The echoes of four years of chart-bound art’n’smarts. The legacy of 10cc.
MY 11-YEAR-OLD son recently heard 10cc’s ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ playing at a skatepark. “Dad, what’s THIS?! ” he asked, affronted. “It’s horrible.”
I could totally see his point. That record marked the moment when I parted company with one of my favourite bands. I’d previously considered them a rich playground of chops and humour, like a British Steely Dan, loving the salty playfulness of Sheet Music and forever in thrall to them for the peerless ‘I’m Not In Love’, which still catches my breath, but ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ showed me I’d become allergic to the wit-over-emotion formula. Like the “clichés, toupees and three-pées” gag in ‘Silly Love’, its moment had passed.
That “you had to be there” quality of I0cc’s legacy hasn’t endeared it to subsequent generations. ‘Rubber Bullets” rewrite of ‘Jailhouse Rock’ as a bubblegum bopper about screw brutality must be head-scratching for millennials. They were strong meat even for pop-pickers at the time. Gleefully breaking the form’s most cherished rules, they seldom, as they note in the notes to Before, During, After: The Story Of 10cc (Universal), “stay with one great groove and milk it.”
But their highlights – usually occurring when they engaged both head and heart – are still attractive. Only one of the four discs here features the band – a taut, enjoyable collection of hits – the other discs concentrate on the various members’ subsequent endeavours, plus a fun fourth disc summarising their route to 10cc, Eric Stewart fronting the Mindbenders’ delightful ‘Groovy Kind Of Love’, Graham Gouldman’s work as hit-peddler for Hollies, Yardbirds and Herman’s Hermits represented here by his own versions of the songs, taken from a 1968 solo album arranged by John Paul Jones, plus some early productions from Eric’s Strawberry Studios in Stockport: the unlikely Hotlegs smash and its flop follow up and their work for eccentrics as varied as Ramases and Neil Sedaka, who came to Stockport in a Bentley looking for his answer to Carole King’s Tapestry.
Godley & Creme’s hits ‘Cry’, ‘Wedding Bells’ and ‘Under Your Thumb’ still crackle with pop nous. Gouldman’s work with Andrew Gold, as Wax, sticks like barnacles to the hull of yacht rock, but it’s not surprising they still think most fondly of their four-year collaborative heyday as an art’n’smarts hit machine.
This was an intelligent way to re-present the brand, treating the band as four individuals with much to offer beyond those years. Long-term adherent Paul Lester provides excellent notes with fresh interviews. (I thought it poignant that Stewart wishes he could have been involved in Godley & Creme’s famously bonkers triple album, Consequences.) But even he has to admit that 10cc “clevered themselves into a corner”. It’s hard to gauge exactly who’d fancy a box such as this, but whoever you are, you’re in for a treat.
© Jim Irvin, MOJO, July 2017