10cc: The Punk And I or Two Jews Blues

…In which two nice young men of Hebraic extraction (LOL CRÈME and CHARLES SHAAR MURRAY) engage in heated debate about 10 c.c.’s collective attitude. Or not, as the case may be.

LOL CREME STARES OUT across the dressing room at the Manchester Free Trade Hall.

It’s overloaded with humanoids playing buffet-a-go-go in honour of Manchester’s own – your very own – 10 c.c. A strange combination of fans, rockbiz semi-heavies, friends and family from Manchester’s Jewish community and so on, all imbibing liquids at a thoroughly frenetic rate of knots and guzzling assorted items of a cold foody nature.

All of which is pissing Lol off a trifle. Y’see, he can’t stand cold food and is dying for a hot meal. His own party and they never even asked the poor little dude what he wanted to eat. (It’s almost enough to give a man a jaundiced worldview, already.)

So there’s nothing much else for him to do except tighten his grip on his bottle of Bacardi and insult members of the press. An aggressive little fella is our Lol, classic case of mucho intensity bottled up in miniscule form, a kind of transistorised Superjewish punk in terrible clothes.

10 c.c. had carried off their triumphal home-town gig with quite a high score on the elan-o-meter, and several widespread outbursts of “Wally!”-shouting by some of the more volatile members of the audience.

It was an efficient performance, with more concessions to the great god Presentation than 10 c.c. have ever made before. Good sound, good choice of numbers, good playing – but funky it wasn’t.

There’s still too much of the clinical clamminess of the studio about 10 c.c.’s gigs; their live performances are not independent entities in themselves but attempts to reproduce in a live situation the cause-and-effect of their recordings. Some bands are fortunate enough to be able to cope equally well with the differing demands of the stage and the studio – Led Zep and The Who come readily to mind – and others exist principally as performing units and produce stiff, clumsy recordings.

10 c.c., like it or not, function most creatively in the studio, where they can polish and develop their music. Their concerts are high on music and low on visual interest; hence the heavy reliance they place on lighting trickery to compensate for their lack of even the most basic showmanship.

Only Creme has any real stage presence.

Graham Gouldman, in the 60s one of Britain’s major pop composers with songs like ‘For Your Love’, ‘Heart Full Of Soul’, ‘Tally Man’ and a whole flock of numbers for Hoiman’s Hoimits to his credit, slumps behind his mike in a permanent S-bend; knees forward, hips back, torso tilted towards his microphone.

He’s the one who does those thicko bass vocals, and for some strange reason he looks like Al Stewart. He also wears trousers that are much too long for him.

Kevin Godley is da one wit’ da beard and the ethereal falsetto (as opposed to Creme’s joke doo-wop falsetto). Most of the time he sits behind his drums clunking away in fine style; occasionally he wanders sheepishly up to the front and has himself a little sing. He wears a white suit and once made a great record called ‘To Fly Away’.

Then there’s Eric Stewart, who is really one of the world’s all-time Erics. He just radiates Eric-hood. He takes a lot of the lead vocals and turns out guitar solos by the yard. Like Graham Gouldman, he has a long and honourable British Pop Past, having been the lead guitarist of The Mindbenders.

BUT IT’S Lol Creme who seems the most at home on stage; grinning, bouncing up and down and shaking his hair about. He seems to be the guardian of 10 c.c.’s Basic Rock Ethos.

I mean, if anybody in that band is a rock-and-roll star, then it’s Lol Creme. Has to be. No one else even comes close.

For a start, he’s so tiny he makes Rick Derringer look like Elton John, he’s got a swarthy, cynical, rubber-lipped face, and his hair is incredibly clean.

Anyway, after the gig he’s wiped out on that Bacardi and getting articulately stroppy.

He decides to play intimidate-the-journalist by calling me Frank, so I start calling him Irving. He gives me a dirty look. I’ve already got one, so I give it back.

He goes into a long rap about this startlingly obnoxious American whom he met while on holiday in Bermuda who had the blindingly brilliant notion of opening a knicker factory, a venture doomed to almost certain failure by the fact that “West Indian women don’t wear drawers.

“His first factory was in Trinidad and his secretary tried to stab him to death ’cause he was white.” He bursts into an asthmatic wheeze that may be intended to be a laugh. “Which brings us to our latest album.”


He does his explosive wheeze again. “I’m as big a Jew as you are, mate.”

It appears that this guy is gonna have to be dealt with quite severely. “Listen, man, I’m not feeling competitive tonight. You can be a bigger Jew than me if you want.”

“I could never be a bigger Jew than you. I’m only four foot nine.”

“Never mind. On you it looks good.”

He does that horrible wheezing excuse for a laugh again, grinning like a hyena.

This I don’t need. I’ll make the jokes, you just sit there and talk about your goddam album.

“I refuse to be helpful to anybody this evening. My grandfather died this evening. Did you know that? A fine bloody time to die. It’s pretty final when you go, though, but I couldn’t give a shit about that. I mean, where he’s going has got to be better than here.

“An eighty-year-old living on whatever it was that he had. He had the Big C – what Jews refuse to call cancer. They’ve got this thing about not calling it by name.

“There’s one thing about cancer that, in a way, I can…I can …dig, I suppose you could say. There’s a theory that you can get cancer no matter where you are or who you are. It’s the sun’s rays, the gamma rays. As they go through you, if they hit a certain cell in a wrong way, it’ll ruin the cell, which will then spread – right? – so it doesn’t matter how healthy you are or who you are or what you’ve done. It’s so random.

“It’s pure nature, and it’s…fairer than through you screwing your own body up with smoking or anything. If that theory is correct, then it’s all very natural and that I can dig.

“So how does cancer relate to our music, Frank?” he inquires, suddenly.

“In fact, it doesn’t relate to our music because our music doesn’t relate to anything.”

Yes it does, Irving. 10 c.c.’s music relates to everything negatively and nothing positively.

“Absolutely. I will agree with you.” Quart and tierce. Engarde.

Collectively, if not individually, youse guys have the most totally – here it comes again, pop-pickers – Jaundiced Worldview of any band I’ve ever met.

“Absolutely jaundiced. Totally jaundiced.”

Okay. So how did such a nice bunch of Jewish boys develop a nauseatingly repulsive view of the world?

“Just certain advantage’s that we were brought up with.”

What advantages?

“Gimme an example.”

Ain’t Lol cute – he’s really playing hard to get, isn’t he? So I point out that 10 c.c. have never written a song that related optimistically to any emotional, cultural or social phenomenon – just going through the motions. Lol knows exactly what I mean, but he wants it spelt out.

“For example, take love. All right, let’s stop pissing around. A love song can’t be written by more than one person if it’s honest. We write in twos. Therefore it’s a compromise of two people’s emotions.

“You can’t write seriously about someone that you really love with another person, so when two people get together, you have a laugh and a joke and you try to enjoy what you’re doing. You take a humorous point of view, and a humorous song develops.

“There are lines in ‘Silly Love’ which relate to my relationship with my wife. I call her ‘treash’ and ‘toots’, but if we’re debating love songs – period – that song is about love songs that are written by two or more people. Love songs are just moon-in-June written for a market, which to my mind is not a very honest approach. So I think it’s worth making a comment about that.

“Taking the social and political things – we’re not political machines. We’re instinctive. We just get vibes about things and we regurgitate the things that we assimilate. You assimilate the way things are going at the moment – and it’s such a bloody mess.

‘I’m Jewish – three of us are Jewish – but I think that the idea of Jesus Christ is such a fabulous idea. So we said it in a song, ‘The Second Sitting For The Last Supper’. That’s all we said.

“I can’t get off on the idea of acid, alright? ‘A trip from the fifteenth floor’ is liable to be a fatal one, so I think that’s a fairly positive thing to say. I think there’s a lot of money made out of so-called religion – which I think is a positive statement.”

Okay – it’s possible to show where you stand by showing where you don’t stand, but you’ve shown yourselves not standing in so many places that you’ve painted yourselves right into a corner. (Yes, I know I said that when I reviewed the album, but Lol hadn’t read the review so I had to perform it to him live).

“We’re having an argument, right? And before you can have a discussion, you’ve got to bring up a point. And that’s what we’re doing.

“Actually, we don’t take things that seriously – to be quite honest. When we write, we just sit down and things just pour out. It sounds to me like you’re trying to suggest that we take an attitude. It’s totally new to me. It’s quite fascinating.

“I’ll try and justify what you think our attitude is, but we don’t even go in there with a preconception of what we’re trying to write.”

Okay, I’ll buy that – but whether the attitude is conscious or unconsicious, it’s still there and it’s still total nihilism.

“We go in there to communicate. All we’re interested in is communication. One thing that I think personally is: we try. We try to start an argument if it’s worth starting.

“If a song hasn’t got it, well do it again until it has got it, or else well scrap it. We scrap far more stuff than we use.”

I MENTION something about ‘Rubber Bullets’ being one of the most positive things that 10c.c. have ever done, as a protest against the prison system.

“I hate protest songs – and here we are writin’ ’em.” He wheezes again.

Look, let’s get down to it. By listening to you, I know exactly what you don’t like. What I want to know now is what you do like.

“We might get to that Do you want me to tell you what we’re for? Well, every song is the combination of two minds in the first place writing the basic bare bones of the track, and then four minds that tear the track apart, add constructive ideas, lyrically or musically – so the finished product is one of four minds.

“I’m very romantic…”

Well, you have yet to communicate that in your music.

“Fair enough. I’m very destructive too, and I start by getting rid of the shit. It’s the way I start everything relating to what I do, and so do we all. We spend four days writing a song, and then we scrap it, because all we’ve done is get the cobwebs out.

“Subject-matter-wise, I agree with you. We’ve been bringing up things that we don’t like. I think that we’ve taken a stand. It might take a year, it might take two years, it might be the next track that we do – something positive.

“Before you can put up a new building, you’ve got to rip the old one down. I think we’ve made clear the start of where we stand. We believe that certain things not the way we like them, not the way they should be.

“With that premise, if we get any ideas of how they should be…we’re not that brilliant. We’re not sages. We’re too young.”

You’re not much younger than Zappa.

“Yeah, well, Zappa’s obviously cleverer than we are. Zappa’s older than I am, he’s been around a lot more than I have.

“I know a lot of things that I’d like to see happen, but I don’t think those ideas – what you would call the positive side of the argument – are mature enought yet, and I’m not going to make a fool of myself by stating a point that I haven’t formulated yet.

“I have to get rid of the shit that I personally think is around and then start building my own ideas.

“We construct our music the same way we do our lives. We’ve got rid of the things we didn’t like, and gradually we’ll start filling in the things that we do like.

“I can’t agree with you that we’re being negative in the sense that you mean it, though. We’re bringing things down, but we’re doing it in a positive way. We’re explicit, aren’t we? We don’t like this, we don’t like that and we don’t like the other thing.

“It might come, but it’s got to be natural. It can’t be forced. We can’t say, ‘We don’t like this here’s what we’d like to put in its place. It’d be pretentious if we weren’t quite sure of what we were doing.

“We’re saying that we think it’d be fantastic if a messiah came down and gave us some direction – if that messiah was the kind of Jesus Christ that everybody loves. We said that very positively.”

But the end result of that is just to point out how alone we really are.

“It’s true, isn’t it?”

Yeah, but the implication of that which you didn’t state is that no messiah is gonna come down and bail us out and clean up after us and undo all our mistakes. We have to undo them for ourselves.

You didn’t talk about Where We Go From Here.

“We’re not very sure what we do, I like your idea that we should all try and do it ourselves, but I didn’t think of it. We haven’t formulated mature ideas of our own – and Pennie” (that’s gorgeous, cigar-smokin’ photog Pennie Smith of course) “is yawning and she’s obviously bored. Pennie hates taking pictures of 10c.c. I’d like to see her in suspenders.

“I think you should do an article on my son, who’s five months old and obviously the most amazing child on the planet…”

ENTER, FOR no apparent reason, Eric Stewart.

“Eric! Meet Frank. He’s from the NME“.

Swift action-replay of the basic premise of the discussion.

“There’s no message behind the music, really”, muses Stewart. “It’s fiction for the most part. We’re really trying, though. We’re no rip-off merchants…our album is full of cliches.

“We dream in cliches, we dream in parodies.”

You guessed it. 10 c.c. are a bunch of comix freaks, and Eric nearly freaked out when I told him about my copy of Silver Surfer Number One signed by Stan Lee.

Meanwhile, back at the argument: Even though every negative implies a positive, I’ve seen all yer negatives but I ain’t seen yer positives yet.

“Well, it could be worth waiting for, but there’s no point in giving the alternative until you’ve got it sussed out.”

Yeah, but if you’re gonna deal in negatives to the extent that you have then it would’ve been as well to have thought about that at the time and packed a few positives in your overnight bag as well.

“Take ‘Clockwork Creep’ as an example,” interposes Stewart. “There you’ve got a very serious subject – people are hijacking planes, blowing up children – and it’s in the headlines all the time. It’s almost boring – and that should never be boring.

“There’s an idea behind the song, and that idea is very serious, but the music is fairly humourous. It gets over the point without being boring.”

Yeah, but do you think that your audience gets off on the implications of what you’re doing or are they just boogiein’ to da chunes?

“They didn’t last tour. This tour they do. We’re trying to get people to listen to what we’re trying to say…”

Enter Kevin Godley. Whoopee, the gang’s almost all here.

“Each track,” continues Stewart, “is a story in itself. It’s like a story, a painting. Complete. Finished…”

From there on in, we just got really pissed and buddy-buddy and parted on good terms, all “‘ave a good tour, man” and stumbles galore, with an eventual chunderama at the hotel to put it all into perspective.

10 C.C. ARE one of the best rock bands in England. They’re also one of my favourites – sometimes, but that’s a different league altogether. They inspire my admiration almost continually, but my emotions are repelled even as my intellect is stimulated, a sensation I find curious in the extreme. The only possible resolution of this contradiction would be for them to find a way to feed a little compassion and constructiveness into the blend – though anything less than the most ruthless precision would involve a proportionate loss of cutting edge in their satire department; something that I’d be loathe to see.

10 c.c. find themselves thereby neatly impaled on the horns of a dilemma exclusively of their own making; a direct result of their being one of the most ambitious bands in rock. It’s a dilemma that simply doesn’t exist outside the First Division – where 10 c.c. indisputably are – because the ideological and conceptual make-up of less sophisticated bands don’t cause that kind of problem.

Rotsa ruck, effendim. You is gonna need it.

© Charles Shaar MurrayNew Musical Express, 15 March 1975

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