Tuesday, 27 November 2018

10cc

10cc (1973)


Johnny Don't Do It/Sand In My Face/Donna/The Dean And I/Headline Hustler/Speed Kills/Rubber Bullets/The Hospital Song/Ships Don't Disappear In The Night (Do They?)/Fresh Air For My Mama            

This was the debut album from the innovative, ground-breaking and quirky 10cc, one of the seventies' most interesting bands.

The follow-up, Sheet Music, was a better album overall, but this was a curious, impossible to categorise introduction to a group who would perplex and beguile and occasionally annoy and infuriate.

The songs

The album begins with a bit too much fifties pastiche for my liking, in the "motorcycle crash" spoof of Johnny Don't Do It and the odd, but attractively riffy (borrowed in places, slightly, from Atomic Rooster's Devil's Answer, I'm sure) Sand In My Face

Then there is the rock 'n' roll ballad take-off of Donna (which was the group's first big hit) and the Beach Boys-influenced The Dean And I, (also a hit single), featuring singer Lol Creme's toe-curling cod-US accent. Despite that, it was a good song though. Very "hooky".

 

Things change, though, with the rocky, rhythmic Headline Hustler as the fifties are thankfully left behind. The lyrics become far more cynically witty now. 

Speed Kills recycles the old drum intro from Hotlegs' Neanderthal Man and is a mysterious, powerfully punchy number. The album has got interesting now. It has a great bass line, synthesised brass sounds and searing electric guitar near the end too.

The huge number one hit, Rubber Bullets, returns briefly to the late fifties, although it is simply a very catchy pop song and pretty much irresistible, despite some vaguely irritating bits. One listen to that "rubbery" intro, though, and it's 1973 again. As a fourteen year-old, I loved this single. The version on here is the five minute plus album version, with some excellent, fuzzy guitar in the final minute or so. "We all got balls and brains, but some's got ball and chains..." was one of their many tongue-in-cheek, humorous lines.

The Hospital Song, with its deliciously thumping bass line is another example of 10cc black humour, about being in hospital for an operation. As Headline Hustler targeted the media, this song takes on the subject of health and hospitals. Underneath the wry lyrics, it has a great sound to it too. It is all very clever. "Too clever for their own good" many said at the time, and since, maybe, but that shouldn't detract from the material's appeal. 

Ships Don't Disappear In The Night (Do They) has a lot of echoes of Paul McCartney's Wings about it, sounding a lot like Helen Wheels or Junior's Farm from the same period. This may have come first, though, it has to be said. 

The final track, Fresh Air For My Mama also has airs of McCartney about it, and The Beach Boys' early seventies transcendental-influenced stuff.

** Hot Sun Rock is an excellent, heavy-ish instrumental bonus track and 4% Of Something is also really rocky in a seventies, proggy sort of way. Personally I would rather both these tracks had been on the album at the beginning.

A fine review of this album can be found on Mark Barry's site :-

https://markattheflicks.blogspot.com/2021/03/10cc-10cc-july-1973-debut-album-on-uk.html



Sheet Music (1974)


The Wall Street Shuffle/The Worst Band In The World/Hotel/Old Wild Men/Clockwork Creep/Silly Love/Somewhere In Hollywood/Baron Samedi/The Sacro-Iliac/Oh Effendi  
             
10cc were an odd group, completely impossible to categorise. Arty, clever, smart-ass, wry, witty, Beach Boys and Beatles influenced, but also having very much their own unique identity. Personally, I always found them somewhat pretentious and contrived, and that cod-American accent of singer Lol Creme bugged me no end. To be fair, though, they wanted to push the boundaries of contemporary pop music and they certainly did just that. They could all play and they had a priceless knack for a catchy tune and witty lyric.
                        
The songs

In amongst that, though, they produced great singles. They had two absolute killer on here - the muscular and riffy The Wall Street Shuffle with its lyrics about high finance and the similarly dynamic Silly Love with more guitars to the fore. The rest of the album is full of all sorts of diverse stuff - the calypso-influenced goofy fun of Hotel and the funk rock of the self-deprecatory The Worst Band In The World (which even has hints of dub reggae before it even existed) are highlights.

 

Tracks like Old Wild Men, however, are frustrating. Good passages lie side by side with indulgence and over-production. I always got the impression that 10cc were trying to be just too clever. It never quite worked for me, but I do understand why many people still love this album (and others of theirs) today. 

The frenetic Clockwork Creep reminds a lot of the sort of thing Sparks were putting out at the same time and I could never quite get into them either. Look, there are great bits to these tracks, but so much of them annoy me. Maybe it was the vocals, maybe the constant changes of mood and tempo, the layered on cod-Beach Boys harmonies. I don't know. I remember trying to get into the album back then and failing and falling short again now, when trying again. I am certainly having more success now than I did at fourteen, though.

Somewhere In Hollywood is a six-minute piece of quirky indulgence that never raises itself above walking pace but has a strange sort of appeal, as indeed does the proto-Talking Heads-ish, rhythmic Baron Samedi, with its Santana-esque guitar breaks and percussion. Apart from the two singles, this is my favourite track on the album.

The Sacro-Iliac is a goofily appealing "dance-craze" song (about a joint in the back) and I quite like the Band-like rock of Oh Effendi

** The country rock of the bonus track Waterfall is impressive too, as is 18 Carat Man Of Means.

10cc certainly caused a bit of a stir with this album and more and more people got into them. Their next few albums were successes (and many singles too) and they had considerable credibility for nearly ten years. This album definitely merits more than just a few listens, even for me.




The Original Soundtrack (1975)


Une Nuit A Paris/I'm Not In Love/Blackmail/The Second Sitting For The Last Supper/Brand New Day/Flying Junk/Life Is A Minestrone/The Film Of My Love


I remember when this album came out, in March 1975, and a friend of mine buying it and forcing me to listen to it over and over. He loved it and thought it to be a quirky work of genius. Maybe he was right, but it has never really done it for me, despite many attempts to get into it. 


The songs


As I said in my earlier 10cc reviews it is the witty "cleverness" intrinsic in the lyrics (and often in the music) that jars with me. I may be gratuitously shallow, but I prefer lyrics about rocking, having the blues, getting it on with my lady or social injustice to "nudge nudge wink wink" puns delivered in cod-French accents as happens on the sprawling, musically diverse opening track here, One Nuit A Paris. I find it a bizarre creation, almost proggy in its changes of tempo and direction and something that good musicianship cannot render palatable. That said, some of the lyrics are genuinely astute and gently amusing. Furthermore, the album is generously packed with them.


As always with 10cc albums, however, the sound and musical quality is excellent, so it has that going for it, along with some surprisingly heavy Zeppelin-esque riffiness in places, some fine funky parts - such on the enjoyable Blackmail - and, of course, two diverse but great hit singles in Eric Stewart's ethereally beautiful I'm Not In Love and the lyrically quirky Life Is A Minestrone.


The Second Sitting For The Last Supper is the album's other prog-influenced number and one that includes that afore-mentioned Zeppelin riffing. It is a track I have warmed to despite its quirkiness. 


The dreamy and slightly mock-operatic Brand New Day is not particularly to my taste, though. The more typically 10cc-sounding Flying Junk is one I prefer, it reminds me of the previous album. Unfortunately, however, the hammy The Film Of My Love is not so great an ending to the album.


I guess you have to give this somewhat proggy - ELO, Yes and Pink Floyd influenced in occasional places - and definitely oddball album several chances. I have done that and am still not there but a few listens in and I warm to it, so there you go. It is actually strangely addictive and furthermore my esteemed fellow reviewer Mark Barry loves it (as too does regular commenter on this site, Felix), so if you want a balanced view, read his review here :-


https://markattheflicks.blogspot.com/2021/04/the-original-soundtrack-by-10cc-march.html


Highlights :- Life Is A Minestrone, I'm Not In Love (the two obvious choices - sorry). Ok - stick the funky Blackmail in there too. 












How Dare You (1976)



How Dare You/Lazy Ways/I Wanna Rule The World/I’m Mandy Fly Me/Iceberg/Art For Art’s Sake/Rock ‘n’ Roll Lullaby/Head Room/Don’t Hang Up/Get It While You Can


Did 10cc ever release and album that was anything other than quirky? No. More of their tongue in cheek lyrics and musical changeability here, then. As with all their albums, I like half of it and the other half irritates the hell out of me.


The songs


How Dare You opens with a huge, thumping and rhythmic beat which continues throughout the track. You wait for the vocals but they never arrive. No matter though, because it is still a rousing, lively beginning. 


A melodic piano introduces the gentle groove of the vaguely Wings-esque Lazy Ways. It is a typical 10cc number but with more of a summery, laid-back feel to it. For some reason, though, the instrumentation comes over much louder than the vocal. I Wanna Rule The World is a pounding and lyrically cynical number that once more takes a swipe at global wealth, just as Wall Street Shuffle did. 10cc loved these wry, witty songs, didn’t they? The “greedy man“ spoken, intermittent vocals are grating and irritating, however. Without them it would be a much better song.


Next up is one of the albums to big hit singles, I’m Mandy Fly Me - a title based on a British Airways advert - with its ethereal backing, memorable opening guitar riff and harmonious vocals. It was one of 1976’s several lengthy 45 rpm singles, inspired by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Five minute plus singles were suddenly de rigeur. The song’s many changes of pace are a little off-putting, but you cannot deny the quality of the mid song guitar solo. Listening to it now, however, it just doesn’t seem as good and inventive as it did back in 1976.


Iceberg seems to be adopting Queen’s penchant for jaunty, twenties-style whimsical songs. Sorry, lads, but I find this a highly annoying track. It is indulgent and silly, for me.


Far more like it is the album’s other hit single, the cowbell and guitar-powered Art For Art’s Sake. This one has beaten the ravages of time and still sounds as good today. It remains, for me, one of the group’s best ever singles. It was another long one too. Again, the guitar on it is superb.


The group always liked a fifties-sixties pastiche and we get one here on Rock ‘n’ Roll Lullaby. It is pleasant enough but still contains that old 10cc capacity to bug me. Head Room has a lovely, deep bluesy backing until those twee vocals come in á la Freddie Mercury. Then it goes briefly country. Too much changing around mid-track once more, but there again, that was what 10cc did. 


Don’t Hang Up is another sonic mish-mash of which parts of it I like and parts I don’t. Get It While You Can is an early-seventies, Badfinger-sounding number to end this perplexing album with. 


Highlights - again it is the two hits, I’m Mandy Fly Me and Art For Art’s Sake. Unfortunately the rest of it is an acquired taste. 










Deceptive Bends (1977)

Good Morning Judge/The Things We Do For Love/Marriage Bureau Rendezvous/People In Love/Modern Man Blues/Honeymoon With B Troop/I Bought A Flat Guitar Tutor/You’ve Got A Cold/Feel The Benefit Parts 1-3


10cc were now left with only Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman from their original line-up, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley having left in 1976, after the previous album. 


The songs


This album contained two killer singles right at the outset in the bassy, rocking Good Morning Judge and the impossibly catchy The Things We Do For Love that made it a popular one. (See the review for The Best Of 10cc below for comments on those two). 


The rest of it, while retaining the group's trademark oddness, is slightly more cohesive and featuring less sprawling, indulgent tracks than the previous couple of offerings, apart from its worst track, the eleven-minute closing medley of Feel The Benefit, Parts 1-3. There are the usual witty but simultaneously musically excellent numbers abounding too such as the excellent Marriage Bureau Rendezvous and the jaunty Honeymoon With B Troop


They could still turn out a quality, winsome ballad too, like the beautifully orchestrated People In Love, as well as a solid but witty blues grind like Modern Man Blues and You've Got A Cold features some killer lead guitar.


Highlights :- Good Morning Judge, The Things We Do For Love, Honeymoon With B Troop, Marriage Bureau Rendezvous, People In Love, Modern Man Blues


Bloody Tourists (1978)

Dreadlock Holiday/For You And I/Take These Chains/Shock On The Tube (Don’t Want Love)/Last Night/Anonymous Alcoholic/Reds In My Bed/Lifeline/Tokyo/Old Mister Time/From Rochdale To Ocho Rios/Everything You Wanted To Know About!!!/Nothing Can Move Me


The songs


More quirkiness, then, this time with a strangely Caribbean slant in places (not quite sure why that was), but it works, particularly on its lead-off massive hit, Dreadlock Holiday, resulting, to an extent, in one of the group's most likeable and accessible albums. From Rochdale To Ocho Rios, for example, is irritatingly catchy. On the other side of the argument, however, it sounds like a couple of 10cc members being helped out by session musicians (which, of course, is exactly what it was) and the wry humour is starting to wear a bit thin by now (not before time, for me, either). You can't point too many fingers at classy numbers like For You And I, however or the irresistible Take These Chains.


10cc always seemed to be sending up one style or another in their music (such disco on Anonymous Alcoholic) as opposed to just playing it straight for a change. That wasn't their raison d'être, I guess. Either way, time was running out for them. Taken in isolation, though, and not in relation to the punk-new wave 1978 zeitgeist, this is a really good album.


Highlights :- Dreadlock Holiday, From Rochdale To Ocho Rios, Nothing Can Move Me, Old Mister Time, For You And I, Take These Chains


I'm not usually a "greatest hits" kind of a guy, but maybe the best way to listen to 10cc is via this album featured below :-


 
10cc were a most innovative, ground-breaking group, and one who were virtually impossible to categorise. Their music was a veritable cornucopia of influences from The Beach Boys to The Beatles to Sparks to Paul Simon and even some heavy rock riffage at times. They were exceptionally talented musicians and had a real knack for coming up with a killer, commercial hook to match their wry, witty and clever lyrics. They produced some genuinely quirky albums that need many listens to fully "get" them, but what was never in doubt was that they could come up with absolute copper-bottomed quality singles, all of which are on this excellent compilation.

Their time in the limelight was 1973-1981 and during that time they garnered considerable critical acclaim, although they also had to fend of accusations of being "too clever", "too smart for their own good" and the like. An arrogance and a feeling that they were superior to many of the other chart acts around at the time didn't help their case. Personally, I also found singer Lol Creme's cod-American accent on tracks such as The Dean And I intensely irritating. That was 10cc in a nutshell, very talented, very interesting, but a tad annoying at times.

 

The compilation here is a superb litany of great, quirky, inventive hit singles - the huge number one rock'n'roll influenced Rubber Bullets; the riffy majesty of The Wall Street Shuffle and Silly Love; the lyrical lunacy of Life Is A Minestrone; the delicious, smoky romance of I'm Not In Love; the rocking, catchy Art For Art's Sake and the epic, many mood changes of I'm Mandy Fly Me.

The pure pop rock of The Things We Do For Love and Good Morning Judge are excellent later hits, and then there is their final big number one, the reggae pastiche of Dreadlock Holiday.


 

Also included are some of Kevin Godley/Lol Creme's appealing later solo hits - Under Your ThumbWedding Bells and Cry and also, enjoyably, the pre-10cc and deliciously bonkers Neanderthal Man (recorded under the name Hotlegs). The sound quality is good and if you don't wish to delve further into the challenging world of 10cc's albums, then you can't go far wrong with this, some of the seventies' most ground-breaking pop music.




Related posts :-
The Beach Boys
The Beatles
Pink Floyd

4 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more that they were a very odd and unusual band. It looks like they were really big in the UK with all those hits but over here they just had two I think and that was in the mid-seventies and not the early seventies. I didn't hear all those early albums until a couple years ago as a matterof fact. Even though Original Soundtrack is one of my favorite albums ever. It's in my top 100. But nothing else they did is even similar to it. The music on it is in a different world then their other stuff. And not just I'm Not in Love even though that's one of the greatest records of all time. Even now when I listen to it it still blows my mind. Just about all the other tracks are just as amazing. Especially Blackmail is unbelievable. My friend says that they knew a lot about Recording technology and that's why it sounds so amazing. I could believe that. Although I really didn't like those albums that the two guys did afterwards like L and that other one. I can't really get into those.

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  2. Certainly a strange group. I only ever sort of half liked them. Amongst some great songs they also put out some rubbish.

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  3. I know. Outside of that one album I can't say that I liked anything else they did. I don't understand how that could happen. In fact most of their stuff I find as annoying as Sparks, another group that I absolutely hate. I don't know why they remind me of each other. For some reason Sparks has become popular recently and I really don't know why. I think it's because people have become used to really bad music so now they fit right in.

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  4. Check out my Sparks reviews, you'll find I agree with you to a certain extent.

    Sparks are one of those groups that it is popular recently to say were genuises. I've never understood why.

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