10cc were one of the most popular bands of the 70s and now they are back with an anniversary tour. Graham Gouldman talks to Chris Bond.
WHEN it comes to fashion, the 1970s often elicit feelings of embarrassment. This was, after all, the decade that celebrated bell bottoms and platform shoes and when the colours of choice were orange and green.
But while this bright new technicolour world perhaps wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, from a music point of view the 70s was a time when the children of the revolution finally came of age. There was no shortage of gubbins, of course, but this was the decade that gave us David Bowie and Bob Marley, disco and punk, and pretty much everything else in between.
Rising out of this cultural cauldron came 10cc with their distinctive brand of “art pop” and since their debut in 1972, the band has gone on to sell more than 30 million albums worldwide, producing a string of memorable hit singles along the way including Rubber Bullets, I’m Not In Love and Life is a Minestrone.
The band has undergone several incarnations over the years with Graham Gouldman the only original member involved in the existing line-up which has just hit the road for a 40th anniversary tour that takes in Sheffield and Halifax next week.
Gouldman concedes that it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. “It’s hard to believe it’s 40 years since 10cc was born in Strawberry Studios in Stockport.” He says the band’s extensive hit collection will feature heavily on their celebratory tour. “I’m immensely proud of all we have achieved and as long as the fans want to hear the songs played live I’ll be happy to oblige.”
Gouldman grew up in Manchester during the 50s and was drawn to music from an early age. At first he wanted to be a drummer but when he was 11 a cousin returned from Spain with a cheap acoustic guitar and he was hooked. In the 60s, he formed a band called The Mockingbirds and at the age of just 19 he penned his first top 10 hit the haunting For Your Love, which was recorded by The Yardbirds.
During the rest of the decade he continued writing songs, including Bus Stop and Look Through Any Window, both hits for The Hollies, and No Milk Today for Herman’s Hermits. “I started working for other people as a songwriter because I didn’t want to be in a big band,” he says.
As well as becoming a respected songwriter Gouldman and fellow musician Eric Stewart set up Strawberry Studios in Stockport. They teamed up with Kevin Godley and Lol Creme and went on to produce two Neil Sedaka albums before deciding to form their own band. “I knew Kevin from school and Lol used to be in different bands and when we formed 10cc it suited all of us,” he explains.
“By that time we were four songwriters, four producers and four instrumentalists, we were all original musicians.”
They honed their individual musical skills which they fused together to create the band’s distinctive, polished sound. “We all had common musical interests like The Beach Boys and The Beatles but we each brought something different to the table.” Gouldman was influenced by the likes of Burt Bacharach and Buddy Holly, while Stewart was more interested in rock ’n’ roll and the blues, and Godley and Creme by Jacques Brel and the avant-garde.
“It’s what happened when we put all those things together that made 10cc,” says Gouldman. “We had our own studio which meant we could produce our own music, it was just the four of us so there was no one to divert our attention and every idea came from within the band.”
The song Donna became their first hit, reaching number two in the charts, and over the next six years they gained a reputation for their virtuoso musicianship and clever, sometimes waspish lyrics. But despite their popularity Gouldman says they benefitted from not having the same level of fame as some of the superstar bands of the day.
“We dealt with fame pretty well, we weren’t based in London at that time and we’d always had an excellent work ethic.”
But just as the band were at the height of their popularity, Godley and Creme left amid mounting musical friction to set up on their own. Despite this blow, Gouldman and Stewart continued as 10cc and scored further success with their next two albums, Deceptive Bends (1977), featuring the hit single The Things We Do For Love, and Bloody Tourists the following year which spawned another hit, Dreadlock Holiday.
However, Stewart was then injured in a car crash which coincided with the growing Punk movement that saw musical tastes change radically overnight and left 10cc’s brand of sardonic pop out of fashion. “Eric was recovering from his accident and we took a year off and by the time we came back everything had changed and it was never the same.”
They carried on for a few more years with two final Gouldman-Stewart directed albums in the 90s. But the band’s name has lived on and its current line-up has been together for the past 10 years and includes Rick Fenn and Paul Burgess who have worked with 10cc since the mid-70s.
After all this time Gouldman insists he’s happy to still be making music and to have an appreciative audience. “Our songs are unique and they have stood the test of time – they still get played on the radio and people still want to hear them, so we must have got something right.”
10cc play Sheffield City Hall, October 24. For tickets call 0114 2789 789 or visit www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk. The band also play the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, October 25. Tel: 01422 351 158 or visit www.calderdale.gov.uk/victoria
10cc: Life is a minestrone
Graham Gouldman was born in Salford in 1946. He wrote a string of songs for fellow artists during the 1960s, including Bus Stop and Look Through Any Window, recorded by The Hollies, and The Yardbirds’ hit For Your Love.
10cc was formed in 1972 featuring Gouldman along with Kevn Godley, Eric Stewart and Lol Creme.
During the 70s they had 11 top 10 singles including Rubber Bullets, I’m Not In Love, Good Morning Judge and Dreadlock Holiday.
In a career that spans 40 years, they have sold more than 15 million albums in the UK and 30 million worldwide.