I’M NOT IN LOVE – 10cc:
1972–76: Original line-up
Undeterred by Apple’s rejection, the group decided to plug another song which had been written as a possible B-side to “Waterfall”, a Godley/Creme composition entitled “Donna”. The song was a Frank Zappa-influenced 1950s doo-wop parody, a sharp mix of commercial pop and irony with a chorus sung in falsetto. Stewart said: “We knew it had something. We only knew of one person who was mad enough to release it, and that was Jonathan King.” Stewart called King, a flamboyant entrepreneur, producer and recording artist, who drove to Strawberry, listened to the track and “fell about laughing”, declaring: “It’s fabulous, it’s a hit.”
10cc in 1973 Gouldman, Godley, Stewart, Creme (from 10cc press-kit)
King signed the band to his UK Records label in July 1972 and dubbed them 10cc. By his own account, King chose the name after having a dream in which he was standing in front of the Hammersmith Odeon in London where the boarding read “10cc The Best Band in the World”. A widely repeated claim, disputed by King and Godley, but confirmed in a 1988 interview by Creme, and also on the webpage of Gouldman’s current line-up ,is that the band name represented a volume of semen that was more than the average amount ejaculated by men, thus emphasising their potency or prowess.
“Donna”, released as the first 10cc single, was chosen by BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Tony Blackburn as his Record of the Week, helping to launch it into the Top 30. The song peaked at No. 2 in the UK in October 1972.
Although their second single, a similarly 1950s-influenced song called “Johnny Don’t Do It”, was not a major chart success. “Rubber Bullets”, a catchy satirical take on the “Jailhouse Rock” concept, became a hit internationally and gave 10cc their first British No.1 single in June 1973. They consolidated their success a few months later with “The Dean and I”, which peaked at No.10 in September. They released two singles, “Headline Hustler” (in the US) and the self-mocking “The Worst Band in the World” (in the UK) and launched a UK tour on 26 August 1973, joined by second drummer Paul Burgess, before returning to Strawberry Studios in November to record the remainder of their second LP, Sheet Music (1973), which included “The Worst Band in the World” along with other hits “The Wall Street Shuffle” (No.10, 1974) and “Silly Love” (No.24, 1974).”Sheet Music” became the band’s breakthrough album, remaining on the UK charts for six months and paving the way for a US tour in February 1974. The band also performed live for the BBC In Concert series, with both Burgess and Godley on drums and Burgess also playing moog.
In February 1975, the band announced they were splitting with Jonathan King and that they had signed with Mercury Records for US$1 million. The catalyst for the deal was one song – “I’m Not in Love”. Stewart recalled: At that point in time we were still on Jonathan King’s label, but struggling. We were absolutely skint, the lot of us, we were really struggling seriously, and Philips Phonogram wanted to do a deal with us. They wanted to buy Jonathan King’s contract. I rang them. I said come and have a listen to what we’ve done, come and have a listen to this track. And they came up and they freaked, and they said “This is a masterpiece. How much money, what do you want? What sort of a contract do you want? We’ll do anything, we’ll sign it”. On the strength of that one song, we did a five-year deal with them for five albums and they paid us a serious amount of money.
The Original Soundtrack, which was already complete, was released just weeks later. It was both a critical and commercial success and featured distinctive cover art created by the Hipgnosis team and drawn by musician and artist Humphrey Ocean. It is also notable for its opening track, Godley & Creme’s “Une Nuit A Paris (One Night in Paris)”, an eight-minute, multi-part “mini-operetta” that is thought to have been an influence on “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Its melody can also be heard in the overture to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical The Phantom of the Opera.
Although it bore an unlikely title (picked up from a radio talk show), the jaunty single “Life Is a Minestrone” (1975) was another UK Top 10 placing, peaking at No.7. Their biggest success came with the dreamy “I’m Not in Love”, which gave the band their second UK No.1 in June 1975. The song also provided them with their first US chart success when the song reached No.2. A collaborative effort built around a title by Stewart, “I’m Not in Love” is notable for its innovative production, especially its richly overdubbed choral backing. Godley stated:
If I was to pick one track from everything we’ve done, “I’m Not in Love” would be my favourite. It’s got something that none of our other tracks have at all. It’s not clever in a conscious way but it says it all so simply in, what, six minutes. – NME, February 1976,10cc would also do some production work for Justin Hayward during this time on his single “Blue Guitar” for his “Blue Jays” project with John Lodge.
10cc’s fourth LP, How Dare You! (1976), featuring another Hipgnosis cover, furnished two more UK Top Ten hits—the witty “Art for Art’s Sake” (No.5 in January 1976) and “I’m Mandy, Fly Me” (No.6, April 1976). But by this time the once close personal and working relationships between the four members had begun to fray, and it was the last album with the original line-up.
10cc’s success prompted the 1976 re-release of the Hotlegs album under the new title You Didn’t Like It Because You Didn’t Think of It with two additional tracks. The title track was the epic B-side of “Neanderthal Man”, a section of which had been reworked as “Fresh Air for My Mama” on the 10cc album.
Frictions mounted between the group’s two creative teams during the recording of How Dare You, with each pair realising how far apart their ideas had become. When the sessions finished, Godley and Creme left 10cc to work on a project that eventually evolved into the triple LP set Consequences (1976), a sprawling concept album that featured contributions from satirist Peter Cook and jazz legend Sarah Vaughan.
The first of a series of albums by Godley & Creme, Consequences began as a demonstration record for the “Gizmotron”, an electric guitar effect they had invented. The device, which fitted over the bridge of an electric guitar, contained six small motor-driven wheels attached to small keys (four wheels for electric basses); when the key was depressed, the Gizmotron wheels bowed the guitar strings, producing notes and chords with endless sustain. First used during the recording of the Sheet Music track “Old Wild Men”, the device was designed to further cut their recording costs: by using it on an electric guitar with studio effects, they could effectively simulate strings and other sounds, enabling them to dispense with expensive orchestral overdubs.
In a 2007 interview with the ProGGnosis—Progressive Rock & Fusion website, Godley explained: “We left because we no longer liked what Gouldman and Stewart were writing. We left because 10cc was becoming safe and predictable and we felt trapped.”
But speaking to Uncut magazine 10 years earlier, he expressed regret about the band breaking up as they embarked on the Consequences project:
We’d reached a certain crossroads with 10cc and already spent three weeks on the genesis of what turned out to be Consequences … The stuff that we were coming up with didn’t have any home, we couldn’t import it into 10cc. And we were kind of constrained by 10cc live … We felt like creative people who should give ourselves the opportunity to be as creative as possible and leaving seemed to be the right thing to do at that moment.
Unfortunately, the band wasn’t democratic or smart enough at that time to allow us the freedom to go ahead and do this project and we were placed in the unfortunate position of having to leave to do it. Looking back, it was a very northern work ethic being applied to the group, all for one and one for all. If we’d been a little more free in our thinking with regard to our work practices, the band as a corporate and creative entity could have realised that it could have been useful rather than detrimental for two members to spend some time developing and then bring whatever they’d learned back to the corporate party. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.
Our contemporaries were people like Roxy Music who allowed that to happen and they gained from that … Had we been allowed to get it out of our system and come back home, who knows what would have happened.