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+ {Hotlegs}

The thinking man’s art-pop group, 10cc had all the necessary engine parts to make up a successful act in the 70s: i.e. multi-instrumental dexterity, singing talent and four recognisable names/faces, Lol Crème, Kevin Godley, Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart – here alphabetically. Changing phases throughout a long and illustrious career, 10cc shifted into top gear and the top of the charts three times in all with `Rubber Bullets’ (a glam-rock giant), `I’m Not In Love’ (a smooching moondance fave) and `Dreadlock Holiday’ (cod-reggae personified); the latter track was without visual artists GODLEY & CRÈME who’d branched out on their own before returning to the fold briefly in ’92. Gouldman is the only remaining member of the quintessential quartet (Stewart left in ’96), and he keeps the 10cc brand in full swing as a touring combo.
Although formed early 1972 in Stockport, Cheshire, for several years the 10cc alumni had had their own agenda by way of various groups and solo exploits. But for Stewart, all had been childhood buddies from the Greater Manchester area before moving into the world of pop music. Singer-guitarist Gouldman was probably the first to garner a modicum of attention, when his band The Whirlwinds (who’d released a one platter in ’64: `Look At Me’; b/w `Baby Not Like You’; penned by Creme), became The Mockingbirds. Delivering five flop singles between 1965-66, the band included drummer Godley, who’d performed with Crème in The Sabres prior to the pair getting in on the flower-power scene as The Yellow Bellow Room Boom; a one-off 45 was issued in early 1968: `Seeing Things Green’.
On the other side of the spectrum, Stewart had been the most successful face of the four, when as fresh-faced vocalist of The MINDBENDERS (leader WAYNE FONTANA had went solo in October ‘65), he struck transatlantic gold with `A Groovy Kind Of Love’. Before joining up with the said group in March ’68 towards their final days when the hits had dried up, bassist Gouldman had been a prolific and fruitful songwriter, authoring blockbusters for YARDBIRDS (`For Your Love’, `Heart Full Of Soul’ and `Evil Hearted You’), The HOLLIES (`Look Through Any Window’ and `Bus Stop’) and HERMAN’S HERMITS (`No Milk Today’ and `East West’).
When Stewart became a business partner in 1969 with former road manager Peter Tattersall (who’d worked with BILLY J. KRAMER) at the fledgling Strawberry Studios enterprise, he would find like-minded songwriters Gouldman, Crème and Godley to work with yankee-dollar “bubblegum” pop producers, Kasenetz and Katz. Under assumed monikers (Crazy Elephant, was one such pseudonym), a conveyor-belt of industry-pop 45s littered shops all over the globe, but none were deemed memorable. As a result, although Gouldman had vacated to the Big Apple to work for Kasenetz and Katz’s Super K Productions, Stewart, Crème and Godley tested the waters under the guise of HOTLEGS.
In the heatwave of 1970, kept off the top spot by MUNGO JERRY’s In The Summertime, the mantra-esque `Neanderthal Man’ sold in bucket-loads and just about hit the Stateside Top 20. Duly expanding on a former Crazy Elephant tune, the ill-conceived `Umbopo’ flopped when released under their “Doctor Father” guise, while a cover of SIMON & GARFUNKEL’s `Cecilia’ was rushed out as The New Wave Band. Momentum was lost in the process.
Reverting to the once-fruitful HOTLEGS moniker, the album THINKS: SCHOOL STINKS (1971) {*5} was overlooked by the public in general, although the techniques and chord structures applied were ground-breaking in an era when music was moving to a new prog beat; the 12-minute `Suite F.A.’ – in 3 movements – represented an experimental but melodic time for the trio. The upshot of it all, was, that, after another flop 45 (`Lady Sadie’), Gouldman was brought back to shore up the cracks. And thus 10cc were born.
Rejected by the Fab Four’s Apple Records, the 4-piece inked a deal at JONATHAN KING’s newly-formed, Decca-endorsed, “UK” (United King) imprint, while back at Strawberry Studios, Stewart and the lads worked with one of America’s great songwriters, NEIL SEDAKA.
As if to mimic the Brill Building man’s love of 50s-styled pastiche, `Donna’ was chosen as 10cc’s opening gambit in August ‘72, and it payed off when it climbed all the way up to No.2. Falling into the same traps as with their Hotlegs days, the group looked to be certain for a second “one-hit-wonder” tag when `Johnny, Don’t Do It!’, failed to crack the charts. But then came the Ivor Novello award-winning `Rubber Bullets’ the following spring, a song about an American prison riot that some radio stations banned from airplay due to the troubles in Northern Ireland. By September, 10cc were celebrating a third Top 10 success by way of Godley & Crème’s `The Dean And I’, which went some way in securing a surprisingly low Top 40 position for their eponymous parent debut LP, 10cc (1973) {*6}. Projected as a singles band much like bona fide glam act, The SWEET, there was an extended version of The BEACH BOYS-esque `Rubber Bullets’, although the only non-45 tracks that peaked above the pulpit were Gouldman & Stewart’s `Headline Hustler’ and `Ships Don’t Disappear In The Night (Do They?)’.
A buzz of excitement surrounded subsequent studio time, although once again the fickle nature of the music biz rewarded little to bands bringing out singles with self-deprecating titles such as `The Worst Band In The World’. Thankfully, pushing the boat out with another American-themed ditty, `The Wall Street Shuffle’ (from the equally chart-performing Top 10 sophomore set, SHEET MUSIC (1974) {*7}), 10cc were now a name to be reckoned with across the boards. The zestful `Silly Love’ (another Top 30 volley), the quirky `Clockwork Creep’ (about a ticking bomb before it detonates a jumbo jet!) and `Old Wild Men’, resonated among their growing legions of fans.
Distancing themselves from the smug KING (least said the better), 10cc signed a million-dollar worldwide contract with Mercury Records, whose executives had been impressed by the Eric Stewart-sung `I’m Not In Love’ – all 6 tragi-comic minutes of it. Confirming the group had moved away from just a singles act to an albums band, set three THE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK (1975) {*8} was released into the Top 3 (US Top 20) before Top 10 dirge, `Life Is A Minestrone’, entered the faux-philosophical fray. When the aforementioned sophisticated rom-com ballad (edit), `I’m Not In Love’, eventually gate-crashed the top of the charts (No.2 in the States), the arty 10cc had proved that “big boys don’t cry” when the bank manager was happy. Like a meeting of SPARKS, QUEEN and the Cabaret OST, the 3-part mini-rock opera of `Une Nuit In Paris/One Night In Paris’ commanded the listener’s respect, its gears shifting from prog to pop with every twist and turn.
Continuing their Top 10 chart run with the tongue-in-cheek `Art For Art’s Sake’ and the air-miles-friendly `I’m Mandy Fly Me’ (about a stewardess coming to a guy’s rescue), the well-crafted fourth album HOW DARE YOU! (1976) {*7} was another set of solid songs that relied heavily on harmonies and catchy lyrics. While the template was typically attune to the day’s subjects, messrs Crème and Godley signed off with three combinations, `Don’t Hang Up’, `Head Room’ and the title track.
Yes, the 10cc success story looked to be heading south of the river when GODLEY & CRÈME switched their attentions to their own self-indulgent experimentations; the triple-set “Consequences”, promoting their new “gizmo” guitar device, issued in ‘77.
Meanwhile, the remaining er… “5cc” (a moniker the press donned them), the multi-faceted Stewart and Gouldman added drummer Paul Burgess, undaunted that Kevin and Lol had departed. Bolstered by a couple of big hitters in `The Things We Do For Love’ and `Good Morning Judge’ (from DECEPTIVE BENDS {*6}), 1977 was not a bad year for 10cc – considering. The addition of guitarist Rick Fenn, keyboardist Tony O’Malley (from ARRIVAL) and second drummer Stuart Tosh (from PILOT), gave the band a sense of purpose when it came to delivering the rather stop-gap concert double-set, LIVE AND LET LIVE (1977) {*6}; soon afterwards, O’Malley’s berth was taken by former STEVE HARLEY & COCKNEY REBEL player, Duncan Mackay.
Despite the inclusion of woeful cod-reggae chart-topper, `Dreadlock Holiday’ (inspired from a break in the Caribbean by friend JUSTIN HAYWARD), the typically tropical-flavoured BLOODY TOURISTS (1978) {*4} dipped its toe into the pure-pop waters and suffered a backlash from discerning critics in the process. When `Reds In My Bed’ failed to register a Top 50 place, the disappointing album had no second wind looming, just a breezy minor hit in the States by way of `For You And I’.
The autonomous-less LOOK HEAR? {*4} – featuring a few tracks by/with Fenn and Mackay – opened up the 80s without much of a fuss, even less when it fizzled out of the Top 40 after a month in the charts. When stalwarts Mackay and Tosh duly moved over for Vic Emerson (synths, keyboards), the band looked to be as unsettled as before. No hits and nothing to look forward to on the horizon, via commercial flop, TEN OUT OF 10 (1981) {*6}, former 10cc fans chose to fork out the readies for GODLEY & CRÈME’s visual excursions, Under Your Thumb and Wedding Bells – both Top 10 hits.
ERIC STEWART and GRAHAM GOULDMAN were already trying their hands at some solo work, but the former’s “Girls” and the latter’s “Animalympics” soundtrack (both 1980), offered little except a curiosity value.
While solid American singer-songwriter ANDREW GOLD had lent his weight on 10cc’s previous effort, the superstar appeal was missing on what turned out to be the band’s swansong set, WINDOWS IN THE JUNGLE (1983) {*4}; Tosh was back in tow when Burgess left. Although the album reached the heady heights of No.70 and resorted to some escapism prog-lengthed book-enders, `24 Hours’ and `Taxi, Taxi’, 10cc couldn’t resurrect a career that was now passed its sell-by-date; STEWART duly produced SAD CAFÉ, while GOULDMAN collaborated with the aforementioned ANDREW GOLD in the duo, WAX; one major hit in 1987: `Bridge To Your Heart’.
The original 10cc line-up “Changed Faces” once more and re-formed in ‘92 for the album, …MEANWHILE {*4}, although all – or most – of the songs were scribed by Stewart and Gouldman; the odd one out (`Don’t Break The Promises’) was with PAUL McCARTNEY. Costing an arm and a leg to produce the set, Polydor Records gave Messrs Stewart and Gouldman no second chances; GODLEY & CRÈME’s departure had been mooted for some time. Almost god-like in parts of Japan, ALIVE – GREATEST HITS PERFORMED LIVE (1993) {*5}, captured the remaining pair in their element.
Re-grouping with Fenn, drummer Gary Wallis (from PINK FLOYD) and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Lee; not forgetting input from McCARTNEY and GOLD, the sprawling MIRROR MIRROR (1995) {*3} was a sad reflection on a once-great act, made worse when an acoustic take of `I’m Not In Love’ reached the Top 30.
When STEWART bailed a year later, Gouldman was left holding the baby. Roping in Burgess, and the musically ambidextrous Mike Stevens and Mick Wilson (Keith Hayman played keyboards between 2006 and 2011), a touring 10cc kept long-time acolytes content. Although studio work has remained unfinished and always in the pipeline, “greatest hits” live sets have appeared in the shape of the odd DVD and a double-CD-r.
© MC Strong 1994-2004 / rev-up MCS Mar2014

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