10cc: 10cc

I DON’T CARE if your heart rests with country twang, surf harmonies, acid riffs, folk strums, commercial muzak, or Anglophile accents. There’s one thing that ties all great pop music together. That one thing is energy. There must be a vitality, imagination, and creative spark to make it all worthwhile — usually this energy is a sound, but it can also come with an image, or merely an idea. This sound, image, and idea concept of pop is in reality like a spherical scale.

Imagine a group being placed inside a large rubber ball. Their three inputs, (sound, image & idea) are all placed inside, and the ball starts rolling down a hill. If the three concepts work together (though not necessarily in equal proportions), the ball keeps rolling, eventually snowballing gathering speed and substance. If one element is too pronounced (i.e. out of balance), the ball becomes lopsided, and eventually grinds to a halt. Ninety-eight, percent of all music stays within this ball, which according to the group’s popularity, grows or diminishes in size. Occasionally a musical force is born which is just too big to stay in the ball and, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, breaks free. If all this Mr. Wizard claptrap means anything in reality, then 10cc are presently encased in a rather huge incubator-ball growing at such an enormous rate that it threatens to burst open at any moment.

Songwriting whiz Graham Gouldman has had success before, writing Top 5 hits for the Yardbirds, Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, and Wayne Fontana. But he’s also had his failures. For a full year he was under contract to a US publishing company where he was required to write a specific number of songs each quarter, and a specified fee was sent in return. Graham turned out about 22 songs that year, but unfortunately not one was placed, Graham: “This was a very depressing period for me because an artist needs his ego fed — he needs recognition.” So after the publishing deal expired, he did some work for the Kasenetz-Katz team, and that’s where he met the rest of 10cc.

Lol Creme and Kevin Godley had been mates and friends of Graham since 1965 when they were in a group called the Mockingbirds. Eric Stewart, who had his heyday with the Mindbenders, also knew Graham since Graham had actually been a member of the Mindbenders during 1968. Stewart, Godley, & Creme were working up in Stockport where Eric’s new venture Strawberry Studios was being organized, and Graham got them all down to London for the Kasenetz-Katz sessions. Although the session work was drawn out and often quite dreary, the quartet felt a certain magic emerging. Eric, Lol & Kevin returned to Stockport and came up with a massive hit as Hotlegs, ‘Neanderthal Man’. Graham joined them on the road but soon after, Hotlegs fizzled out. After doing additional session work for over a year, the quartet decided to give it one last concentrated push.

So 10cc was born, and the rest is history. The first single ‘Donna’ went to No.2 on the British charts, and the follow-up ‘Johnny Don’t Do It’ seemed headed for similar success. But it flopped. Some might have thought it was going to be the Hotlegs story all over again, but not Eric: “We were disappointed, but we weren’t worried, because we had recorded a bunch of new things. ‘Rubber Bullets’ shot to No.1 in Britain, and with some hype and push reached No.50 in the U.S. As ‘Bullets’ fell off the UK charts, the deejays wanted a follow-up. The group was busy touring and finishing their debut album, so they didn’t have time to record a follow-up. ‘The Dean and I’ was taken off the album, and it too became a Top 10 chart item.

When you think about it, the 10cc success story seems almost too obvious. All four are amazingly talented and
experienced writers, vocalists, musicians, and producers. They all knew each other — in fact they were actually quite good friends. “We should have been doing this years ago” declares Eric. Well, better late than never, and it really has been worth the wait. 10cc is a brilliant synthesis of what the group is all about. Beautiful, powerful melodies with hooks that could kill, perfect vocals with lilting harmonies, and lyrics that are masterpieces in their own right.

With Britain behind them, the group has turned their attention to America. They are currently busy at Strawberry Studios working on their next album, scheduled for a February release. About a half-dozen tracks have been completed and those who have heard them label them as merely “stunning”. One, ‘The Worst Band in the World’ seems to be a likely prospect for the next single. It is a change of pace for the group, being neither an “uptempo rocker” like ‘Rubber Bullets’ or ‘The Dean & I’, nor a “nostalgic ballad” like ‘Donna’ or ‘Johnny Don’t Do It’. It is unmistakably 10cc though, this time with new touches of reggae, and Southern California/Mill Valley harmonies. The group is also flying over to the U.S. during January to tape a segment for Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and a U.S. tour is pencilled in for February.

Their four talents are so distinctive, It’s hard to believe that they could be contained in one unit. But it is working and what they will come up with next just can’t be predicted. Eric: “We’ve decided that everything we’ve done so far has worked in its own terms but we’re still only working within the limits that have been set up during the last ten years of rock and roll — from the Beatles to 10cc today. And it’s time to transcend all that — if we can…” It’s that type of thinking and determination, backed up by immense talent and knowhow that will make 1974 the year of 10cc.

© Alan BetrockPhonograph Record, January 1974

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