“I went to a party at the local county jail
All the cons were dancing and the band began to wail
But the guys were indiscreet
They were brawling in the street”
When I hear a song for the first time I notice the melody and try to pick out the instruments but what I really listen to is the lyrics. I love songs that play on words, use double meanings and tell a story. This can be traced back to a childhood of 10cc, their songs always seemed to have just that little bit more, a trace of humour, a touch of intelligence.
The first song that came to my notice was “Rubber Bullets” and by the time they got to the line “We all got balls and brains – but some’s got balls and chains” I was hooked. From then on I started to listen to lyrics, especially theirs, and I was transported into a world where “you need a yen to make a mark”, where “life is a minestrone” and “death is a cold lasagne”, where people didn’t like reggae they loved it, where being saved by Mandy may have been a crazy dream and where pictures were kept to hide nasty stains.
The humour in 10cc was demonstrated from the start in their choice of name; being named after the amount of semen ejaculated by the average male wouldn’t be every group’s choice (except The Loving Spoonful of course). Initially starting as a session group recording under the name Hotlegs, and having a hit single, the members of 10cc already had full credentials in the music business before the group was formed – Graham Gouldman (vocals/guitar) had written hits for groups such as the Hollies and the Yardbirds, Eric Stewart (vocals/guitar) had played in the Mindbenders, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme (both vocals/every other instrument under the sun) meanwhile were established studio musicians.
Their first single, in 1972, was “Donna”, unlike anything else on the charts it immediately gave them a success in the charts reaching Number 2. Their next chart success, “Rubber Bullets” (think of a “Jailhouse Rock” for the seventies), went one better and hit the top spot. This was, however, just their opening salvo and by the end of the decade they had notched up eleven Top Ten singles, three of which reached Number 1. With massive hits such as “I’m Not In Love” it would easy to assume that 10cc were primarily a singles group but in fact they were probably more at home with albums – this led to them not only gaining commercial success with their singles but commercial, and critical, success with their albums.
Never the most visual of groups 10cc were attracted by the emergence of video – this had both a positive and negative impact on the group.
On the negative side it led to Kevin Godley and Lol Creme leaving in 1975 to concentrate on video production and to develop their electronic invention the “Gizmo” – while they were a success with videos, and had a couple of hits as a duet, I can’t recall the Gizmo ever amounting to much after they released their triple album “Consequences”.
On the positive side it led to 10cc demonstrating how video can be used to propel a single up the charts. It was 1977 and 10cc (Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman with new recruit Paul Burgess on drums) had released their biggest selling album “Deceptive Bends” the previous year. With the track “Good Morning Judge” released as a single it had stalled in the charts when TOTP decided to play the video associated with it. Based in a courtroom it has the judge’s podium falling away to reveal an electric guitar as the judge lauches into a solo, this had a dramatic effect and sales of the single rocketed taking it up to number 5 in the charts. While in these days of electronic trickery the video might not sound like much, at the time it was a revelation – I only saw the video that once, nearly 30 years ago, and I can remember it clearly.
Supplementing the group further 10cc then went on tour, releasing a double live album, before releasing their final big chart hits – the album “Bloody Tourists” and the single “Dreadlock Holiday”. While they did record a couple of further albums chart success elluded them and in 1983 one of the most humourous and inventive groups in music decided to call it a day.
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