t many groups around with that much imagination and none who can inject such content into a highly commercial hit record. Although currently recording for a plethora of labels under a variety of names, 10cc is one group whose every last record is worth tracking down. They are one of the year’s most promising new acts, and 10cc one of its most enjoyable releases.

© Greg ShawRolling Stone, 22 November 1973

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