10cc: How Dare They!

Abbreviations:
GG … Graham Gouldman
LC … Lol Creme
ES … Eric Stewart
KG … Kevin Godley
HL … Harvey Lisburgh (manager)

Do you feel in any way schizophrenic about doing Top of the Pops and also doing enormous tours which are obviously attracting a different sort of audience?

LC: No, it’s all part of the same job … everyone’s entitled to hear us, we’re not going to deny people. We aren’t snobs, you know.

Yes, but some people might suspect that the fact you’re on Phonogram is probably the reason why the Hotlegs album isn’t being re-released when there’s obviously a market for it.

GG: What has one thing got to do with the other?

LC: We play to everybody, regardless of age or musical taste.

GG: Are you implying we’ve put a ban on the Hotlegs album?

That’s how it looks … it’s a very much in demand album.

GG: Is it really? We didn’t even know that.

So are all the other things – like the Graham Gouldman singles on CBS, and Frabjoy & Runcible…

LC: I think that’s interesting; I know that in America, people are into the history of music… it must be a growing thing, because it never used to be that way.

GG: There’s one guy, called Keith, who works in a warehouse, and he’s got copies of everything that any of us have ever done in our lives – a collection that none of us would have. But in America, it seems like you get someone like that at every gig.

Presumably you have no plans to release any of that old stuff again?

LC: We wouldn’t initiate its release, no – but I don’t know about record companies… they might want to.

GG: There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

HL: If we ever did a History of 1Occ, we’d use all that we’d get all the tapes – but we’d make sure that people were aware it wasn’t actually 10cc. We’d do that if ever the time was ripe.

How do you choose your singles?

LC: We didn’t choose ‘Art for Art’s Aake’.

GG: Up to now, we’ve always chosen the singles ourselves, or else we’ve agreed with Jonathan [King] when he suggested a certain track… but we have usually come up with the idea. It was like that with ‘Minestrone’ and ‘I’m Not in Love’, but with this album we hadn’t thought about singles at all. In fact, we were talking about not releasing a single, because nothing really stuck out that much – but then Phonogram came up with the idea, and we thought we’d give it a try.

LC: They wanted a single out in America to coincide with the tour, and to follow up ‘I’m Not in Love’ as quickly as possible, because there’d been too long a delay anyway. They thought ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ was a good idea, so they released it there, and 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… if didn’t happen there, but it did happen here. If it had been up to us, I doubt if we’d have put it out.

KG: You leave the business to business people. We’re not ashamed of any track we’ve recorded, so it wouldn’t be a case of “we don’t want that out as a single”. There’s no problem as far as we’re concerned, because we’re proud of the music, every single track.

I suppose the two on The Original Soundtrack were much more obviously singles…

LC: We saw them as singles, in that particular order. We saw ‘Minestrone’ as a good comeback, after a long period of silence, after ‘Silly Love’, and we thought that would get things bubbling again. Then we decided to put out ‘I’m Not in Love’, which we thought would either be a hit or a resounding flop.

GG: Phonogram said that as well, so we were all agreed, which was very nice, whereas with ‘Art for Art’s Sake’, we weren’t so sure – and we were very surprised that it’s done so well.

LC: In fact we were totally amazed!

There’s been some conjecture as to exactly what the two people on the sleeve of How Dare You? are saying …

LC: We’re not telling you.

Do you know what they’re saying?

LC: Of course we do.

KG: We told them what to say.

LC: But we’re not telling you! We told the exact opposite to the last people we asked.

How are you doing in America? As well as here?

LC: We’re just at the start of our career in America.

It’s a cult following at present?

KG: No, it’s more than that now.

LC: It was, until we did the first headline tour, which we’ve just come back from. I think the whole thing’s under way now, because the gigs were so successful – touch wood… I think we’ve made the break.

HL: We’re eighteen months behind, in a parallel path.

Was it anything to do with the fact that UK Records didn’t really have any American representation, whereas Phonogram obviously does?

GG: It had everything to do with it.

HL: They lost ‘Wall Street Shuffle’, and that took some doing.

LC: They lost ‘Rubber Bullets’ – that took a lot of doing too!

HL: We had five Top Five records here, and they didn’t have one.

Didn’t you have some regrets about leaving Jonathan King after he had shown that initial faith?

LC: There were certain regrets, er, socially almost, because we like Jonathan – even though he’s a bum and a punk and tight – but we love him, because he’s one of those very likeable people… but regrets as far as our career went, there were none.

I suspect that you like Jonathan because he basically makes the same sort of records –

LC: Oh no, he bloody doesn’t!

He obviously doesn’t take as much care as you, but –

LC: He’s not a serious musician… he’s in it purely and simply for the money – so we’re poles apart, we really are. You can’t honestly say that his records are a really honest effort to improve music, whereas we feel ours are.

Perhaps that’s true, but how many records are a conscious effort to improve music?

LC: Not many – but you still can’t say that Jonathan makes similar records to us. His motives are different and his music is different. I think you’d better explain yourself, mate. I think you’re on thin ice. Do you want to go now?

No, I want to go on arguing!

LC: A ten-minute argument, or a fifteen?

I can’t afford the fifteen! Both his records and yours appeal to me; his because of the cheek of them to a great extent, and yours certainly have that going for them. Jonathan doesn’t write verbal amusements like yours, but when he can come on Top Of The Pops with a bunch of gorillas as backing vocalists – I suspect that comes from the same place as some of your lyrics.

LC: Do you mean he’s got a sort of zany streak? We’ve both got that, but that’s as far as any parallel could possibly go.

KG: He puts out records to make money, and we put out records to make money! It’s totally different!

HL: You’re entitled to compare anything to anything, but it’s a surprising comparison!

I think you were tied together in the early days because you were the only successful acts on UK… my apologies – I take it all back.

GG: I think it’s fair to say that we’re poles apart musically, and our motives are different, and our sensibilities are light years away.

[At this point, as if silently voicing some kind of protest, my tape records jammed. The interviewees claimed that it was because I’d been comparing them with Jonathan, and even the tape recorder knew that was rubbish. However, with a few well-chosen blows, I got it going again shortly afterwards.]

GG: One guy we met had written out all the words from The Original Soundtrack, and had transcribed all the chords as well. I don’t know how long it took him to do it, but it was amazing that somebody could spend all that time on it.

How is it that your name was spelt wrong on the first album?

GG: I don’t know.

KG: The person that did it is still looking for a job.

GG: It was corrected afterwards – but even in the lyric sheets of How Dare You? there are mistakes… there’s a writing credit wrong as well.

How do you use this writing-together facility? Is it pure chance, or does one of you start with an idea and select one of the others to complete it?

GG: We usually start off in two pairs; Eric and myself, and Kev and Lol … Those are the sort of “name” writing teams – but later on, after writing three or four songs; we feel like a change and switch around …. we start talking to someone else about an idea – it’s quite casual.

Nobody else seems to do it like you do.

ES: There isn’t another group in the whole world with four good writers.

LC: There are groups where everyone insists on writing – so that they all get a share of the money… and what happens is that you get an album with two good tracks on it, and the rest is an excuse. But it depends on what you’re in it for – if you want the standard of the album to be great, then you own up and say, “alright, I’m not a good writer”. I mean, it’s happened with us; we’ve written songs and said “it’s OK, but I think we could do better”… and we’ve all worked on it, rather than being possessive about it.

Do you discard a lot?

LC: In the writing of a track, about 98% of it gets slung in the bin.

GG: Or it will recur in another song – not maybe as a verse, but it does happen a lot.

LC: There’s a lot of owning-up takes place when we write – till everything is absolutely right.

Do you sit down and say “Right, now it’s time for some writing”? Do you leave your homes?

LC: We’ve only ever done that once. For this album, Kevin and I went to France to write, but usually we go into the studio, lock ourselves in, and that’s a very good atmosphere for writing.

GG: We start at ten and carry on – otherwise we wouldn’t do anything.

So you can do it in that kind of organsied manner?

GG: It’s like doing a tour – you’re booked for certain days at certain hours, and you go and do it.

LC: If you only wrote when you got blind inspiration, you might write three songs a year.

ES: If you worked on blind inspiration, you’d never get anything finished – because every song is about 2% inspiration and 98% graft. We don’t organise ourselves so strictly, and say “Monday 9 am, we are going to write”, but by the time you’ve finished a tour you’re ready to write… you’re ready to do something different – in the same way that you’re ready to tour again after you’ve done an album. It works like that quite naturally all the way.

LC: So you can plan for that. Lots of ideas come while you’re on the road, or anywhere – and those ideas are going to be the starts or middles of something.

Do you ever think of going back to any of your old songs?

LC: Yes, he said, shaking his head. Actually, the title track of How Dare You? is something that was written three or four years ago… it was an experiment that we tried, which somehow worked its way into that song.

GG: It also happened with the b-side of ‘Donna’; that was based on a thing I’d done for Robbins Music… so yes, often bits and pieces from the past will come up and get used in some way or other.

LC: As a rule, we prefer to move forwards rather than backwards.

Can you tell us a bit about your fifth member?

LC: Paul – Paul Burgess… he’s fabulous. Very tall, and he’s a drum fanatic, which is ideally suited to us. He just works with us on the road – doesn’t work in the studio.

Don’t you want him to, or doesn’t he want to?

LC: There’s no need, because Kev’s the drummer.

Doesn’t he feel left out?

KG: Well, he seems to be quite an easy-going bloke.

LC: When we go into the studio to record, it’s not just playing the drums, it’s learning something – and Kev’s not going to learn anything by having Paul play the drums. That’s the way we approach our instruments in the studio – we learn by playing things we haven’t played before ….. so there’s very little point in Paul doing it. It sort of defeats the object.

GG: Paul’s very valuable on the road because he also plays keyboards – but he’s just absolutely happy to do what he does. He never expresses a desire to go into the studio. He loves being on the road.

LC: He’s a specialist in his own field. I mean, you have concert pianists, virtuosos; he’s a virtuoso of the drums and gets the chance to show it by coming on the road with us.

Do you use backing tapes in the live show?

GG: As little as possible… there are little things like the siren in ‘Rubber Bullets’ and the voices in ‘I’m Not in Love’.

You don’t use musical backing tracks?

GG: There’s no point. For some reason, people are under the impression that we use a lot of tapes. We don’t – and we still manage to get very close to the sound of the records… sometimes it’s even better than the records, so people tell us.

*

And that’s a solid cue for me to tell you that the interview finished there. At the time, I hadn’t seen the band on stage, so many of the latter questions were asked in ignorance.

Now I have seen the 1Occ live show, and of its type, it’s absolutely the best I’ve ever seen. By that, I mean that with certain concerts, I go as much to watch the individual performers as the overall show – a good example being the recent Emmylou Harris gigs. But with a group like IOcc, I suppose I’m going in the first instance to see songs I enjoy on record played live, and to compare the two versions. Therefore the two concepts don’t bear comparison.

1Occ, in probably 90% of their set, were a visual improvement on an aural delight. Their playing was a joy, and their singing was impeccable – and their use of lights, a lot of lights, was without equal in anything I’ve seen for some time. The immense care with which their show is put together is an object lesson to those who don’t know how to use lighting effects, and an example to most of those who do. This great care extends further than just the staging of the show – after the gig, the stage door fans were carefully received, in groups of six, and every autograph-hunter was satisfied. If you’re interested, the group will give you an audience, despite having been on stage for around an hour and a half.

This is a group who deserve their success in every possible way. It was a delight to talk to them, and I’m hoping to do it again before long. Forget the carping in the weekly press – this is a very fine group, and just for a change, they’re also British. Support them if you can, and if you get the opportunity to see them on stage, don’t miss it, or you’ll undoubtedly regret it one day. Mark my words…

© John ToblerZigZag, April 1976

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