Monday, 24 July 2017

10cc: Non-Album Songs Part One (1972-1980)




Non-Album Recordings Part #1: 1972

[15] 'Hot Sun Rock' (B-side to 'Donna') is a churning gritty instrumental that makes good use of Godley and Creme's 'gismo' instrument (a fully patented invention that 'bends' the strings to give Creme's guitar a special 'screaming' sound). You can really hear how well Creme and Stewart's guitars mesh together here but like many instrumentals 'Hot Sun Rock' would have sounded better with words attached. The 'sound' isn't immediately descriptive of a 'hot sun' either - nor is it full-on 'rock'. Ah well, trust 10cc to be different! Find it on: '10cc: Best Of The Early Years' (1993) and 'Tenology' (2012), plus the 2000 CD re-issue of the 1973 album '10cc'

[16] '4% Of Something' (B-side to 'Johnny Don't Do It')  is a repetitive blues song based around a fierce relentless guitar riff with some basic Eric Stewart lyrics over the top. Perhaps reflecting on his Mindbenders years, Eric moans about having to lower his horizons and being trapped by management because '4% of something' that will be released is better than '10% of nothing'. A strong guitar solo is the highlight of a simple song that would have made a companion to 'The Wall Street Shuffle', although 10cc's 'un-written rule' that the pair who didn't write an A-side would write the B-side put paid to that. Find it on: '10cc: Best Of The Early Years' (1993) and 'Tenology' (2012), plus the 2000 CD re-issue of the 1973 album '10cc'

Non-Album Recordings Part #2: 1973

The beautiful [27] 'Waterfall' was intended for release as the 'A's ide of 10cc's first single, until the band had such fun recording [19] 'Donna' that they decided to put that out instead. Now a year on, with the comparatively 'serious' 'Waterfall' quite different to anything else in 10cc's canon they sheepishly released it as a B-side and hoped no one would notice. That's an awful fate for a song that's one of the band's biggest early success stories, lovingly written and exquisitely crafted, making better use of the studio than any of the band's other 'UK Label' recordings. The narrator pines for the countryside, with the city life ironically falling over him like a 'waterfall' , with Godley's gorgeous lead vocal just the right shade of innocent until the single best use of full four-part band harmonies kick in on the harsher chorus. A wonderfully inventive 'swirling' mellotron part makes the whole song sound like running, gushing water, while the mix is amongst 10cc's clearest and full of some lovely little tricks (the tambourine that goes just so every verse, the acoustic guitar that cuts 'through' the song just before every chorus, the different shades of colour given out by the mellotron). Easily the best 10cc B-side (to A-side 'Rubber Bullets', now that's what I call a single!) and a strong candidate for 10cc's best 'neglected' track, 'Waterfall' might have been an even bigger hit than 'Donna' had the band gone with their original concept and released it as their debut single. Find it on: 'The Best Of The Early Years' (1993), 'Tenology' (2012), the 2000 CD re-issue of the 1973 debut '10cc'  and the 1993 CD re-issue of 'Sheet Music'

The noisy and short [28] 'Bee In My Bonnet' (B-side to 'The Dean and I') features Graham Gouldman doing a rock and roll parody where he's got 'ants in my pants, flies on my thighs, a bone in my nose, I got sun in my eyes'. It's a typical piece of 10cc fluff, charming rather than laugh out loud rather empty compared to the band's later more polished recordings, reflecting how silly many of the 1950s pop songs were. Still there's a nice rock and roll groove going on in the background and no one seems to have told Eric's stinging expressive guitar than this song is merely a 'joke' - it's deadly serious in every respect. Find it on: 'The Best Of The Early Years' (1993), 'Tenology' (2012) and the 2000 CD re-issue of the 1973 debut '10cc'
One of the weirder 10cc-related releases of 1973 was one of only two spin-off solo singles while the group were still together. However 'Naughty Nola', credited simply to 'Lol' (and with a writer's credit that just read 'Laurence'), wasn't some egotistical rock-star claim to fame but the last gasp of the 'Hotlegs' era singles when anything goes. After all, Lol had never really got his own single to go with the Kassenatz-Katz stuff Graham and Kevin were making so this dotty instrumental was his claim to fame. Released in the same month as the debut album and 'The Dean and I' single, it was a month where Lol dominated the charts - but not in this case, as with little publicity, few distinguishing features and few clues as to the author, the single simply disappeared and has been the bane of many a 10cc collector's existence trying to find it ever since (like many of the early 10cc releases under different names, it's yet to appear on CD). To be honest it's not really worth your while tracking down unless you really really like the sound of the 'gismo' and is even more pointless than the instrumental band B-sides of the period. Find it on: Hah! Don't make me laugh...

The B-side 'Bumbler', was a little better thanks to a sturdier performance and a more 10cc-ish vibe (the credit for this one reads 'Creme' as well, suggesting that it was written later through 10cc's usual publishing company St Anne's Music). However this flipside is cute rather than earth-shattering. Lol won't release another solo anything in his whole career and the next solo 10cc release (assuming the Godley-Cremes don't count) won't be till Graham's 'Sunburn' in 1979. Perhaps that's just as well - it really does take four people to make 10cc in this era. Find it on: The original single and that's yer lot! 

Non-Album Recordings Part #3: 1974

Asked to come up with something last-minute for release on the back of Stewart-Gouldman B-side 'The Wall Street Shuffle', Godley and Creme come up with [40] 'Gismo My Way', a lazy instrumental designed from the title on down to show off their 'gismo' effect in all its glory. Unfortunately for Lol his big moment is overshadowed by Eric's fiery second-guitar part, which soars past him, his playing being that much louder, noisier and more impressive, like an eagle suddenly arriving to fly alongside a canary - beautiful in its own right but rather outclassed here. The result is good enough to fill four odd minutes at short notice but isn't exactly one of 10cc's greatest moments and arguably the weakest of all their flipsides. Which, if you've sat through 'Hot Sun Rock', isn't saying much. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the 2007 CD re-issue of 'Sheet Music'

[41] '18 Carat Man Of Means'(B-side of 'The Worst Band In The World'), is slightly more substantial without coming close to 10cc's album track standard. To be honest this song should have been coupled with 'Shuffle' as it's another angry Eric/Graham song about being poor while other people are rich. Musically this is simple stuff by 10cc standards, a chugging 12 bar blues with a stabbing guitar riff, a melody that recycles 'Sand In His Face' and lyrics that do a lot of moaning but not much else. However the performance is better and features everyone taking a line somewhere: Eric sings the lead, Kevin sings a nice middle eight in his deeper growlier voice, Lol pops up nearer the end and there's a long list of put-downs at the end of the chorus delivered by Eric and Graham between them at their comedy best ('Don't rip me off 'cause I'm a blue-chipped long-haired weirdo...') There's one good line too that seems to sum up how 10cc felt after the acts they were backing all became stars ahead of them: 'My joint account goes up in smoke, you're drinking scotch I'm drinking coke!' The 'yeah yeah you're alright' chorus really doesn't fit though and feels stapled on, while nothing in this track is laid down with the care, love and attention to detail 10cc usually manage. Perhaps that's why the band decided to make this the only Godley-Creme era B-side not included on the 'Tenology' box-set? Find it on: the 2007 CD re-issue of 'Sheet Music' 

Non-Album Recordings Part #4: 1975

[50] 'Channel Swimmer'(B-Side to 'Life Is A Minestrone') is the most 10cc-ish of all the band's wayward B-sides. Graham Gouldman is a 'Channel Swimmer' able to do every stroke and out swimming in icy cold water before most of us are awake, wondering why. A fun nonsense lyric ends up as a metaphor for love ('but I ain't gonna crawl!') and features the rhyme of 'break ya' and 'make ya' (and with a great punch-line at the end we won't spoil). Graham seems obsessed with swimming by the way - asked to write the score to the animated film 'Animalympics' in 1979, Graham spends most of his time talking about swimmers! The tune is sweet if simple and the backing does some nice attempts at 'underwater guitars', as well as showing off some lovely band harmonies. Inessential but fun. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the 'deluxe' edition of 'The Original Soundtrack' CD

The icy melodrama [51] 'Good News' (B-side to 'I'm Not In Love') is a Godley-Creme song fully in keeping with the 'scarier' side of their art. Similar to 'If You Didn't Like It...' and 'Old Wild Men' it features moody verses about disappointment and  frustration and at times sounds almost suicidal ('I don't understand why still there's nothing at all'). Life clearly isn't a 'minestrone' for this narrator - it's more an aching never ending breakfast of oatmeal. A sleepy chorus then sweeps in with the warm hug of a major key as a bustling Creme arrives to offer comfort and a gentle calypso: 'All you need is some good news to put me on my feet...'. An unusual song, it really points at the emotion in Godley and Creme's work - all too often hidden by their humour and eccentricity - and is one of their more successful joint songs for the band. It seems odd, actually, that this song was kept for a flipside, traditionally the home of the band's most outrageous material - this song would have made a fine addition to 'The Original Soundtrack' album, possessing the same 'hidden messages' and themes of denial and turning suffering into good. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the 'deluxe' edition of 'The Original Soundtrack' CD

[52] 'Get It While You Can' (B-side to 'Art For Art's Sake') is a bouncy Stewart-Gouldman song that - for the first time - blows the long-standing 10cc principle that the writers of the A-side would always hand over the other side to the other pair. The main refrain from the songwas recycled heavily for the main verse of 'The Anonymous Alcoholic' from 'Bloody Tourists' ('Everybody's having fun, so why be the one left out in the cold?') A song about addiction and the fear of being left out ('Don't let the future pass you by - go ahead and give it a try...'), it sounds like the peer pressure of being in a band all keen to try 'new' things (although if based on autobiography  it sounds more like a leftover from the Mindbenders days than the older and generally more laidback 10cc). Like many of these B-sides this song comes in two halves, however, linked by a scary guitar solo.  Here Eric comments on the fate of those who go in to new experiences too far: never mind having losing out on another day, he argues, there might not be another tomorrow if an addiction gets out of hand, with life 'lived in a dream' rather than becoming more vibrant. A nice 'scattered' acoustic guitar zips between the speakers while an odd piano and guitar riff urgently lift the song up from its laidback slumber every so often, while Eric's double-tracked vocal is nicely restrained. The result is a pretty song that would have made a better 'anti-drugs' song than all of those awful 'Just Say No!' rip-offs of the 1980s and 1990s, accepting the desire to look for new experiences - but at the same time hitting where it hurts by saying that if taken too far drugs restrict rather than expand. One of 10cc's better B-sides. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the 'deluxe' edition of the 'How Dare You!' CD

Non-Album Recordings Part #5: 1976

[62] 'Hot To Trot' (B-side to 'The Things We Do For Love') is one of 10cc's silliest B-sides. By now Godley and Creme have gone, leaving the remaining duo (plus new drummer Paul Burgess) to get down and funky. Graham's posing rock star vocal is a delight (he's so clearly unsuited to being a 'Rock God') and after so many years of hearing elaborate productions it's nice to hear the band get back to basics. Graham's strutting brings on the girls as he asks them all if they're 'hot to trot', a triple-tracked Eric Stewart guitar solo (heavy on the dis-chords) hinting at what happens next. Unusually for the band there is no twist - you half-expect the gloating narrator to get his come-uppance or for them to say he's too 'cold and bold' or something, but it never comes. This is the sort of song that could only work as a 'one-off'; too much of the 'Deceptive Bends' albums sounds like this riff-heavy song too and a lot of the album does a rather better job of it. Not bad though. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the 'deluxe' re-issue of the 'Deceptive Bends' CD

Non-Album Recordings Part #7: 1977

[72] 'Don't Squeeze Me (Like Toothpaste)' (B-side to 'Good Morning Judge') is, like the A-side, so close to what people have come to expect from 10cc that it's suspiciously close to parody. A love-lorn ballad reflecting on what love means, this second-rate 'The Things We Do For Love' is treated as high comedy, the independent narrator demanding that he won't be 'squeezed like toothpaste - or putty in your hands'. It's a shame, actually, that the comedy is here at all because it rather deflects from a pretty melody and a lyric that's otherwise earnest about the soon-to-be-living together bachelor worried about losing his independence. A sweet chorus talks him out of his worries though, telling him how happy he'll be to wake up beside someone for a change and that the feeling he has is so strong 'it must be love'. The overall result doesn't quite work though, compared to the band's best moments: this song is just that little bit too artificial and concerned with making us laugh. You suspect that this over-sensitive narrator probably has sensitive toothpaste for his sensitive teeth. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the 'deluxe' CD re-issue of 'Deceptive Bends'

[73] 'I'm So Laid Back I'm Laid Out' (B-side to 'People In Love') is another largely Gouldman song about a narrator having a rotten time of things but not really caring about any of it. This track makes for a nice contrast to the melodrama of 'Don't Ask' from the forthcoming 'Ten Out Of Ten' album - both of Graham's characters are having a rotten time of it but they re-act in very different ways. Far from wanting to be the best this character is happiest being number two and his re-actions to storms on the news is to look forward to the better weather to follow. For the most part this is more 10cc on auto-pilot, but there are some typically great lines here too: 'My luxury is living 'cause I can't afford to die, I'm a dilettante mother with a twinkle in my eye!' Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the 'deluxe' CD re-issue of 'Deceptive Bends' 

Non-Album Recordings Part #8: 1978

[86] 'Nothing Can Move Me' (B-side to 'Dreadlock Holiday') is a slinky slow-burning blues song, which is odd because it's a tribute to rock and roll (this band never do the obvious do they?) This is another narrator having hit rock bottom, but he's determined to escape his trouble and put on some rock and roll records, the only thing that can 'blow me away'. Lyrically this is sweet stuff: a paean to the healing powers of rock and roll, as the narrator wearily drags himself out of bed, feeling uninspired and frustrated, but feeling the power rise in his soul whenever he turns his hi-fi on. I'm sure we can all relate to that (and if you can't then, well brother, you're reading the wrong book!) and 10cc are a good band to just that, usually bursting with life and ideas. However this song is more concerned with the lethargy of the narrator before music 'rescues' him and ironically enough this ode to how brilliant rock and roll can be is one of the band's most boring songs, without the band's customary twists and turns or epic productions. Had the band recorded this as more of a straight ahead rock song it might have fared better. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the 1997 and 2008 CD re-issues of 'Bloody Tourists!'

Non-Album Recordings Part #9: 1979

While 10cc were taking an enforced year out following Eric's car crash, Godley-Creme were enjoying the fruits of their first hit single 'An Englishman In New York'. The B-side 'Silent Running' was the first not to be lifted directly from an album and is a moody guitar-based blues that sounds like a cross between Dire Straits (who were, back in 1979, the hottest new act on the planet), the blues and 'Consequences' played at the wrong speed. A slow chugging song, it's quite hypnotic in the  way that Godley-Creme's parts overlap with each other and may well be an experiment similar to 'Brazilia', with the two men trying to tell the 'same' song in two different ways. Lol takes the lead though and complains of 'getting the short straw' because harmonising is more difficult than singing lead or something like that, as his growing 'heart rate' makes him 'break down'.  I don't know what it all means, but it's easier on the ear than many Godley-Creme tracks and deserved to make the album proper. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Freeze Frame'

Graham, meanwhile, was waiting for Eric to get well again and filled his time up by taking a commission to write the score to the Farrah Fawcett film 'Sunburn'. Rather unfortunately, given the circumstances, it's a film about a rich but grumpy old man dying in a mysterious car accident which lots of people are set to lose money from so two criminal investigators are sent to look into it. It's a comedy too, believe it or not. Graham's A-side of the same name is a rather lovely and (fittingly) sunny song that would have sounded right at home on the travelogue 'Bloody Tourists!' Graham's narrator is on holiday and down at the beach and needs 'protection'. An innuendo filled song compares the naive narrator's 'Dreadlock Holiday' style adventures to the need for suntan lotion and 'protection' while the narrator 'tries to let myself cool down'. Dumb as the lyrics may be, the chord changes this song flies through at top speed are very lovely and Graham's vocal is his best in years, warm and just the right side of cute. The song doesn't really fit the film at all, but hey that's a good thing - the song is much much better. Find it on: Just the original single I'm afraid

The B-side 'Think About It' wasn't, as far as I can tell, used in the film (I'll be honest with you, I couldn't stick it to the end it was hurting my eyes) but it does sound as if it was cut from the same cloth. This narrator is being eaten for breakfast by older, tougher women and  full of 'feelings that I just can't handle - you put my body through the mangle!' The worm has turned though, Graham demanding that his partner better 'wring him out' and start loving him properly again. Musically it's another 'Nothing Can Move Me', a walking pace blues that swaggers rather than pounces and is arguably the most Eric Stewart song in the Graham Gouldman canon, though Graham's vocal and bass (which is particularly loud on this recording) is instantly recognisable couldn't have been made by anybody else. Find it on: the original single and Suite: FA else

Non-Album Recordings Part #10: 1980

[99] 'Only Child' (B-side of 'One Two Five') was the first exclusive 10cc B-side in a while (the singles since 'Dreadlock Holiday' simply re-used album tracks like 'From Rochdale To Ocho Rios' 'Take These Chains' and the 'album edit' of 'For You and I' if you were wondering, which you probably weren't). You wonder why it didn't feature on the album because this slow slinky Gouldman-dominated track is better than a good half of the album. Graham - the only 'only child' in 10cc - claims that he was always lonely until his girl came along. He also offers this up as an excuse for being 'slightly edgy' in his dealings with her, as he's desperate to never be so lonely ever again. By the end she's become everything to him: 'friend, sister, mother, lover', every relationship he's ever wanted rolled into one. Eric brightens things up with a typically noisy and gruff guitar solo that seems to want to wring the narrator's neck and hints at the real desperation and tensions behind the song, but Graham keeps his cool enough to play it down throughout the rest of this revealing track. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Look, Hear, Are You Normal?'

Meanwhile, Godley-Creme are slugging it out with the current mood for dark and uptempo jazz-rock (think Dexys Midnight Runners with the horn section from Madness) with the impressive 'Wide Boy', one of their better songs which doesn't get the attention it deserves thanks to never appearing on an album. Like the sister song 'Golden Boy' to come, Godley is at his sarcastic best as he puts down some un-named other who gets all the critical attention and plaudits even though he's a faker ('He's only using you, he's only passing through'). This creep always manages to come up smelling of roses even though he's a jerk, inspiring the memorable Godley line comparing him to goody-two-shoes Cliff Richard ('I saw Expresso Bongo once so I know what I'm saying!') And has there ever been a better chorus than 'Mighty mighty Mohair'?! This retro track about a 'victim of the sixties' is one of the duo's better angry songs and anger always suited the generally peaceful pair rather well (certainly better than their maudlin and manic moods). Creme's gizmo twinges and punkish guitar stabs are impressive, Godley's wild drum thrash is genuinely exciting and the eerie chorus harmonies are tough and uncompromising. It's the bass though, something rarely heard on Godley-Creme recordings that really punches above its weight and drives the song along. Above all else, this song is driven by the heart more than the head and feels as if it's a 'real' howl of pain (perhaps from the same place as the 'bullying' songs on the 'L' album) rather than the pair's more usual cerebral crossword puzzles. The B-side was arguably the 'other' greatest Godley-Creme track of the period, 'I Pity Inanimate Objects'. Find it on: the CD compilation 'Images' (1993) and the CD re-issue of 'Freeze Frame'

The next Godley-Creme single release was best described as 'weird', even for them. 'Submarine' is a gizmo-led instrumental bossa nova with synth extras that sounds nothing much like a 'submarine' (though the synths do sound a little bit under-watery I suppose). It does however sound every much like 'Power Behind The Throne', the next Godley-Creme B-side released a year later on the back of 'Under Your Thumb'. Once again this sounds more like something Madness would do than former members of 10cc (ska is clearly to the duo in this period what reggae was to the remaining band members circa 1978), or should the inspiration be madness with a small 'm' instead? This track screams 'B-side', not 'A-side'. Find it on: the CD compilation 'Images' (1993) and the CD re-issue of 'Freeze Frame'

The actual B-side 'Marciano' is even weirder, but in a more traditional Godley-Creme way if that makes sense. Sounding like a horror movie soundtrack (or the weirder bits of 'Consequences', whatever takes your pick), it's a noisy atonal jam featuring synths, drum machines and every form of scary sound effect you can think of for three fast-paced unrelenting minutes. Personally I thought anyone who sat through the A-side deserved a medal rather than the 'treat' of hearing this B-side, but the single became one of the pair's biggest flops anyway so there weren't too many people to get upset over what their money had just been spent on. Find it on:  the CD re-issue of 'Freeze Frame' 

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