In one song, they sang about “The Worst Band in the World” but they themselves ended up being one of the best. So who were 10cc? Before co-founding the group, Graham Gouldman was a go-to songwriter who had penned hits for The Yardbirds, The Hollies, and Herman’s Hermits while his Manchester mate Eric Stewart had fronted The Mindbenders’ 1965 hit “A Groovy Kind of Love.” Assisted by art school sessioneers Kevin Godley and Lol Crème, Stewart used Strawberry Studios as a place to experiment for an album later released as Hotlegs then later re-christened their foursome as “10cc” — based on someone else’s dream.
10. “Dreadlock Holiday”
This brilliant reggae track made Gouldman the third 10cc member to front a number one hit in the UK. (Crème did it with “Rubber Bullets”; Stewart with “I’m Not In Love”). Inspired by Stewart’s trip to Barbados, the holiday-flavored song stood as one of the highlights in Gouldman’s repertoire during his tour earlier this year with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.
9. “The Things We Do For Love”
Godley and Crème initially balked at this song, but the sweet-natured piano pop-piece proved a monster hit in America. Stewart and Gouldman managed to deflect criticisms of being just 5cc with one of their most assured ballads, enhanced by a musical bridge that made the clichéd walking “in the rain and the snow when there’s nowhere to go” a more enjoyable listen.
8. “I’m Mandy, Fly Me”
Atmospheric with psychedelic patterns, this song delivers a Sgt. Pepper guitar lick that leads listeners to a fantasy world accessed through a poster. “I’m Mandy, Fly Me” features one of Stewart’s most affecting vocals while Godley earned himself a co-writing credit by suggesting the flamenco bridge (which Crème and Stewart play with breakneck speed). However democratic the process, conventional song structures such as this one had come to bore Crème and Godley who left the band shortly after to focus on the avant-garde triple album Consequences (1977).
Gouldman sings this one with jazzy flair with his shuffly bass at the front of the mix. Meanwhile, his co-writer Godley sings like an angelic countertenor. References to “boneheaded women” haven’t aged well, but the musicianship makes it more than worth a listen, especially as a precursor to GG06, the Godley/Gouldman spin-off, circa 2006.
6. “Une Nuit A Paris”
This 9-minute operetta displays the cinematic tendencies of Godley and Crème (who directed videos for The Police, Visage, and George Harrison in the ‘80s). Akin to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the choral number is an entertaining pantomime about the underbelly of Paris society, complete with vaudeville piano.
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5. “I’m Not In Love”
Godley infamously hated the original demo but this bossa nova ballad was eventually reconfigured with complex vocal tape loops that Crème later called the greatest recording with which he was ever involved (and which Godley eventually came around to liking). That said, “I’m Not in Love” proved a hard sell for radios because of its length — 6 minutes — which necessitated edits which one band member refused to do. As Stewart has stated: “As far as I was concerned, it was like taking half of a masterpiece portrait painting out. What bit do you want to cut off? The head?”
4. “Somewhere in Hollywood”
Instrumentally, he may have been the “Ringo” of the band, but Godley had the most powerful voice in the group. Singing in falsetto, he brings that latter talent to this #MeToo tale of an actress whose “beauty looks out like a trailer / Norman Mailer / waits to nail her.” This 6-minute ballad found Godley appearing in video form for Gouldman’s 10cc tour in 2016.
Stewart and Gouldman were one half of the 10cc songwriting team; Godley and Crème were the other and “Hotel” shows Godley singing with reggae zest. It’s a witty look at island resortees, dining from American menus and socializing with other expats. Godley and Crème had a wit that complemented the more traditional lyrics of Gouldman and Stewart. Consider them the acerbic Lennon counterpart to the other side’s musical McCartney.
2. ”Wall Street Shuffle
Eric Stewart was a bona fide Beatle fan and the influence of Paul McCartney can be especially transparent in the former’s music. In the ‘80s, the two collaborated as co-writers for 10cc’s second album Sheet Music, as Paul and his brother Mike were recording in the 10cc-owned Strawberry Studios. McCartney’s deft rhythm changes come to the forefront on the esoteric “Shuffle” with Stewart’s blue-eyed vocals and Gouldman’s vibrato harmonies.
1. “Rubber Bullets”
10cc’s sparky first Number One hit in the United Kingdom was a wacky, James Cagney tribute of a prisoner battling a guard. The title drew associations with the politics in Northern Ireland but drummer Kevin Godley denied this in an interview with this writer: “We wrote about it before rubber bullets were a thing in Northern Ireland, but it came out around the same time. But it was a visual story or a sound picture.” Politics aside, it’s a rocking track, heralded by guitarist Lol Crème’s shrill falsetto and some killer lines, the best of which is this one by Gouldman: “We all got balls and chains / but somes got balls and brains.”
Photo Credit: L-R Kevin Godley, Lol Creme, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman (Photo by David Warner Ellis/Redferns/Getty Images)