10cc: We’re The Missionaries

A HATCHET-wielding psychopath was on the loose in the next room. In the circumstances, it was beyond comprehension how Lol Creme could present a gleaming countenance until it became clear that “the only Jewish missionaries in the world” are at it again. Another masterpiece is being conceived by 10cc.

With only five weeks to the deadline, and half an album still to record, things are getting a little hectic at Strawberry Studios, Stockport. The lunacy in the studio augured well for the track being worked on, though.

“I tell you, the track we’re in the middle of recording is totally insane,” Creme enthused. “It would appear to be about a schizophrenic and a psychopath, both in the same song. It’s madness. I won’t tell you who the psychopath is but he’s running around in there like a maniac.”

10cc have reached the stage in their career where they can afford to live dangerously, can afford to slag off whoever they want without fear of it affecting chances of future success. And Lol Creme was going to do just that. There are a whole list of things about the music business which upset him – radio, papers, songwriters.

Initially, Creme is unwilling to discuss these matters but, once wound up, he’s hard to stop. He keeps insisting that he doesn’t want to “mention names” but eventually gets so involved in the subject that he has to drop the clanger on some poor blokes to force his argument home.

On critics: “There are some good critics around and some bloody awful journalists. Unfortunately, the bad ones bring down the good ones. Most of those guys are idiots. They think they know it all but really they haven’t got the first clue about music. I get annoyed when I see people I know and respect being put down for something that has nothing to do with the music they play. Some journalists bring it down to a personal slagging match. There are some real negative slag rags about. If something is negative, it gathers momentum like a rolling stone and the people reading it become negative too. The whole thing then becomes lethargic.

“The one medium that people should be up about is music. It’s one of the few things around at the moment that is positive. It should always be exciting and up, instead of having a dig at this and that. That only makes people lose the excitement about the whole field of music.

“OK, there are times when you know that some music is rubbish. Let’s face it. But if the critics did their work properly, they could help people to sort out what to go for instead of having to wonder what’s out at the moment.

“As far as we are concerned, the music can never be too perfect. I suppose we can do things that go over people’s ears. You can’t expect an eight-year-old kid to understand the ambiguities that are in a song to do with a 22-year-old.

“We would never talk down to people though. In the first place, we’re writing and recording for our own satisfaction. The public comes second because we’ve got to be happy with it first. We’re not going to put out something which appeals to people’s basest instincts which some bands do. What we need is some sort of watchdog.”

Which brings us to sore-point number two. Did he mean watchdog in the shape of the BBC playlist panel? Creme asked for a repetition of the question before cringing, scurrying for the nearest bottle of whisky and shouting ferociously: “You must be joking! The playlist is the biggest culprit of the lot. Just think of the amount of good material they aren’t playing? How much business ‘business’ are they allowing to run the system? They’re playing stuff to satisfy the basest instincts of the listener.

“The criterion is up the creek. The only way it’ll be improved is by local radio. Of course, even those stations have to have some standards. They’ve got to play something that people will listen to. They can’t play avant-garde all the time. It’s a question of degrees and I think stations like Capital in London are two thousand times better than Radio One.”

To improve the situation, Creme would like to see Joe Public getting a chance to voice an opinion, as opposed to so-called “professionals” telling the world what they think.

“When we put out ‘Worst Band In The World’, someone said that the song was a bit of an in-joke. That was absolutely right. The lyrics had to do with bands taking themselves too seriously and this guy was suggesting that maybe we did. When we read that, we tried to change things a bit.”

So 10cc take themselves seriously?

“We hope we don’t. We take our music seriously but not ourselves, although it is very easy to fall into that trap.

“There are two categories in the music business. There are people who are in it for the business and people who are in it for the music. It’s very easy to find out who’s involved with what. People like Chinn and Chapman are the businessmen and I consider people like John Lennon, Elton John and Stevie Wonder and ourselves, the musicians.

“In our category, music becomes the controlling factor. We write music for the love of it. We’re not writing specifically to get a top five hit but we know the people who are. At the very best, those people are going to keep the level of music the same and God knows what’ll happen at the very worst.

“I enjoyed Suzi Quatro’s first record, the same as everybody else but it’s boring now. Chinn and Chapman think it’s good business to use the same formula all the time – but it’s not.”

And that brings us to the music of 10cc, which Creme sees as a life-saving factor in the business. Sure enough, the appeal is growing all the time. At last, the big breakthrough has been made with the band now riding on the crest of the wave.

It’s taken a few years of precise planning and co-ordination to do the job – it’s been as calculated as that – but now 10cc rank as one of Britain’s best bands.

1975 has seen 10cc come of age. Its been the year that’s seen the fruition of all the hard graft, the persistence to continue with what they believed in, sometimes in the face of much adversity. Who can ever forget the BBC’s initial reaction to the magnificent ‘Rubber Bullets’? Simply because of the title, they thought the entire song concerned the troubles in Northern Ireland and considered banning it. But a great song always wins in the end.

Two albums, 10CC and Sheet Music, served to further the cause of the band without gaining the across-the-board recognition they deserved. Little by little, word went round and when The Original Soundtrack came out earlier this year, the reward was reaped. Despite the faith even the dearest fan had in the band, it was quite a surprise to see the album move up the charts at such a rate. Yep, 10cc had well and truly made it.

But now they have to consolidate their success with the next album. As always, it’s being recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, their own unit, but it’ll be the last they’ll record there. A site has been bought in Surrey where a new studio is being built. 10cc are moving out of the North.

“I’ve been living here for 28 years now,” said Creme “It’s time for a change. The only friends we have are in the music business and they all live down around Surrey so it’ll be nice to meet them whenever we want.

“Apart from that, the centre of the music business in England is London and we’ve got to keep in touch with what’s going on. At some point in your career, you have to do that. It would be very easy to get isolated and we don’t want that.”

That’s a change of attitude for 10cc. For a long time, they had been refusing to move to London, maintaining that their roots were firmly laid in Lancashire. The 10cc homes, however, will be outside London when the move takes place.

Back to the new album. As usual, the band are writing as they record. It keeps the pressure on.

“The new album will be as different from The Original Soundtrack as that one was from Sheet Music. That’s the way we work. We always try to move forward but the way we work makes things hard. We have no preconceived ideas about what we’re going to do so everything is an instant surprise. It’s exciting but worrying at the same time.

“We’re hoping that everything is both new and good, not just new for the sake of it. Because we’ve got no preconceived ideas of what we’re going to do, we’ve got no standards to work to. The only standard procedure is that we must have perfection. That’s the only way we can continue. We just try to get the best out of ourselves.”

The perfectionist attitude has always been something that is stresssed about 10cc. How aware was Creme of that?

“We try to think of ourselves as people with a bit of discretion. We’re pleased so far with the new album. The recorded sounds will be much better technically. There will be a much clearer, crisper and finer sound for your stereo machine,” he announced, mimicking an all-American voice.

“We’re pleased enough with the songs so far. We wouldn’t put them down if we weren’t happy with them. We are giving people the best songs we can possibly write and the performances are good, although I can’t be that objective at this stage.”

In retrospect, what were his views on The Original Soundtrack?

“Personally, I thought the album was good but the only way I can relate it is by comparing it to Sheet Music. I thought it had higher peaks than Sheet Music and lower troughs. I tend to look at it graphically. There were parts that were better and parts that were worse. Sheet Music was a constant album whereas Original Soundtrack went higher and dipped lower in places.

“We took chances but you’ve got to do that or else you’ll land yourself in a bog where everyone thinks that you can only write witty songs. That wouldn’t satisfy us. Everything was a chance.

“The only thing to make sure of now is that we don’t become complacent. We’re not an overnight sensation. We worked on getting our success and The Original Soundtrack has made it mature.”

How were 10cc going to follow the brilliance of ‘I’m Not In Love’?

“To be quite honest, we haven’t even discussed a follow-up yet,” Creme replied. “We don’t sit down to make singles. We do tracks and then decide if one is suitable as a single. When we did The Original Soundtrack, we knew we had two tracks as singles – ‘Minestrone’ and ‘I’m Not In Love’. We put ‘Minestrone’ out first on the singles market because we knew it would get the name back in the charts, and then we would hit them with ‘I’m Not In Love’. That would either be a flop or a big hit, and it worked out.

“For the new album, we’ve done four or five tracks and we haven’t got one which we think is a single yet. If we don’t get one, we won’t put a single out. We’re not going to sit down and write a single specially. We daren’t lower our standards. We’re a fussy bunch of bastards, you know.”

© Harry DohertyMelody Maker, 20 September 1975

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