It was 40 Years Ago Today…10cc


One of the interesting things about history is the constant revaluation of people and events. We filter these through our contemporary view point. At the moment the Vikings seem to be getting a new appraisal after century’s of vilification for their raping and pillaging. Apparently much of the classical music we revere today has been subject to a Darwinian process of evolution, much of it has been lost, after all its a lot to expect manuscripts to have all survived intact through wars and general human unruliness. Also of course, music is reappraised, what might have sounded good in the C17th might not sound so hot a couple of hundred years later so might not have been cared for and lost to posterity.

Today its pretty hard to loose music forever its likely that everything we have now will last to the end of time and we can re appraise and re-evaluate as to our hearts content. And so we are going to get a lot of ‘It was 40 Years Ago’ articles.

For people of a certain age this is fantastic news. In the same way that my grandparents would go to museums and excited point out a mangle ‘just like we used to use’ we can now get a frisson of excitement by remembering the first time we heard the Ramones first album. Remembering things is fun, it gets better as you you get older kids.

The beginning and the end of the 70’s are easy to remember. It started with blokes with long hair in loon pants and ended with blokes with short hair in skinny red trousers but for a few years it was a free for all and in 1975 ’40 Years ago’ anything was up for grabs.

The latest ’40 years ago’ apparently is 10cc’s ‘I’m not in love’ a piece of work now treated with the reverence of the Turin Shroud. One one hand I’m OK with this ‘I’m not in love’ is rather good. I liked it the first time I heard it and I like it today but its been subjected to historical revision over the years.

I liked 10cc, they were genuinely innovative. They were from Manchester at a time when Manchester was just somewhere ‘oop North’ (in a lot of their photos they seem to have the same backdrop that Joy Division were to utilise a few years later) They had their own studio and could pretty much get on with making music however they wanted, no one was watching and no one cared that much. They looked like four blokes waiting for a bus, image was not part of their deal.There was also the creative tension between conformist songwriters Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman pitted against the anarchic tendencies or Lol Creme and Kevin Godley. So in the early days you had proper songs which were just a bit different, Godley and Creme had rather a penchant for the visual nature of musical but Stewart and Gouldman would make sure these grandiose ideas were were confined to a 4 minute pop song.

Rubber Bullets is a classic case in point, its got a cinematic quality but you can dance to it, also, if you cant get pleasure from Gouldman singing

I love to hear those convicts squeal

its a shame these slugs ain’t real

There’s something seriously wrong with you

But if there’s one thing life has taught us its that the fun can’t last for ever. As Andy Partridge from XTC was to observe, its OK to be clever but when people call you ‘clever clever’ its not a compliment. After ‘Sheet Music’, their second , and best, LP 10cc had become clever clever and the critics don’t like that. At the time 10cc were often compared with Frank Zappa possibly because they didn’t really sound like anyone else and were becoming a band that were often seen as admirable rather than likeable. They could rock out ‘Second Sitting for the Last Supper’ could be Joe Walsh but they could also produce dense works like ‘Une Nuit A Paris’ which was like a musical number which is clever clever but I cant imagine anyone, with the possible exception of Elaine Paige, actually listening to for enjoyment. Like Zappa some of their lyric were rather unreconstructed (It was the 70’s be gentle with them) and there was a sense they were dabbling rather than committed to the music (which in the case of Godley and Creme was probably true).

So by the time of their third album ‘The Original Soundtrack’ 10cc were slipping out of favour. In retrospect we were waiting for something more raw/genuine/real/exciting to happen and we didn’t want some bloody clever clever band with their musical sketches and appropriation of various musical styles without commitment to any of them.

10cc cover

I remember ‘The Original Soundtrack’ getting something of a pasting in the hallowed NME for all the above reasons. As we all know by now ‘I’m not in love’ went on to have a life of its own and lots of people bought the album on the back of it but luckily in the days of vinyl they could skip ‘Une Nuit a Paris’ and go straight to ‘I’m not in love’.

Personally I love the record but probably not for the same reason that people bought it.’I’m not in love’ is rightfully celebrated for the multitracked vocals that make record sound like you’ve just been immersed in a hot bath. The lyrics are more remarkable though. Most of the song is written by Stewart in classic McCartney songwriter mode, one sensitive man sat at a piano. None of the lyrics rhyme and rather taps into the sort of nastiness and denial men are prone to when perhaps they are in love but wont admit it. Even weirder and more uncomfortable is the ‘big boys don’t cry’ bit (the sand in the Vaseline introduced by Godley and Creme).

Now personally I think this is a really uncomfortable song, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I suspect however that the British public hearing the words ‘in love’ with a nice melody thought it was a love song (maybe it is but you should avoid the guy singing this like the plague)

I first noticed this at teenage discos where it replaced ‘Nights in White Satin’ as the ending song where I could watch a girl I fancied snogging someone else. However its now likely to crop up on Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs or at a wedding. Why anyone would want to do a slow dance surrounded by the relatives with their camera phones with a person who you should be at least aiming to spend the rest of your life with to a song that is about denying the love to a significant other is beyond me.

Lovely layered vocals though. Just listen to the lyrics before you make it ‘our tune’.

Here is the rather good BBC documentary still on for a few days which tells the story better than I could
I’m Not In Love: The Story of 10cc: via @bbciplayer

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1 Response to It was 40 Years Ago Today…10cc

  1. Dreadlocks Holiday was one of the first singles I bought…your piece makes me feel how lucky we were to grow up in the era of pop music, that it had a powerful influence on our ideas and emotional development, a soundtrack to our lives. It stays with us and we can take pleasure when our children choose to listen as well… I’m Mandy Fly Me was a clever clever pop song, a snapshot of urban life, a walk past a billboard and imagining… it adds to the wallpaper of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

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