Noted for their studio polish, advanced musicianship, impeccable vocal performances, and clever lyrics that contributed to a style later dubbed "art pop," 10cc first became successful for their classic singles that often parodied classic rock styles or satirized modern life. The band's original incarnation quartet comprised of Mancunians Lol Crème, Kevin Godley, Eric Stewart, and Graham Gouldman0cc earned critical respect and public acclaim for such singles as "Rubber Bullets," 'The Dean and I," "Donna," and "Wall Street Shuffle." These singles showcased the band members' talents as pop musicians, singers, and songwriters while incorporating studio techniques and instrumental virtuosity more commonly associated with the English progressive art-rock bands of the same era.
Much of their talent was honed as sidemen in a variety of 1960s British bands, culminating in the band Hotlegs, which eventually changed its name to 10cc. Immensely popular in Great Britain with the singles from their first two albums, 10cc and Sheet Music, the band didn't have significant success in the United States until their 1975 release Original Soundtrack and its single "I'm Not in Love." The original lineup ended in 1976 when Crème and Godley left to record as a duo as well as to market and experiment with the Gizmo, an instrument they invented that bent guitar strings to create orchestral sounds. Stewart and Gouldman continued to record and tour as 10cc with a succession of different musicians, included guitarist Rick Fenn, drummer Stuart Tosh, and keyboardist Duncan Mackay, scoring international hits with such songs as "Things We Do for Love" and "Dreadlock Holiday."
Formed from Group of Musical Veterans
Before becoming 10cc, the four original members developed impressive resumes in several 1960s British rock and pop groups. Eric Stewart was a member of the Emperors of Rhythm, a band most notable for defeating the Beatles at a 1962 BBC audition. Graham Gouldman belonged to the Mockingbirds; so did Kevin Godley, who had previously played in a group called the Sabres along with his boyhood friend Lol Crème. After the Sabres and the Mockingbirds split up, Godley and Crème earned diplomas in graphic design and began designing displays for movie theater lobbies. They also made demo recordings for Kennedy Street Management, the same company that had managed Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, one of Eric Stewart's former groups, which had had considerable success in America and Britain with their 1965 hit single "Game of Love." After Fontana left the group, the Mindbenders scored a 1966 hit with "A Groovy Kind of Love," on which Stewart sang lead vocals.
Gouldman, in the meantime, had become a successful songwriter, penning the hits "For Your Love," "Evil Hearted You," and "Heart Full of Soul" for the Yardbirds, "Bus Stop" and "Look through Any Window" for the Hollies, "Tallyman" for Jeff Beck, and "No Milk Today" for Herman's Hermits. He was also a session musician for music impresario and erstwhile Yardbirds' manager and producer Giorgio Gomelsky at his Marmalade label and joined the Mindbenders before the group disbanded. He released a solo album, The Graham Gouldman Thing, which featured his versions of the hit songs he had written for other acts, and played in the band Jewish Alliance Brigade with Crème and Godley. While working for Gomelsky, Gouldman invited Godley to sing backup at a Marmalade session. Godley's voice, which could produce a flawless high falsetto, prompted Gomelsky to offer him a recording contract. Godley enlisted Crème as his partner to form the duo Frabjoy and the Runcible Spoon in 1969. The pair began recording an album at the newly established Strawberry Studios in Stockport, Cheshire, which was bought and refurbished by Stewart and Gouldman. The latter duo provided backup instrumental support on the Frabjoy and the Runcible Spoon singles "I'm Beside Myself" and "To Fly Away." A third song, the Gouldman composition "The Late Mr. Late," appeared on a Marmalade sampler album. The singles, however, failed to chart after Gomelsky abandoned Marmalade.
Following their disappointment with Frabjoy and the Runcible Spoon, Crème and Godley were invited to join Stewart and Gouldman as the studio band at Strawberry Studios. Gouldman, in the meantime, was commuting to New York City to do contract songwriting for the Kasenatz/Katz organization company that wrote and produced bubblegum pop songs for such singles bands as the Ohio Express, Crazy Elephant, and Shadows of Night. In his absence, Crème, Godley, and Stewart recorded briefly as the trio Doctor Father, and released one single "There Ain't No Umbopo," written by Crème and Godley and originally recorded by the Kasenatz/Katz group Crazy Elephant. They also recorded Gouldman's compositions for Kasenatz/Katz under a variety of band names. The trio recorded the song "Neanderthal Man" after Dick Leahy, a Philips label representative, heard them improvise an early version of the song using a drum kit and four-track tape deck. Leahy declared the song an instant hit single. Released in the summer of 1970 it became enormously successful worldwide, cracking the American top 40 and becoming number one in Italy. It was subsequently covered by the Idle Race and Elton John. The group renamed itself Hotlegs and recorded the album Thinks: School Stinks, which included a reworking of "To Fly Away." They later reworked "There Ain't No Umbopo" as well.
By the end of 1970 Gouldman had returned from the United States to join the band, and Hotlegs toured as an opening act for the Moody Blues. In 1971 Philips reissued the group's debut album as Songs, but replaced "Neanderthal Man" with a B-side recording of "The Loser," the original flip side of the group's single "Lady Sadie." Songs also included a Hotlegs reworking of the Frabjoy song "Today." None of these releases were able to match the success of "Neanderthal Man," and the Hotlegs era ended with them working as session musicians and a backup touring band for Neal Sedaka. (Gouldman had met Sedaka while working in New York and convinced the American legend to record his albums Solitaire and Tra La Days Are Over at Strawberry Studios.)
The quartet continued to write and record while searching for a new record contract. They were rejected by the Beatles' Apple Records before signing with UK Records, a label begun by 1960s pop singer Jonathon King, who had recorded the hit song "Everyone's Gone to the Moon." King suggested they adopt the name 10cc, after declaring that the average metric measurement of male ejaculate was nine cubic centiliters and inflating that amount by one cubic centiliter. 10cc's first single "Donna" made good use of 1950s doo-wop nostalgia and Godley's falsetto, eventually hitting the number-two spot on British charts. Their follow-up single, "Johnny Don't Do It," failed to chart, but the group's third effort, "Rubber Bullets" became the group's first number-one single. This was followed by the top-ten single "The Dean and I," a parody inspired by the song "High School Confidential."
The singles were collected on the group's 1973 self-titled first album, a recording that, according to Jonathon King in the liner notes for the reissue of their first two albums, "made many converts. They were literate, witty, tongue in cheek but musically superb. At that stage they reflected the past magic of groups like the Beach Boys yet added a whole new lyrical dimension of their own." 10cc toured to support the first album, appearing at the Isle of Man in August of 1973 with drum support from Paul Burgess.
10cc's second album, Sheet Music, was considered another step forward for the group in terms of artistic growth. Singles such as "Wall Street Shuffle" and "Silly Love" increased the band's popularity, while the song "Worst Band in the World" was refused airplay for its cynical portrayal of rock stardom and its hedonistic urges. The album is often considered a classic of the early 1970s in terms of production and songwriting. According to King: "This album was, and is, I still believe, a pop classic. It contains incredible brightness and sparkle which emerged effortlessly, almost without trying."
Following the first two albums, 10cc failed to capitalize on the overwhelming positive reviews they had received from the American rock press. They abandoned UK Records and signed with Mercury/Phonogram, releasing Original Soundtrack in 1975. Featuring the Stewart and Gouldman composition "I'm Not in Love," the album became a major American hit. According to Stewart, the song involved 16 recordings each of three different voices, creating an eerie production quality that serves as an ironic commentary on the lyrics.
The group's fourth album, How Dare You!, contained the modestly successful singles "I'm Mandy Fly Me" and "Art for Art's Sake." Declaring that the "music is so blazingly bright, the songs so brashly witty, and the effect so cumulative" in a Phonograph Record review, critic Bud Scoppa noted: "Every song on How Dare You! is gem-hard, multi-faceted, and informed by some delicious irony The group is all the more impressive becausenlike Beefheart or Steely Dant holds itself rigidly within the stylistic parameters of pop."
Invention of the Gizmo
In 1976 Crème and Godley left 10cc to develop their musical invention, the Gizmo. According to Kit Aiken in Uncut, the Gizmo is "a device that clipped onto the bridge of an electric guitar, bowing the strings somehow, producing a range of unique sounds, some near-literal (strings, brass), others other-worldly." The instrument had already been used on such 10cc tracks as "Old Wild Men" and "How Dare You!," but Crème and Godley began to record a demonstration record that eventually became the triple album Consequences. Leaving 10cc was "really, really hard for Eric and Graham and we knew that, but we had other things to do," Crème explained to Aiken. "Unfortunately, the band wasn't democratic or smart enough to allow us the freedom. If we'd been freer in our work practices, it could have been useful for us to spend some time developing and then bring whatever we'd learned back to the corporate party," Godley told Aiken. "Had we been allowed to get it out of our system and come back home, who knows what would have happened."
Other sources indicate that Godley and Crème were unhappy with the songs that Gouldman and Stewart were writing, which further convinced them to depart. Following the critical brickbats hurled at Consequences, the duo released such albums as L, Freeze Frame, Snack Attack, and Ismism before recognizing commercial success with the 1985 single "Cry" from Goodbye Blue Sky. During the interim they established themselves as successful rock video producers, creating groundbreaking videos for themselves ("Cry"), Duran Duran ("Girls on Film"), Peter Gabriel ("Don't Give Up"), Eric Clapton ("Forever Man"), George Harrison ("When We Was Fab"), Herbie Hancock ("Rockit"), Frankie Goes to Hollywood ("Two Tribes"), Elton John ("Kiss the Bride"), and the Police ("Every Breath You Take").
After Godley and Crème left, Stewart and Gouldman recorded Deceptive Bends, playing all instruments themselves with the help of drummer Paul Burgess and session keyboardists Tony Spath and Jean Roussel. The album featured the hit single "Things We Do for Love." For the subsequent tour, captured on the 1977 album Live and Let Live, Stewart and Gouldman expanded 10cc to include guitarist Rick Fenn, drummer Stuart Tosh, keyboardist Tony O'Malley, and percussionist Burgess. On 10cc's 1978 release, Bloody Tourists, O'Malley was replaced with Duncan Mackay. The album included the single "Dreadlock Holiday," which would be the band's last major hit.
Group Broke Up
Following the release of several commercially unsuccessful albums, including Look Hear, 10 out of 10, and Windows in the Jungle, 10cc disbanded amicably. Gouldman produced Pleasant Dreams (1981) for the Ramones and Life and Rhymes (1982) for Gilbert O'sullivan, then formed the duo Wax with Andrew Gold, the producer and collaborator on 10 out of 10 and son of Marni Nixon, the vocalist who dubbed Natalie Wood's singing voice in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn's in My Fair Lady. Stewart produced the second album by Sad Cafè and worked as a producer and writing collaborator with Paul McCartney, sharing writing credits on McCartney's recording of "Yvonne's the One."
In 1992 the original four members of 10cc reunited briefly to record several tracks on Stewart and Gouldman's eanwhile, which included an acoustic remake of "I'm Not in Love." Stewart and Gouldman went on to release Mirror Mirror and mount a 10cc tour of Japan the following year with Fenn, Tosh, keyboardist Stephen Pigott, and drummer Gary Wallis. The group's recording of the tour, Alive in Japan, featured covers of the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" and "Across the Universe."
10cc, UK, 1973.
Sheet Music, UK, 1974.
100cc, UK, 1975.
Greatest Hits, Mercury, 1975.
Original Soundtrack, Mercury/Phonogram, 1975.
How Dare You!, Mercury/Phonogram, 1976.
Deceptive Bends, Mercury/Phonogram, 1977.
Live and Let Live, Mercury/Phonogram, 1977.
Bloody Tourists, Mercury/Phonogram, 1978.
Greatest Hits 1972-1978, Mercury, 1979.
Look Hear?, Warner Bros., 1980.
10 out of 10, Mercury/Phonogram, 1981.
10cc in Concert, Pickwick, 1982.
Windows in the Jungle, Mercury/Phonogram, 1983.
Two Classic Albums by 10cc: 10cc and Sheet Music, DCC, 1990.
eanwhile, Polydor, 1992.
Mirror Mirror, Avex/Critique, 1995.
King Biscuit Flower Hour, King Biscuit, 1996.
10cc: Alive in Japan, Castle/Sanctuary, 2002.
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection, Universal Music Group, 2002.
Thinks: School Stinks, One Way, 1970.
Songs, Philips, 1971.
You Didn't Like It Because You Didn't Think of It, Sonic, 1974.
Buckley, Jonathon, Orla Duane, Mark Ellingham, and Al Spicer, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides, Ltd., 1999.
Clifford, Mike, editor, Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Salamander Books, 1986.
George-Warren, Holly, and Patricia Romanowski, editors, Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside, 2001.
Logan, Nick, and Bob Woffinden, Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Salamander Books, 1977.
Marsh, Dave, with John Swenson, Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979.
Phonograph Record, March 1976.
Q, June 1988.
Uncut, March 1998.
ZigZag, April 1976.
"10cc," All Music Guide, (February 23, 2003).
"10cc," Sing365.com, http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/singerUnid/8F700E9CC... (February 25, 2003).
Additional information was obtained from the liner notes by Jonathon King to Two Classic Albums by 10cc: 10cc and Sheet Music, DCC, 1990, and by Paul Lester to 10cc: Alive in Japan, Castle/Sanctuary, 2002.
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