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fromheadtoheart flag England - Full Moon 238 - 01/24/16

From head to heart
10CC's How Dare You!

Following our retroscope series going on for several years, here we go again. Yes, for one more year! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart, or simply tapping our shoulder. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth we present a 40-year-old platter, from a band that celebrated their 40th anniversary 4 years ago (under this, their final band name after tumbling around since the mid-60s under various band names, with three of the four members being childhood friends from the Manchester area). After releasing some singles (plus one album) as Hotlegs (and Doctor Father) from 1970-1972, scoring a hit single with "Neanderthal Man", they courted Apple Records with a song, but were rejected 'not sounding commercial enough'. The same year they were signed to UK Records, who after listening to one song claimed 'It's fabulous, it's a hit!'. And the snowball started to roll, proving the band's potency and prowess as pop-smiths. Art pop for art pop's sake.

coverpic 10CC
How Dare You!
Mercury Records

When I tried to single out worthy candidates for our moonthly column among the albums that celebrate 20, 25, 30, 40 or 50 years anniversary in 2016 I found alarmingly many 40 years oldies, i.e. released in 1976. This is supposed to be the most dreaded year in the history of rock, before the musical revolution started quite quietly in the underground that year, really got going the following and eventually turned rock upside down for a while. Well, I was 16 at the start of 1976 and finally felt I had a bit of control of what was happening in the world of rock and pop. Money was scarce, but along with my friends we tried to avoid to buy the same albums. Instead we borrowed from each other and copied onto cassettes, listened to the radio, bought some of the English music weeklies when we could afford it. And we digested what was on offer. I first heard How Dare You! in the summer of 1976 and it appealed to me quite instantly. I guess I'd only heard the monster hit "I'm Not In Love" from the previous album The Original Soundtrack of the earlier 10cc recordings, but this was different and I was hooked quite instantly. This was art-pop and to some extent art-rock, but with more flick than for instance contemporary Queen, without the dreaded voice of Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music and could match what I'd heard by David Bowie. I thought. Then.

I was so hooked on 10cc the following moonths that I bought their entire back catalogue. I found quite a lot to be enthusiastic about there, especially the second album Sheet Music. The band came from the Manchester area, a pro for one who eagerly had followed the proudest football team of the town for some years at the time (Manchester City, as you may well understand). I soon learned that two members of the quartet belonged to the veterans of north-English pop and rock. Eric Stewart (vocals, guitars etc. etc.) who won the guitar job when Wayne Fontana auditioned and formed his backing band The Mindbenders as early as 1963. The band's two greatest hits were "Game Of Love" (1965) with and "A Groovy Kind Of Love" (1966) without Wayne. Eric sang lead vocals on the latter after Wayne had left the band. A charming and upbeat version. (Especially compared to Phil Collins' dreadful slow piano hit ballad two decades later...) The Mindbenders also toured the USA a couple of times and appeared in the film To Sir With Love in 1967. Meanwhile Graham Gouldman (vocals, bass, guitar etc. etc.) joined local bands and started his seemingly at least 40 years' career as a songwriter at an early age. He wrote three hits for The Yardbirds in 1965 ("For Your Love", "Heart Full Of Soul" and "Evil Hearted You") and some for The Hollies and Herman's Hermits including "Bus Stop and "No Milk Today" the following year, most of them when he was still a teen. He continued in local bands and as a songwriter, with less success, teamed up with Eric in the Mindbenders for a little while in 1968 and the two later joined forces again after Eric had started to build what evolved into the state of the art Strawberry Recording Studios in Stockport outside Manchester. Named after Eric's favourite Beatles song (the studios' slogan was Strawberry Studios forever!).

Lol Creme (vocals, guitars, keyboards etc. etc.) and Kevin Godley (vocals, drums, percussion etc.) had also been part of the local musical scene since the early 1960s, but with less success than the former two although their local paths had crossed. The two of them joined forces for a single in 1967, without success, and turned up as frequent session musicians at the Strawberry Studios a little later. By the turn of the decade the four of them wrote and recorded a massive string of bubble-gum songs under a three moonths' contract with an American publishing company that Graham had been involved with for quite some time. Some were released under different band names, usually to little success.

Afterwards Graham went to continue work with the firm in New York while the remaining three kept recording in the studio. They struck gold when they tried out drum sounds that led to the simple and silly drum dominated song with distant vocals "Neanderthal Man". It was released in June 1970 with the band name Hotlegs and became a worldwide hit. However, Hotlegs didn't manage to capitalise on the success, and the album and second single that was recorded afterwards - with mainly quite different, more melodic and soft songs - flopped. The band members augmented by Graham Gouldman again, reverted to the studio and recorded albums for artists as different as Neil Sedaka and Ramases. (The latter's debut album Space Hymns released by Vertigo Records was recorded at Strawberry Studios. Ramases was the artist name of Kimberley Barrington Frost who had met the Egyptian Pharaoh of the same name in a vision and been told he was the reincarnation of him, well, one of them, probably the second Ramases, also known as Ramases The Great. The entire known recorded works by Ramases were released in a six CD box by Swedish Hollywood-actor Peter Stormare just a couple of years ago.)

These album sessions made the quartet realise it was due time to make a real effort to launch their own music themselves. In August 1972 came the first single under the 10cc moniker, "Donna", on Jonathan King's UK label. It was in the American bubble-gum tradition, maybe a bit more mature and inspired by the doo-wop of Frank Zappa's Cruising With Ruben & The Jets. Anyway, it went to no. 2 in the British charts. According to Wikipedia Jonathan King chose the band name after having a dream in which he was standing in front of the venue Hammersmith Odeon in London where the boarding read "10cc The Best Band in the World"! (Incidentally they recorded a song called "The Worst Band In The World" for their second album...) Another explanation of the name was that 10cc of semen was more than the average volume ejaculated by men, which suggested something about the potency of the band... And potential they had. All four could sing lead, their vocal harmonies were great, all four could write songs, mostly in company with one, sometimes two or all of the others, and it seemed all of them could handle all instruments available.

"Donna" was followed by more American more or less bubble-gum flavoured singles. Quite successful most of them, the third "Rubber Bullets" was the band's first no. 1 hit. Soon the ambitions grew and the music developed into something closer to smart arty pop-rock, but with Bech Boys kinda vocal harmonies, a twinkle in the eye and the urge to experiment in a playful way, not quite unlike a European pop counterpart to uncle Frank Z. I guess the urge to perfect the production grew along with the success. The quartet felt more at ease at "home" in Strawberry Studios than on the road. How Dare You! was the band's fourth album and the successor of the successful The Original Soundtrack from where the million selling no. 1 hit with multi-layered vocals "I'm Not In Love" was lifted. The two singles off How Dare You! were minor hits in comparison, but did quite well all the same. The ace "Art For Art's Sake" was played out a couple of moonths prior to the album. After a mystic quiet prologue it starts for real with confident rock guitars and a couple of catchy verses and choruses led by Eric's vocals. But they couldn't leave it at that and had to add a schmaltzy humorous part in another key and tempo lead by Lol's high pitched voice followed by a Zappaesque talk-singing sequence over drum rolls before the song quietens into a dreamy interlude that eventually leads back to the original theme from the start of the song, followed by a quite cool guitar solo at the end (phew!). This is typical of 10cc of this era. They often crammed several themes into one song that would've been enough two or three straight pop songs, not unlike what Frank Z. (him again!) used to do in his heydays. And the production was garnished with exquisite details, an echoed timpani beat here, a short orchestral guitar sound there, produced by the Gizmo or Gizmotron. The latter was a mechanical device with small wheels (kind of cog wheels, I think) to be placed over the bridge of the guitar or bass that made the strings vibrate and sustain for as long as the player wanted, invented by Godley and Creme. Other exotic instruments used were cow bell, sleigh bells, Clavinet, zithers, temple blocks, cabasa, glockenspiel, recorder, dobro, harp and rizo-rizo (whatever that may be). The music might be characterized by the Stiff Records slogan launched a little later, only upside down. While Stiff said 'Fuck art, let's dance!', 10cc was closer to 'Fuck dance (at least through the entire song), let's do art!' But after they had said 'Art for art's sake', they immediately added 'Money for God's sake!', based on a phrase Graham Gouldman's father used to say. The humour was never far away.

'Gimme your body
Gimme your mind
Open your heart
Pull down the blind
Gimme your love, gimme it all
Gimme in the kitchen, gimme in the hall...'

The second single "I'm Mandy Fly Me" was another exquisite one; about a man who had survived a plane crash and thought - in a crazy dream - he had been saved from the crash and sharks by the beautiful stewardess, 'just like the girl from Doctor No-no-no-no'. But her body was nowhere to be found after he had been saved for real... Inspired by an airline poster. It was catchy and included another somewhat quiet interlude midway to avoid dancing all through the song after some great dynamic guitar playing and solos. The instrumental title track at the start of the album is another non-danceable, at least in the beginning, and indicates that we're not dealing with straight A4 pop. It starts with some quirky, creaking and angular guitars. "Iceberg" is another favourite, about a psychopath due to a troubled childhood, set to merry jazzy tunes. Here's even an Andrews Sisters inspired sequence, you know the sisters who sang in front of Glenn Miller Orchestra in the 1940s and thereabouts. There's another weird character telling about his ambitions in "I Wanna Rule The World" with spoken words in both dramatic Shakespearean and childish ways. "Lazy Ways", "Rock'n'Roll Lullaby" and "Don't Hang Up" deal with more everyday problems. The latter is a divorce drama via telephone (check the album front, back and inner cover) with Kevin Godley's heavenly soft school choirboy voice up front as the miserable and humble ex-husband. It doesn't end well.

There are next to no comments of the problems of real people of the streets here. Maybe apart from the universal teenage torments of "Head Room" ('I've never been kissed before, It's been on my list, before'). We're closer to the struggles of the bourgeoisie that Johnny Rotten and co. hated so much. But, it's done with skill, finesse, twinkles in the eye and humour in different shades of grey tending towards black. So it's easy to forgive them. If there was anything to forgive in the first place, that is. It has to be added that Manchester-bands of newer generation like Buzzcocks, Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths and The Stone Roses are among those that went to Stockport and recorded at Strawberry Studios after the original 10cc quartet split. The reputation of legendary Factory Records and even more legendary producer Martin Hannett would no doubt have been substantially less if it hadn't been for Strawberry. I can't resist to include two quotes from Tony Wilson's book 24 Hour Party People: What the Sleeve Notes Never Tell You (Channel 4 Books, 2002) about what was going on in the studio a few years after the recording of How Dare You!:

'Why had those early Factory releases that magical Hannett sound? The young genius had been able to plug in his digital thingy into the outboard racks of a major world-class thirty-six track studio that was in Stockport - Stockport ladies and gentleman, Stockport, because 10cc were a Manchester band and they had taken the proceeds of the delicious I'm Not In Love and had reinvested in their home. Reinvested. Built a fuck-off studio. Respect.'

'Martin (Hannett) is sitting at the mixing desk, staring straight ahead. Pupils ultimately contracted. What drugs? Lotsa drugs. The mix ends. Martin, startled, jumps up from the producer's chair.
"What's that? What's that gold shiny thing? It's not a halo is it? I'm not dead. Am I dead?"
"No Martin" says Ian. "It's a gold disc. 10cc, I'm Not in Love."
"I'm not in 10cc am I?"
"No Martin, you're in Stockport."
It was a great mix.'

Anyways, it soon turned out that How Dare You! was to be the last album by the original 10cc quartet. Lol Creme and Kevin Godley wanted to put all their energies into the experimentation with the Gizmo and left the band even before the album was released. They toiled in the studio for 18 moonths with their grand duo project Consequences that combined instrumental music and songs with the Gizmo at the fore to accompany an audio play narrated by renowned British comedian Peter Cook who also performed most of the roles, mostly while drunk. One of the songs was guested by jazz vocalist Sara Vaughan. If I remember rightly, Lol considered this the highlight of his career that far, to persuade her into the studio to sing along with Kevin on their song "Lost Weekend". The resulting triple album was released in the autumn 1977 and was mainly met with indifference, or hostility. It was expensive and completely out of fashion at the time, during the heydays of punk. I had awaited it with high hopes, but was a bit disappointed. It was too much audio drama and too little music, I thought. Then. Admittedly it has its moments and the album has gained cult success in later years. It was re-launched in 1979 as a single LP called Music From Consequences, without any signs of Peter Cook. The duo struggled on and recorded more conventional pop albums where they still explored the possibilities of the Gizmo to some extent. The gadget was never a commercial success, only used by a handful of other bands, but they included Wings, Led Zeppelin, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Throbbing Gristle(!), The Church and This Mortal Coil, about one single recorded song by each, I think. The duo's albums gradually gained more critical acclaim and commercial success. In 1979 they produced a creative music video for the single "An Englishman in New York" off their third album Freeze Frame and a few years later they had hit the big time as video entrepreneurs as MTV was taking off. By the mid-80s they were the most acknowledged video directors around, working with the most successful bands and artists of the day. They kept recording as well and reached their commercial peak with the single "Cry" off their sixth album The History Mix Volume 1 in 1985, probably much due to the accompanying Godley & Creme produced video. Their team-work came to an end around 1988, after the release of the seventh album Goodbye Blue Sky. Lol got involved in directing television commercials and feature film in the USA in addition to music video and later teamed up with Paul Morley, Anne Dudley and Trevor Horn in the last incarnation of the avant-garde synth-pop band Art Of Noise for a few years round the turn of the century. Kevin Godley also continued as a music video director. He reunited with Graham Gouldman for a short while in 2006, as GG/06. The two of them recorded six new songs, available only from the GG/06 web site. In recent years he has been involved in developing a music platform for the iPad.

The other half of the quartet, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, continued as 10cc with new musicians, quite successfully at first. The two next studio albums and accompanying singles were at least as commercially successful as How Dare You!. "Dreadlock Holiday" off Bloody Tourists (1978) was the band's last single to reach no. 1. It was a veritable hit plague. The two of them were undoubtedly cunning smiths of conventional pop songs, but the curiosity to experiment in a playful way and try out new formulas concerning music, lyrics and arrangement was undoubtedly missing. By the mid-1980s they were more involved in solo projects than 10cc and had sold their shares in Strawberry Studios. In 1991 the original four members reunited for the album ...Meanwhile, released in 1992. Well, it wasn't quite a quartet album as such. Stewart and Gouldman had written all the songs except the final one where one of Eric's collaborators from the mid-1980s, Paul McCartney, had been involved as well. Kevin Godley and Lol Creme only participated on the vocal side, mainly backing vocals. Kevin only sang lead on one, Eric on all the others. For Godley and Creme this was a sort of contractual obligation album to finish a deal they had signed with Polydor several years prior. The album was recorded in the USA. Gary Katz, most famous for his involvement in several albums by Steely Dan, was chosen as producer by the record company and he hired in several top-notch American session musicians. The two most involved Englishmen didn't agree with all of Katz's decisions and they have bad memories about the recordings. It was an expensive album to produce, but it was hardly promoted when it was finally released and a commercial failure. Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman kept the 10cc ship afloat for one more album Mirror Mirror in 1995. After the following tour Eric found out enough was enough. Since then he has only released two solo albums, in the 00s. Graham resurrected 10cc in 1999 with some of the members from the late 1970s and 80s and has kept going as a touring band ever since. Kevin Godley joined them for a one off 40 years anniversary concert at The Royal Albert Hall in 2012. The band has only released the odd live-album and a cricket EP (with a re-recording of "Dreadlock Holiday" re-named "I Don't Like Cricket (I Love It)") since the resurrection, as far as I've found out. But there has been a truckload of compilation albums in recent decades, of course, mainly with songs from the 1970s. We need to mention that the Kevin Godley, Lol Creme and Graham Gouldman composition " Boys In Blue" recorded by Manchester City F.C. at Strawberry Studios in 1972 still is played occasionally at Etihad Stadium aka. City of Manchester Stadium.

I was a huge 10cc fan for a little while in 1976 and 77, but have hardly listened actively to any of their music for the last 35 years. I was a bit worried when I put on How Dare You! again for the first time after so many years. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The second track of the album "Lazy Ways" has some lousy rhymes and is a little boring, but saved by an interesting arrangement. The rest of the album still has a lot to offer. While writing this, I've also listened to the other three albums recorded by the original 10cc. In my opinion none of them can match How Dare You! The self-titled debut includes too much American bubble-gum songs, while the second Sheet Music has some great ones. The third The Original Soundtrack is even more of a rollercoaster album with the mini rock opera "Une Nuit A Paris (One Night In Paris)" being the hilarious highlight, an inspiration for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", no doubt about it. Of the post How Dare You! albums, I prefer the more inventive ones by Godley and Creme to Stewart and Gouldman's. None of them can match the 1976 highlight, though.

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