Who They Are: In their original incarnation, 10cc were a smart pop quartet with a far more impressive back story than most of their peers. Eric Stewart had been the front-man for The Mindbenders, who scored a massive international hit in 1966 with “A Groovy Kind of Love.” Graham Gouldman had been a teenage songwriting prodigy, penning such hits as “For Your Love” (The Yardbirds), “Bus Stop” (The Hollies), and “No Milk Today” (Herman’s Hermits), among many others; he also played in, wrote for, and recorded with various bands around his home in Greater Manchester with friends from the local Jewish Lad’s Brigade, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. Gouldman was later contracted as a songwriter by the (in)famous bubblegum pop production team of Kasenatz and Katz in 1969, eventually convincing the American producers that their assembly-line approach to disposable pop songs could be best facilitated if Gouldman, Stewart, Godley and Creme created the Super K label’s confections at Strawberry Studios, a hugely influential creative destination owned by Stewart, Gouldman, and other business partners. (Manchester’s extraordinary punk and post-punk community later recorded many of the most seminal albums of the late ’70s at Strawberry, as did Stewart’s good friend, Paul McCartney). One of the proto-10cc’s pseudonymous pop period tunes, “Neanderthal Man,” became an international hit under the group name Hotlegs, with Stewart, Godley and Creme as band members; they followed it up with the equally eclectic, though less commercially successful “Umbopo,” credited to Doctor Father, while also releasing scores of other songs under a variety of names during their writers-for-hire days. The full quartet later worked together with Neil Sedaka on his acclaimed creative come-back album Solitaire (1972), recorded at Strawberry Studios. Signing with pop impresario Jonathan King (who had already discovered and launched Genesis some years earlier, among other accomplishments), the quartet were branded as 10cc after that name came to King in a dream. With two accomplished songwriting teams (Godley with Creme, and Gouldman with Stewart) emerging from within the group construct, the quartet scored a massive UK hit with their debut single, “Donna” (1972), then went on in their original incarnation to issue four highly-acclaimed albums, and to score eight additional Top 40 UK hits. The grandest of 10cc’s popular songs was the massive 1975 global hit “I’m Not In Love,” one of the most innovative and strange pop songs ever released and recorded; there aren’t a lot of single chart-topping songs that merit full exposition into their creation, but “I’m Not In Love” is remarkable enough to make films like this hugely interesting and informative. Godley and Creme left 10cc in 1976 to launch successful careers as musicians and video producers, and to (less successfully) promote their patented “endless guitar” device, the Gizmotron. Gouldman and Stewart (supported by guitarist Rick Fenn and drummers Paul Burgess and Stuart Tosh, among others) carried on under the 10cc moniker, scoring their own additional hits with “The Things We Do For Love,” “Good Morning Judge,” and “Dreadlock Holiday.” Gouldman continues to perform and record under the 10cc moniker to this day, while Stewart left the group in 1995, after working with Paul McCartney as his first prominent songwriting partner post-John Lennon, and serving as a successful producer for a variety of other artists. After the Godley and Creme partnership broke down in the late 1980s, Creme worked with Art of Noise and The Trevor Horn Band, while Godley served as an influential video director in his own rights with U2, Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Sting, and many others.
When I First Heard Them: Summer of 1975, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, when “I’m Not In Love” was completely inescapable on the radio. A couple of years later, after I’d moved to Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York, I acquired my first 10cc album, Deceptive Bends, which is a defining soundtrack to a particularly memorable and influential period in my personal life and development, for all the wrong reasons, with adult hindsight. I didn’t really get deeper into the 10cc until Godley and Creme’s 1985 album The History Mix Volume 1, which offered extraordinary Fairlight CMI-fortified melodies of songs from the duo’s long career together, including Hotlegs, Doctor Father, 10cc, and their own eclectic releases. I scored the essential 10cc compilation Greatest Hits 1972-1978 soon thereafter, and then enthusiastically acquired both 10cc’s and Godley and Creme’s back catalogs over the months and years that followed. I’ve been on a bit of a 10cc jag here in recent months, all these years on, having recently read the updated version of Liam Newton’s outstanding book 10cc: The Worst Band In The World, which I highly commend to your attention.
Why I Love Them: I would sincerely rank 10cc second only to The Beatles among the list of self-contained rock ensembles who wrote incredibly smart and infectious popular music, then brought their brilliant songs to market with four unique vocalists working ably together, atop technically masterful instrumental beds, all deftly produced in innovative ways that significantly changed the ways in which rock music was recorded in the decades that followed. And in some ways, 10cc may have actually over-achieved against the Beatles’ record, in that they owned and operated their own studio, they didn’t have an outside producer of the George Martin variety as part of their creative team, and they successfully wrote for and backed other artists, alongside their own successful careers. Paul Hanley, erstwhile drummer-keyboardist for The Fall, wrote an outstanding book a few years back called Leave the Capital: A History of Manchester Music in 13 Recordings, which clearly and ably demonstrates just how important 10cc’s Strawberry Studios were to the massively influential groups and music that emerged from Greater Manchester in the late ’70s and beyond. I also appreciate the fact that 10cc were the most successful (mostly)-Jewish band in UK chart history, overcoming embedded cultural prejudices with grace, aplomb and humor; they semi-seriously considered naming themselves “Three Yids and Yok” before Jonathan King branded them with the 10cc moniker. Probably for the best, as it turned out, even though the group labored for most of its existence under the myth that their name was based on the fact that the volume of the average male ejaculation was 9cc, so as manly Manchester men, they were clearly 1cc more macho than all of their peers. Sort of like Spinal Tap’s amps that went to 11, I suppose. Just dirtier.
#10. “The Worst Band In The World,” from Sheet Music (1974)
#9. “The Dean And I,” from 10cc (1973)
#8. “Art for Art’s Sake,” from How Dare You! (1976)
#7. “The Things We Do For Love,” from Deceptive Bends (1977)
#6. “I Pity Inanimate Objects,” from Freeze Frame (1979), credited to Godley & Creme
#5. “Life Is A Minestrone,” from The Original Soundtrack (1975)
#4. “Cry,” from The History Mix Volume 1 (1985), credited to Godley & Creme
#3. “Rubber Bullets,” from 10cc (1973)
#2. “Silly Love,” from Sheet Music (1974)
#1. “I’m Not In Love,” from The Original Soundtrack (1975)