Monday, 21 August 2017
The Rolling Stones “Let It Bleed” (1969)
Gimme Shelter/Love In Vain/Country Honk/Live With Me/Let It Bleed//Midnight Rambler/You Got The Silver/Monkey Man/You Can’t Always Get What You Want
'Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away! But love, it’s just a kiss away!’
And so, The Rolling Stones took the ‘salt of the earth’ and decided instead to have their cake and eat it. Yay, cake! Well, this is a celebration of sorts I suppose: the end of an era as we review our very last Rolling Stones LP before we hang our satanic reviewing hat up for good (don’t worry readers, there’s still enough articles to publish until the middle of next year, you aren’t getting rid of us that easily!) And how tasty it looks too as we get the ‘pudding’ that comes after the high-water mark that was ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ from 1968 – look how delicious that front cover looks, with a then-unknown Delia Smith getting the commission straight out of catering school to make a juicy top-layer of cherries, grapes and cream and five cute little Rolling Stones figurines on top, working to orders by her ‘boss’ Robert Brownjohn (best known for the title sequences of various James Bond movies). But somehow, lurking underneath that creamy goodness are a few things less appetising and much less good to eat: a film canister, a clock, a pizza and even a rubber tyre. While that little lot does sound remarkably like my own culinary skills (what a shame this album cover didn’t have a pie-crust too!) it also reflects the contents better than perhaps any other Stones cover. On the surface this is a continuation of the gradual sweetening and stream-lining that has gone on in the Rollers’ sound ever since the left psychedelia behind for something earthier, with this a second successful accessible distillation of their sound. And on the other it’s a much darker record even than ‘Beggars’ full of riots, murder, class, denial, drugs and an extraordinary seven minutes celebrating a rapist that really wouldn’t be allowed nowadays.
In other words ‘Let It Bleed’ may well be the most Rolling Stones album ev-uh, the record that most reflects their sound in all their satanic glory. Aside from parts of ‘Banquet’ and sections of much-delayed sequel ‘Sticky Fingers’ it’s kind of the only Stones album that sounds the way people think of when they picture The Rolling Stones: swampy, earthy and rocky, rather than bluesy like the band’s early days or the curious mixture of raunchy funk and slow ballads that makes up most of their last recordings. In a sense every record except this one is an ‘experimentation’ – an opportunity to see how far the Stones can roll away from their natural sound, going either playful or darker or more contemporary. But this album is the Stones’ zenith for better or worse: the one record that sounds completely like them from first note to last. That’s the reason why many fans consider this their best album. It’s also why we’ve saved it till last because there isn’t honestly that much to talk about (though as usual we’re going to give it a very good go!) as it’s just The Stones being The Stones, not The Stones being The Who, The Kinks, The Beatles, The Bee Gees or (God help us) The Black-Eyed Peas. For here, at the end of the 1960s, with the decade dying out and the hippie dream almost over, The Stones can go back to being themselves and this is maybe the last album where people truly take note of what they say as a ‘contemporary’ band, rather than an ‘aging band struggling to stay contemporary’ (although you could make the same claim for ‘Sticky Fingers’ I guess).
There are a few reasons why no other album turns out to be quite like this one. First up is the fact that this is the band’s last album for Decca – and therefore the last album of newly record material that suffers the indignities of Decca’s signature sound: lots of echo, muddy sound and murky merging of instruments. It’s a sound this band have made their own down the years and which only they could really have thrived on, making everything sound dark, blurry and claustrophobic, even the occasional happy stuff. There’s a moment on ‘Live With Me’ that’s the epitome of this sound for the last time where the bass, guitar and drums all keep playing the same deep note and all the instruments ‘bleed’ together, with only a twinkling piano for colour: in anyone else’s hands this simple sly song would have been a comedy number but here even the comedy sounds like a tragedy in Decca’s studios. The Stones will set up their own label ‘Rolling Stones Records’ in 1970 (where the famous tongue logo comes from) but their problems were less with Decca (who don’t even reject their planned album cover this year, for the first time in many a long album) but more with manager Allen Klein. Not content with splitting up The Beatles far more than Yoko ever did, Klein had dug his claws deep into the Stones’ contract and demanded money with menaces from everything they recorded for Decca before their contract runs out in 1970 (which is why there wasn’t an LP that year as the Stones got crosser at his greed). By starting afresh, though, The Stones first attempt a new clear engineering sound (on 1971’s ‘Sticky Fingers’) before trying to go back to the ‘old’ sound and coming up with something even murkier (on 1972’s ‘Exile On Main Street’). This, though, is the last twirl of their signature swampy sound and for only the second album they’ve learnt how to write the sort of swampy sounds that suit it.
There’s another more cerebral reason we never get an album quite like this again: look at the release date, December 5th 1969. In The Stones’ plans their big ‘celebration’ of this album came the next day during a free festival they’d organised at Altamont Speedway which was the single biggest gathering of youngsters in one place since Woodstock in August. This time though the festival was going to be very much organised to promote one band and everything was catered to plug The Stones’ latest chart-topper. Which was, as it turns out, a tragic move, especially the decision to bring in motorbikers The Hell’s Angels as the ‘security staff’ – apparently after a tip-off from the Grateful Dead that the bikers in San Francisco were cheerful and cheap, bought for the price of booze. However this really wasn’t Woodstock but Altamont where the bikers were nastier and the booze made them nastier still and they picked on members of the crowd, apparently for pleasure. Everybody says it was The Stones’ satanic vibe that killed the mood, but actually it had been bad from the start. The crowd were surely and restless, numerable technical delays causing them to be less patient than the Woodstock elite and the weather in December was always going to be more of a problem than Woodstock’s blessed out Summer (rainshowers aside). The day was a difficult one: Byrds spin-off band The Flying Burrito Brothers didn’t go down that well with the crowd. Crosby Stills Nash and Young turned in a poor set by their standards, suffering lots of sound issues. The Jefferson Airplane performed a rousing set that kept being interrupted by kerfuffles in the audience and at one stage lead singer Marty Balin – the hero of the hour – got bashed on the head by a Hell’s Angel with a pool cue for trying to intervene during an attack between a biker and a teenage girl (Paul Kantner’s dryly sarcastic response: ‘To the guy who just bashed our lead singer on the head…Gee, thank you so much for that!’) The Grateful Dead, due to play next, took one look at the carnage and refused to leave their helicopter, making the crowd ever more restless and surly. And then The Stones played, dressed to kill and singing some of their darkest songs so that what happened next seemed inevitable (as captured in ‘Gimme Shelter’, the tour film planned as a way of celebrating the event – which ended up as a weird sort of tribute instead). A Hell’s Angel took a dislike of a black kid named Meredith Hunter dating a white girl and resented his trendy clothes. He barked out some orders. The kid got out a knife to warn them off his girlfriend. He was stabbed multiple times and died before he even made it to hospital. Legend has it the Stones were playing ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ at the time and that on this night the devil ‘won’; actually they were playing the less satanic but more misogynistic ‘Under My Thumb’ at the time but the story was too neat to not go down in music folklore. Here, twenty-five days before the calendar end of the 1960s, the 1960s spirit died in the most spectacular way as unlike Woodstock millions of youngsters got together and proved that they couldn’t look after themselves (well, not with pool cue wielding bikers anyway). Even though their didn’t weild the knife themselves, The Stones naturally got all the blame that day and their reputation never truly recovered even if as the highest profile band still going from the 1960s their sales remain strong for another decade and more. Even so, it’s the end of an era and the ‘real’ Stones’ died that day every bit as much as The Beatles did at the same time (with the ‘announcement’ coming in April 1970, though Beatle fans all knew by this point three months on from ‘Abbey Road’). The Stones would never be allowed to be quite so ‘dark’ as they are on this album again – and may well have been afraid to go there themselves, if the haunted looks on their faces in the ‘Gimme Shelter’ film are anything to go by. In the future only ‘Brown Sugar’ will be truly as, well, ‘rude’ as people assume the Stones always were (it is a song about the rape of a black slave on a Southern plantation after all) and that song was probably written before this album was released anyway.
There’s one other big reason, though The Stones may not have thought much of it at the time. ‘Let It Bleed’ is the ‘crossover’ album between the Brian Jones era and the Mick Taylor one. Officially Mick plays guitar on two songs and Brian only plays the maracas on ‘Midnight Rambler’ as his last ever contribution to The Stones’ handiwork, but even so it’s another end of an era as the founder Stone plays his last notes before his tragic death on July 3rd 1969. By then Brian had known that he was no longer a Stone – the group he’d formed, lived and breathed through thick and thin for nearly a decade – after his drug addiction and inter-band rows (such as Keith Richards ‘saving’ his girlfriend Anita from domestic abuse by wooing her himself) caused him to slow down and take less interest in the band’s activities. Officially he’d left before these album sessions began (‘Midnight Rambler’ is an older song re-jigged when the band got desperate for material – another Stones template to come!) and was there-but-not-there at all the 1968 sessions anyway, tending to sit in the studio read or stare while the music got made around him and only occasionally leaping to his senses to make a contribution (the thrilling out-of-synch mellotron solo in the middle of 1967 single ‘We Love You’ is his last fully functioning moment as a Stone – and what a way to bow out that is!) Brian’s loss is a tragedy, still unexplained – though the people around Brian him half expected news about a drug overdose one day, nobody expected the former champion swimmer to drown in his own swimming pool in mysterious circumstances (did the builder hired to work on his house kill him after endless goading or out of jealousy for his rich lifestyle or was it a tragic accident? We’ll never know. I’m pretty sure though that had Brian stayed indoors all that day he’d have lived to have a fascinating career making world music decades before it was fashionable and maybe even getting his act back together enough to make more rock and roll, with or without the Stones). Of all the tragedies that fall in the Stones’ story, his loss is surely the worst and without Brian the Stones turn into just another rock band (albeit a good one) rather than pioneers of the art, always going somewhere new. The band learn of his death while deep in the middle of sessions for this album though, which must have really added to ‘Let It Bleed’s dark and eerie feeling; the band actually got the news while recording it’s outtake, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You Babe’ (later released on Decca rarities compilation ‘Metamorphosis’) where Mick Jagger has never sounded so emotional, so haunted, so desperate. ‘It goes on!’ he’s said to have fumed through gritted teeth to everyone in the studio that day ‘It doesn’t end here, it goes on!’ And yet in many ways it does end here: never again will The Stones’ be quite so daring on the high-wire after losing one of their own from such a great fall.
Alright then, so that cake on the front cover is looking less like a celebration and more like a commiseration with every passing paragraph. The fact remains that ‘Let It Bleed’ is a more interesting album to talk about than it is to listen to. Though many fans call it the best thing The Stones ever did I’m never been that sure I quite agree: ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ has the better songs by far, ‘Sticky Fingers’ has the better production and ‘Exile On Main Street’ has the better, badder attitude. Taken individually there are only two songs that make my heart soar as a Stones fan – and unusually for this band these are the most famous tracks that bookend the album and sound better on compilations anyway. ‘Gimme Shelter’ is so like the aura post-Altamont that it’s scary to think it was recorded months before and released a mere day before the event that turned the hippie dream on its head because it’s all here: the screaming desperate guitars, the muscly rhythm section that physically beats up a lost and lonely sounding Mick Jagger and lyrics that scream about how the world is only one bad move away from self-destruction and nihilism (and remember this is decades before Donald Trump got into office!) ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ is also a very clever update on ‘Satisfaction’, an older, wiser, more broken band turning up with a new philosophy for the ages that we have to make do with what we get, no matter how bad it is and maybe that’s enough. The Beatles left us in the 1960s with the similarly titled ‘Let It Be’ (I’d love to know if The Stones’ heard an advance copy as the song had been around since January 1969 but the album it was named for isn’t out until four months after this one!), a tale of how we can make things better by believing in fate and letting things alone to work themselves out, that a higher power is watching over us (many people assume it’s a Catholic song but actually ‘Mother Mary’ is a dream Paul McCartney had about his real mum). The Rolling Stones leave us with a double entendre-filled song that leads to a much more depressive and caustic tale of how we all need someone we can abuse and treat badly. As much as I remain a hippie at heart, idealistic to a fault and believing that the madness of the last half-century is a ‘test’, you sense that The Stones’ caught the mood of the future world they couldn’t yet see more accurately. *sigh*
The rest of the album though is unremarkable – at least, compared to the highs of ‘Beggar’s Banquet’. ‘Love In Vain’ strains hard to be another beautiful ballad like ‘No Expectations’ gone or ‘I’ve Got The Blues’ to come but just sounds like a pale impression of both. ‘Country Honk’ is the original inferior version of lesser Stones single ‘Honky Tonk Women’. ‘Live With Me’ is delicious fun but ridiculously simple, the sort of thing a band could get away with in 1964 but not in 1969. The title track is forgettable, a sly acerbic tune masquerading as a forgettably pretty song which doesn’t work anywhere near as well as the first batch of songs that try this trick back on ‘Between The Buttons’. ‘Midnight Rambler’, rated as an all-time classic by many fans, always make me slightly nauseas with its celebration of lust and rape of a hapless victim – admittedly several other Stones songs skirt near this danger area too, but this one is particularly graphic and at least in the others you can convince yourself that the girls involved have given some sort of ‘permission’ for things to happen to them. Only the under-age sex of ‘Stray Cat Blues’ makes me blush more as a Stones fan and that one’s supposed to – you get the feeling the Stones genuinely think this song about a whipping rapist sounds like fun. ‘You Got The Silver’ is the closest the album comes to a third classic – but even this sleepy weary Keith Richards ballad (the first song he sings all the way through) never quite rises out of its drug stupor for long enough to become the sweet pretty romantic ballad it yearns to be. And ‘Monkey Man’ is the single stupidest song in the Stones’ canon, one where Mick Jagger does his gorilla impressions for four minutes and pretends he can get away with this because he’s singing about ‘drugs’. While Jagger has such swagger he can get away with all sorts of stupid ideas down the years (particularly on his solo albums), this one make him sound like he’s gone temporaily mad, orang-u-tangoed perhaps.
All that makes for an oddball album. There’s much to love about this record of course: that cover artwork is absolutely fantastic and so very Stones, taking what in other hands would be a very sweet idea and adding literal ‘layers’ of dark humour as they throw all sorts of unsavoury inedible material into the contents. It beats looking at a model pretending to be Mick Jagger in his underwear on ‘Sticky Fingers’ or the boring beige of ‘Beggar’s Banquet’s ‘invitation’ card anyway. The Stones play together superbly across this album. ‘Monkey Man’ aside Mick has never sounded better than he does on this album, living the darkness of ‘Gimme Shelter’ alongside singer Merry Clayton giving surely the best guest performance on any Stones album, sounding deliriously sarcastic on ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, strutting with feeling on ‘Midnight Gambler’ and owning ‘Live With Me’, laughing at himself about all his ‘real’ bad habits he hides behind for this faux respectable song. Even his vocal on ‘Monkey Man’ isn’t as stupid as it would have been for anyone else – at least he commits to this song and lives it. Keith too is on great form as the chief guitarist finding new ways to make Chuck Berry riffs sounds contemporary and pours out his soul on the sad suffering of ‘You Got The Silver’. New boy Mick Taylor doesn’t get much of a chance to shine but is already the Stones’ secret star, instantly getting the ‘ancient art of weaving’ so central to the Stones’ sound to come even though it’s a million years away from the dashes of exotic colour we’re used to hearing from Brian Jones. However this is in many ways the best Stones album for the rhythm section of Bill and Charlie who only sound better than here on live album ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’; there’s a crackle and fire between them as Bill sounds smug and upper class and Charlie sounds like an energetic brat, both chasing each other to hell across the album songs (in real life, of course, their characters are more the other way around!) ‘Gimme Shelter’ is their ultimate performance during their quarter century together in the same band, knocking lumps out of each other and sucking out all the ‘fun’ in a way that no other rhythm section could. The songs that work on this album also work very very well indeed and have become Stones standards, played more nights than not for the next forty years or so, for a reason.
However ‘Let It Bleed’ only sounds like an album to lean on as a milestone in Stones history: scratch under the surface and you have actually quite a messy inconsistent album by a band who should be on top of the world but for so many reasons feel crushed, under the weight of expectation, a world where The Beatles’ departure makes them the new de facto most important band in rock, just as inspiration is beginning to wane. Complete collapse is, across this album, only a few days away – and unwittingly ‘Let It Bleed’ ends up painting a far better portrait of a world in disarray than they perhaps expected. The least classics of the ‘classic’ era Stones albums, this one piggybacked on the fame and focus of the bookending tracks and if you scrutinise it fully is probably their weakest album since ‘Out Of Their heads’ as long ago as 1965. But then, the bands were out of their heads a lot during the making of it and in retrospect the shock is not that the Stones faltered but that they will be able to regain so much of their old swagger after the events behind-the-scenes whilst making this album despite a new line-up, a new record label with a whole new studio sound and a whole new decade that suddenly won’t seem as made for the Rolling Stones as the 1960s had been. Sometimes a record is entitled to be slightly less than parr – with a catalogue as bright as the Stones’ we can afford to let this one ‘bleed’.
‘Gimme Shelter’ – oddly mis-spelt as ‘Gimmie Shelter’ on original copies (The Stones were bad boys in all sorts of ways but they always knew how to spell!) – is the album’s masterpiece, a stunningly gritty song of doom, gloom and disaster. Usually when The Stones do depressing they do so with a cheeky smile, the lyrics of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ or the it-won’t-happen-here laughter of ‘Street Fighting Man’. But this is the one Stones song where there is no redeeming feature at all; this world is a dark and scary place where anything can happen and usually does. This song might just feature the best Keith Richards guitar riff after ‘Satisfaction’, those chords slashing futilely and powerlessly against the heaviest bass-drum interplay in Stones lore. There is no turning against this side as the listener gets swept along, even when a second Keith part (unusually playing lead) comes in and echoes the first. And that’s just the music: in terms of lyrics this song is despair and desperation personified: a storm is coming, war, rape and murder are ‘just a shot away’, mankind needs shelter from the dark forces that govern us. It feels like a Viking-style of dark forces is imminent and in a troubled 1969 hit by Vietnam protests and marches and Nixon acting like Trump’s older brother this song perfectly encapsulates the turbulence and restlessness of the times. The generation gap is no longer a gap – it’s a war – and as the 1960s comes to an end, with protests still ongoing, this is a last desperate struggle against the darkness. In an update of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ Beelzebub doesn’t need our sympathy anymore because he’s ‘won’ and there’s no way back from this. Even a last verse attempt to put a hippie twist on things (where love is ‘just a kiss away’) is fooling no one: this is a world where the darkness has won. In the middle of all this noise and confusion stands Mick, usually the loudest thing in the room so brash and confident but here scared and awkward, powerless to do anything to stop the madness he sees over the horizon. He’s joined by the quite brilliant Merry Clayton (not ‘Mary’ as she’s accidentally credited on first pressings) who scream-sings her way through the song as a scared, scalded cat, using her blues stylings to good use as she sounds like a scalded cat pleading to be put out of her misery. On any other song her singing might be over-the-top but here it ups the stakes even more as Mick tries to downplay things to sound like he’s trying to hold onto his sanity and it’s a shame both that the Stones never use her again and that she never had another ‘lead role’ with another band to match it (Merry is, though, an accomplished backing singer and one of the best in the business; a film was made about her life in 2013 named ‘Ten Feet From Stardom’). It’s a really hard part to get right and none of the numerous female backing singers who’ve attempted it in concert with the Stones have ever quite got it right, sounding either awkward or histrionic. This pair, though, are living the song as is everyone else in the room. This dark and evil song really starts this album off with a bang and it’s an incredibly prescient take on the dark days to come, recorded before both the death of Brian and Altamont, the storm clouds skittering round the band’s horizon that came to pass.
Alas ‘Love In Vain’ undoes much of that song’s hard work, being an overly pretty song by blues king Robert Johnson that’s in the country-rock vein of many of the band’s recent worst songs. Keith was clearly inspired by his growing friendship with ex-Byrd Gram Parsons in this period and adds many a country-rock twinge to this old blues song, but oddly it’s his triple-tracked acoustic, balalaika and steel guitar parts that all sound a bit ‘off’, as does Charlie’s too-simple drum track’; it’s Mick who lives this song and almost makes it work. The melody is clearly at one with the old blues songs the band started out playing (it’s an even slower variation of ‘Little Red Rooster’) and may have started life as a tribute of sorts to Brian. However the arrangement really doesn’t suit it: the country-rock twinges put this song too far from the authenticity of blues into the oddly exaggerated-ness of country music and even Keith pretending to hoot like a train on his slide guitar doesn’t add enough levity to make this song work as well as the tongue-in-cheek original. What ended up on the album is just a pale forgettable re-tread of ‘No Expectations’ where the narrator’s lover ends up leaving instead as he follows her to the station, where ‘suitcase in her hand’, she begs him to come home. Maybe the band had Brian in mind here, choosing a song he would surely have known and pleading with their mentor to ‘come home’ where he belonged out of his drug stupor, although as Mick and Keith were the ones who effectively threw him out this seems unlikely. They clearly knew where it came from too, so it seems odd that yet another mistake on the record’s original packaging credited this to ‘public domain’ – Robert Johnson’s estate sued the band for a pretty hefty sum the following year. The result though isn’t worth even a small share of the money and is a rare period Stones song that really drags, feeling like a lot longer than its 4:22 running time.
Everyone looked puzzled when the album came out with ‘Country Honk’ on it. This country version of the current Stones single out five months before (‘Honky Tonk Women’) was so obviously inferior many wondered if the band were making a joke. Actually the truth is a bit weirder than that: this is how the song sounded first and it was only after listening back to this cute but not very memorable song and realised that they could give more whallop that Keith and Mick made this song their next single. Worried about including their single on their album, against unwritten 1960s code, but wanting to promote both the band figured that they would release both versions simultaneously in July – only for rows with Allen Klein to rear their ugly head and delay this album till December when the single had long disappeared from the charts. There’s a charming version of Mick and Keith singing this in rehearsal for their Latin American tour of 2016 (as seen in the ‘Ole Ole’ documentary film), two voices and one guitar having a lot of fun and this so-so song sounds fabulous: pretty witty and gritty all at once. This version though sounds like a demo that nobody cared much for and overdubbed over the top is a most off-putting fiddle part from the usually excellent Byron Berline (an honorary member of Stephen Stills’ Manassas). Nobody seems to care for this version of the song which is slower and brings out all the clichés about honky tonk bars and good time country girls and far from wondering ‘how to ever get you off my mind’ is about as forgettable as the 1960s Stones ever became.
‘Live With Me’ might not be very smart, but it is very funny. There’s a terrific opening bass riff from Bill enjoying a particularly strong album before the first recording featuring Mick Taylor sparking off a classy Keith Richards acoustic riff and Charlie playing with the frenzied simplified anger of a punk rocker sometime before 1980. It makes for a great groove, especially when Keith’s pal (born the exact same day) Bobby Keyes makes his first of many Stones guest appearances on one of the few AAA saxophone solos I actually enjoy, twisting and turning and strutting in the song’s sultry breeze. However the lyrics find Mick on a rare off day. He’s playing the part of someone who to the general public in 1969 probably sounded quite threatening but by Stones standards is hilariously tame. This chap eats his tea as early as three o’clock (it’s usually between six and eight for most people, though ‘tea’ is a controversial word in British circles, as for upper class people it means ‘afternoon tea’ with cakes and for working class people it means ‘dinner’; yep we get confused by this too), eats meat that ‘must be hung up for a week’ to get hard and shoots water rats. The implication is that all of these strange customs, as accepted by the middle and upper classes of the day, are every bit as weird if not more so as wine, women and song. However Mick seems to have second thoughts about writing this song and first gets genuinely naughty for 1969 standards (‘Don’t you think there’s a place for us in between the sheets?’ – remember this is only two years after the band were torn a strip for suggesting they would like to ‘spend the night together’) and then gets weird with a ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ style collage of images that try to paint a wicked picture of upper class society but don’t work quite as well: the butler’s having sex with the ‘whore’ of a cook and the chauffeur ‘flips’ when the maid ‘strips’. Listen out too for a damning verse portraying the off-spring of such debauchery, where children with ‘earphone heads’ (presumably big at the bottom and small on top) are locked in the nursery away from the eyes of the world. Mick’s performance is slightly ‘off’ too: this song would be funny if delivered with his usual big wide grin but he sounds as if he’s singing this one as if it’s all completely serious and he means every word of it, even the stupid ones. It’s a rare song by the glimmer twins where the words and music don’t go together but this one is it, even if one of the best band performances on the record nearly rescues it.
I’ve never quite understood title track ‘Let It Bleed’ either, which starts with an angry bass gulp and then turns into a straightforward singalong with many Beatle-ish overtones. The song starts as a warm, affectionate ballad about offering comfort and support, before turning into a typically cheeky Stones song full of innuendo (as the narrator uses his lover’s breasts to lean on, is told ‘there’ll always be a space in my parking lot’ and the narrator sings about in return their lover being able not to lean but to ‘cream’ on them) and then on again into a wickedly dark final verse about dying in a hospital, bleeding over a ‘junkie nurse’. It’s surely a spoof of The Beatles and their general niceness as so many fans have assumed down the years – but I’m less sure that’s it’s a spoof of ‘Let It Be’ given the dates and the title mibght just be a coincidence. Instead it sounds like a parody of ‘final Beatle statement’ ‘Abbey Road’ and its big extended songs with a crystal clear production (this is about the closest The Stones ever manage over at murky Decca), where the band end by offering their fans the uplifting hope that ‘in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make’; this sounds like a Stones version: the world is mad and we’re all going to end up injured bleeding sex-starved drug addicts anyway so at least band and fans can embrace each other! The oddly lifeless tune, which again sounds suspiciously like ‘Honky Tonk Women’, though knocks the song down a mark or two and this is by far the scrappiest band performance on the album, not light enough on its’ feet to be funny or played with enough care to move us. Maybe the band should have stuck with one idea of what this odd triple-song was meant to become and, err, ‘let it be’ after all.
‘Midnight Rambler’ is either the Stones being the Stones or the biggest example of the band pushing things too far. This song is clearly exciting: the band find a great groove, one beaten perhaps in epic terms only by ‘Can You Hear Me Knocking?’ on the next album, and after a slow start it really picks up speed with some classy Jagger harmonica, a very swampy gruff Keith guitar part and Charlie sounding like a train. Mick and Keith wrote it together during a rare holiday in Italy after reading about the exploits of the Boston Strangler Albert De Salvo who raped and murdered thirteen women in Boston between 1962 and 1964 before eventually confessing to his crimes. In typical spirit, The Stones try and turn this outlaw into a hero – but unlike their smart and educated Devil wondering why God gets all the breaks or the rebel dreaming of mass protest against an oppressive government, this is somehow hard to take. De Salvo wasn’t a strutting lothario who loved pleasuring women, he was a murderer who delighted in making his victims suffer and usually strangled them with their own nylon stockings, a symbol of his fear of their sexiness perhaps (though many of his victims were in their sixties and seventies). Hearing Mick getting into character and whipping his girl, prostrate on the floor, with his belt probably was a turn-on for some, but the lasciviousness and mischievous in Mick’s vocal sounds misplaced, as the band are messing with ‘real’ forces not abstract ones and they van’t get away with this one with a smile and a wink. The song ends on the painful lines ‘I’m going to stick my knife right down your throat baby – and it hurts!’ That’s the biggest problem with this song for me – it’s all so physical and so descriptive that it really does sound like it hurts and must have upset the victims of the real Boston Strangler badly (the band were quite open about where they got the idea, although they admit they don’t know why they wrote such a dark song during a holiday both Mick and Keith say was one of their best). There is, however, a cracking ‘blues opera’ as Keith called it going on here, with multiple stunning melodic sections stretched out to nearly seven minutes on record and the band – still used to recording compact material – do well at stretching out Grateful Dead style. The slow part in the middle where Mick teases his victim and tells her it’s ‘not just one of those…!’ before his whip cracks into her is impressively seductive and unsettling and the way the band kick in from the slow section back to the old groove, but twice as fast, is very much what a Stones song about rape would be doing, re-creating the sexual act in a frenzy of lust and passion. However it is a song that worked far better in concert with two guitarists bouncing off each other than it does in the studio with one overdubbed and the ‘Get Yer Ya Yas’ version from the following year knocks spots off this one. It’s also, perhaps, a song that might have been better kept for private use between consenting Stones couples than unleashed on the world. In retrospect it seems odd that Brian Jones’ last contribution comes here, on a maraca part we can’t even hear, as it’s the least Jones-like song on the album as far away from his original template for the early 1960s band as this album’s songs come. But then again it makes sense that the Stones would be so worried about this track that they’d hold on to it for the best part of a year before dusting it out and finishing it.
Keith’s pretty ‘You Got The Silver’ is a big breakthrough for him as a writer as he learns to stop hiding behind characters (Mick’s included) and write from the heart. It had been a complicated and confusing time for Keith: he was worried for Brian, but not so worried he could stop himself taking his girl away from him, ‘rescuing’ Anita Pallenberg who really didn’t deserve the temper tantrums and physical violence she got from Brian, but who really didn’t deserve losing his one last link to sanity to his best friend in such a callous way either. Typically Keith tries to write her a love song to express how he feels, but typically he can’t quite bring himself to be that direct, so what we get instead is a ‘you’ll do’ song that alternates between being the most romantic song in the Stones’ canon and something that’s deeply dismissive. Keith sings that his new girlfriend has his heart and soul, but also that she helps him find the gold and diamonds lurking inside his own personal ‘mine’, as if he loves her because she makes him feel great rather than because she is. He also adds that she’ll ‘buy some time’ in a line that’s quite cruel and wonders whether her laughter and smile really move him before declaring that he enjoys it whatever it is ‘so I don’t care!’ This song isn’t as openly cruel as Mick’s kiss-off songs to poor Jean Shrimpton (who deserved so much better) but isn’t far behind, ending on a histrionic ending where Keith loses his cool and shrieks at us as if he’s having a panic-attack and isn’t in love at all. The tune, though, really is warm and authentic and oozes romance, everything the words don’t. Worried about how he sounded on his first fully lead vocal on a Stones record, Keith at first handed this song to Mick who sounds a hundred times better on the version out on bootleg, starting warm and then getting increasingly jokey as the song progresses; Keith alas doesn’t have that experience or touch just yet. We don’t know why he took the song back again – perhaps he just couldn’t handle giving over a song about his love to his best friend at a time when his best friend had just agreed up to play her ‘boyfriend’ in the movie ‘Performance’, shot at the end of 1969, unable to hear Mick singing sweet nothings to his girl (actually Anita is one of the few women around the Stones scene that Mick didn’t at least try to woo!) The result is a song that sounds amazing, but isn’t quite the genuine romantic beast it wants you to think it is – and might perhaps have been better if it had come from the heart without so many misogynistic Stones twists inside it.
‘Monkey Man’ also sounds great: there’s a dark throbbing opening that sounds like this song is going to be a deep epic, with another fantastic Keith riff and some brilliantly inspired drumming from Charlie. But dear God those lyrics: ‘I’m a fleabit peanut monkey and all my friends are junkies!…I’m a cold Italian pizza and I could use a lemon squeezer!’Had Mick and Keith just had such a huge role that Jagger was resorting to sabotage one of Richards’ funkiest guitar riffs? Or did Mick just pick up on the comical inner gorilla in this muscly song rather than what he perhaps should have been fixating on, this song’s paranoid (even for this album!) melody which is all darted quick looks and a rising sense of panic? This could, in some parallel land be on a par with ‘Gimme Shelter’ but instead what could have been a major song of drama and angst has become the comedy relief. There is, thankfully, a pretty great instrumental break in the song when Keith’s slide, cut short by his stinging guitar riff, just somehow keeps on going and reaches up to the heavens as if trying to throw off the shackles of the scary world…but then Mick has to ruin it all by screaming ‘I’m a monkey!’ like he’s just puffed several thousand cigarettes that day and has been devolved back to primate stage. The result is a song that sounds good until you start paying attention and realise that, yes, this song really is that embarrassing, one that starts off as ‘2001: A Space Oddysey’ and ‘Planet Of The Apes’ and ends up a cartoon. Shoulda been a B-side.
By contrast is ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want?’ even by the same band? Thoughtful, complex and open to multiple interpretations, this song genuinely sounds grand and epic. It even starts with the sound of the London Bach Choir, who were reported before the album sessions to be taking part with gusto, enthusiastic about embracing such a ‘mainstream’ band – however they pretty much wrote off their links after hearing the album and deciding that they didn’t want to be associated with so much ‘evil’ (what did they think was going to happen after ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ alone?!) However this is a rare case of a Stones song you can imagine another band doing (though oddly few people ever have covered this song over the years, perhaps because of its length?) If ‘Satisfaction’ was the band’s anthem for disaffected youths then this is their similar anthem for disaffected twenty-somethings living in a world that doesn’t work the way they thought it did when they were children. The narrator starts the song watching a girl he loves from afar, so unlike the usual go-out-and-grab-‘em Stones philosophy. Knowing that she’s about to leave for a ‘footloose man’ whose going to treat her badly (is this Keith writing about Brian and Anita?), the narrator travels with her one last to a demonstration where they chant about the oppression of society. This time, though, they know that there is no easy fix – all they’re trying to do is make themselves heard so that another faction of society gets shafted for a change instead of ‘theirs’ because there isn’t enough to go around. After that they take in the sight of ‘Mother’s Little Helper’, queuing up for the anti-depressants they need to get them through the day (complete with jokey reference to ‘Mr Jimmy’ who looked ‘pretty ill’ – it’s meant to be producer Jimmy Miller who was indeed struggling with drug addiction after a year of being around the Stones but will be around until 1973).
By the end of the song, though, the narrator realises that what he’s dreamed for all his life – his perfect girl – is no such thing and has only been pretending, breaking his heart with her chameleon skills and her ‘blood stained hands’. No wonder, then, that after every verse the narrator keeps coming back to the same place: that you can’t always get what you want or by the sound of it ever get what you want, but that sometimes you get what you need – that the problem lies not with what you have but with the falseness of what you desire. It’s the old ‘be careful of what you wish for’ philosophy but written in such a way that it sounds big and profound, applicable of all things in life. By 1969 The Stones have learnt the hard way that dreams of stardom and success come at a price: with a dead guitar player, a manager whose guts they hate and a society trying to lock them away on trumped up charged out of fear you can see why this song might sound so heartfelt. By 1970 being in the Rolling Stones comes with a ginormous price tag and as such I’ve always wondered if this was either a ‘farewell’ song to Brian (you can hear a particularly glorious and tongue-in-cheek version of this song performed at the Rolling Stones Circus in December 1968 with Brian playing along and added passionate Jagger screams as he howls this song at the stoned dancing audience like a man possessed) or a ‘warning’ song to Mick Taylor (who arrived too late to do much to this recording but is thought to be on it thanks to the marvel of overdubs – if so, it’s a warning he’ll take to heart, quitting the band in 1974 for the sake of his health after joining the Stones as a tee-total vegetarian and ending it a drug and booze swilling addict). The bill that comes with living for too long in a crazy world without any ‘shelter’, this is a glorious downbeat finale to the album and the 1960s from a band who have several good reasons to be afraid of the future. It is, though, also just a fine song that says much and brings much comfort in a way that few Stones songs ever do, with a stunning tune and a gorgeous performance where even the posh choir ‘fit’, demonstrating that the title phrase applies to us all, rich or poor and that we’re all pawns in a game of fate’s choosing we don’t quite understand. Mr Jimmy’s arrangement on this song is also note-perfect, a mourning trumpet lick the perfect counterpart to the noisy thrash of the solo where even the choir cut loose. The Stones have learnt how to do long songs now, building with every line and verse and have never sounded more evolved or wise.
It’s just a shame that the band had to spend so much of this album when they had so much talent at their fingertips acting like monkeys – literally. The fantastic first and last tracks have really coloured this album for many fans and reviewers, to the point where this record full of monkey noises, poor blues covers and rapists ended up being voted Rolling Stone Magazine’s 32nd greatest album of all time (admittedly they do have a thing about the Stones from the title on down, but seriously? In contrast even other fan favourites‘Beggar’s Banquet’ got to #58 and ‘Sticky Fingers’ only got to #63, while ‘Exile On Main Street’ didn’t make the top 500 list at all. Surely some mistake?! This was, though, The Rolling Stones’ year in many ways, when they were forever in the news thanks to the death of Brian and Altamont, while the end of The Beatles made this album matter more than most to fill the void, not just at the time of release but into a 1970s where the fab four didn’t exist. This album was going to be popular whatever it did as long as it dipped its toes in the black and dangerous waters society seemed to be swimming in across 1969 and the first and last tracks are every bit as epic and career-defining as fans hoped; it’s the filler in the middle that makes this a less exciting Stones sandwich than other offerings. More bloody mess than bleeding heart, this is an album that does what fans wanted it to do, but not much more – unless hearing Mick Jagger as a monkey is your thing of course. Better is to come.
You can now buy 'Memories - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of 10cc' in e-book form by clicking here!
1. Neanderthal Man (Music Video 1970 as 'Hotlegs')
Recorded simply, Hotlegs' 'drum-testing' session took off so quickly that they couldn't have provided an elaborate video if they'd tried. So they didn't: instead of the sort of thing the band would probably do years later (a cartoon about a caveman or a mannekin neanderthal coming to life) they simply point a camera at each other in close-up and sing along. You wonder how it must have seemed for the public in the pre-10cc era, going 'gee I know them from somewhere - especially that blonde guitarist in the sunglasses. Didn't he used to be in The Mindbenders?!? Why is he singing about neanderthals making love?!' Lol makes for a good caveman and Kevin certainly has the hair for it (this is the longest it will be till 1988!) but Eric seems greatly bemused by the whole thing! No Graham of course - he wasn't on this track, though he does guest on the album.
2. Disco ('Desperate Dan' UK TV 1970 as 'Hotlegs')
A weird choice - a novelty song that wasn't released a single and certainly wasn't disco in anyway shape or form, mimed by a band who look deeply uncomfortable (especially Eric once again!) Nobody in the audience seems to notice that the band aren't playing half the instruments heard on the original tapes (including the piano, the loudest thing here!)
3. Donna (Music Video 1972)
A straightforward mimed video that looks suspiciously like a TOTP appearance, complete with a similarly bored looking audience. Lol has great fun going OTT and getting his cues 'wrong' (mind you, Kevin is even worse!) Lol then gets the giggles answering the 'phone'. Sadly this promo doesn't make 10cc 'sit down' or 'stand up' and they're rather static here, but it's good to see them having fun in comparison to their more serious promos! Available on the 'Tenology' box set.
4. Top Pop #1 ('Donna' Holland TV June 1972)
Meanwhile, over in Holland 10cc debut on a show they played a lot - it's the Dutch equivalent of 'Top Of The Pops' that ran for almost as long (eighteen years from 1970-1988) but a bit more 'fun'! It even 'invented' punk rock thanks to Iggy Pop appearing there in 1977 and being in such a foul mood he destroyed the set live on air! Even TOTP, for instance, would never have had the band stuck at the back of the stage as the 'backing band' for a busty dancer who completely upstages them! Also look out for the backdrop, which is hard to see but is a large cut out of the name '10cc' in different shapes and sizes (this might be a comment on how much smaller than others Lol looks on this clip! Later he'll stand on things to look taller). Lol and Kevin are still awful at miming on cue...
5. Top Of The Pops #1 ('Rubber Bullets' UK TV 1973)
Only recently returned to the archives in early 2015, this is 10cc's debut for the 'real' Top Of The Pops'. Even taking into account the quality isn't top notch it looks as if the band were already going for an 'arty' look with weird lighting and crashing zooms from the cameras - the traditional thing TOTP cameraman do with something that looks a bit 'different', be it punk or novelty hits! The band are also obscured by the spotlights, but at least their miming has improved - at least until the 'Sgt Baker made a beeline to the jail' line which Lol messes up spectacularly!
6. Top Pop #2 ('The Worst Band In The World' Holland TV 1973)
This single never did that well in the charts but the band give their all during this Dutch performance. You can tell that the band are much more comfortable with two big hits under their belt though and this postmodernist classic is the most 10cc single yet. It's easy to get distracted by the backing though, which features a close-up of the Statue of Liberty for no apparent reason in a dazzling array of colours! At last after eight years of watching his songs become hits for other people Graham Gouldman gets to look the camera squarely in the eye and sing on this track ('Never seen the van - leave it to the roadies, never seen the roadies - leave 'em in the van!') Watch out for an early version of Eric's 'bow-legged dance' at the end.
7. Top Of The Pops #2 ('Rubber Bullets' Christmas Special UK 1973)
The year 1973 had been a huge one for the sale of singles and pop music was now so mainstream TOTP even had a special on Christmas Day! All the biggest bands of the year were invited back to play their biggest hits and thus came perhaps the most commonly sighted 10cc clip of them all. The band are in a 'party' mood, playing this double-edged song for laughs instead of the grim humour they sometimes employed in concert. Included on the 'Tenology' box set.
8. See You On Sunday ('Fresh Air For My Mama' 'The Wall Street Shuffle' UK TV April 1974)
A slightly heavy-handed guest appearance on a shirt-lived music show, although at least it gave 10cc the chance to play more than just their current hit single, with a moody version of 'Fresh Air For My Mama' from the debut LP outstripping a slightly cautious 'Wall Street Shuffle'. Included on the 'Tenology' box set.
9. BBC In Concert ('SSSSSilly Love' 'The Wall Street Shuffle' 'Baron Samedi' 'Old Wild Men' 'Oh Effendi!' 'Fresh Air For My Mama' 'Rubber Bullets' UK TV August 1974)
A thrilling entry in the regular AAA appearances on the BBC's half-hour 'In Concert' shows of the early 1970s, with 10cc at the peak of their live act in this era and with everyone except poor Graham getting their turn on the spotlight. The band have by now given up trying to re-create their polished records and have turned into a surprisingly aggressive live act, drivene by Graham's slightly-before-the-beat bass and Kevin's slightly behind-the-beat-drums. Several songs sound entirely different to the way they do on album - hungrier, angrier and a lot more from the heart than from the head. Take 'SSSSSilly Love', a slightly arch single about trying to avoid saying cliches in love that not many fans enjoy but which heard here knocks the socks off anything a heavier rock band of the time could do, especially the lengthy riffing finale and Eric's blistering solo (which, sadly, we never really get a decent close-up of!) 'The Wall Street Shuffle' is a little wonky and more than a little fast, with Eric miked too loud, but Graham's busy bass and Lol's guitar stings more than makes up for it. This version is more of a howl of pain too than the intellectual tutting of the record. 'Old Wild Men' is the highlight, with the unusual song stripped of all the production effects and sounded mouch more raw and emotive, with Kevin singing lower and Lol giving an early airing to his guitar's 'gizmo' stringbending device. The closing swirl of harmonies is divine, proving that 10cc can do beauty as well as power. A closing 'Rubber Bullets' is the most 'natural' of the many TV clips of this song around, played for sarcasm and outrage as much as laughs and ending with an angry ongoing rocking finale hat goes on for hours which is much darker and more angular than the one on the 'album' mix (the single mix cuts this bit entirely). 'Baron Samedi' is a mess though, all percussion and not much happening, while a tougher, brittler 'Fresh Air For My Mama' isn't a patch on the one played on 'See You On Sunday'. Still you can't have everything - 10cc are on it for most of this set and you can see their 'democracy' at work particularly well with everyone pulling together - you wouldn't think the big split was less than a couple of years away. All in all an excellent archive clip and one of the best of the original 10cc that exists. Interestingly Lol is centre-stage now, where Eric used to stand on the earlier performances, while the band have been joined by second drummer Paul Burgess for the first time, so that Kevin can think about singing as well as playing sometimes. A highly under-rated player, he'll be with the band up until 1980. You can see the whole half hour of this show on the 'Tenology' box set, as well as frequent repeats on BBC4 if you live in Britain!
10. Don Kirshner's Rock Concert ('The Dean and I' 'Rubber Bullets' US TV 1974)
You might remember Don Kirshner as the 'baddy' from our Monkees book, releasing singles without consulting the group and refusing to let them have any say over their own recordings. Nearly a decade later and Kirshner has had mixed success; The Archies were his 'other' big band (because cartoons can't answer back!) but most of his records had fallen off the charts by 1974. Instead he fancied himself as a TV impresario (if Ed Sullivan could do it while getting everyone's names wrong and high on painkillers, why not him?) and put together a similar musical variety show that ran between 1973 and 1981 before new wave and punk finally drove him off the air. 10cc were one of his earliest guests and appeared in a line miming to two of their earliest songs, now a couple of years old, under some weird strobe lighting effects. The band don't exactly break a sweat on either song but are very in tune with each other by now, with their miming spot-on for every word. perhaps the biggest American audience 10cc ever played to.
11. Top Of The Pops #3 (Life Is A Minestrone UK April 1975)
In many ways 'Minestrone' is a spoof of the typical glam-rock-single-with-stupid-metaphors that were so ripe in the mid-1970s. So it makes sense that 10cc perform the song in front of a typically tacky glam background, with their name in glittering grey lights and yet more round white lights on a loop round the group. Did it get 10cc more fanmail than the Pope? Probably not, with Lol keeping his eyes tight shut for most of his last lead vocal single for the band.
12. 'I'm Not In Love (Music Video 1975)
Some pulsing and very 1970s graphics give way to a timeless song, delivered here 'straight' by the band as if every word they're saying is the gospel truth. Eric finds it hard to hide the dreamy look in his eyes though. Everyone assumes the 'circle of faces' around Eric singing the high synthesised 'aaaahs' is ripped off Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' but no: the 10cc promo was first aired in May 1975; Queen's in October the same year. That band borrowed so many ideas off 10cc! Kevin looks quite scary when he suddenly grows in size... Also the fact all men are standing around playing synthesisers looks very early 1980s and is a style copied by many bands from The Human League to Kraftwerk. Another 'Tenology' refugee, though oddly the 'Changing Faces' compilation replaces it with a live version from the 1978 touring band (though shot in the studio) and ends it with a 'yeah yeah yeah yeah ye-e-e-ah'.
13. Art For Art's Sake (Music Video 1976)
Moody lighting for a moody song, with sudden dramatic flourishes for the chorus. Eric is taking more and more of the centre stage now, though Graham steals the show for his deep bass vocal parts. Included on the 'Tenology' box set.
14. I'm Mandy, Fly Me (Music Video 1976)
A relative disappointment, 10cc could have done so much with the video for this song. After all, how much more visual can you get than a hallucinating airplane passenger saved by the hallucination of the air hostess on the poster above his seat? Alas the band just sit around playing as normal behind a revolving version of their logo, bookending the song with parts where they stand in a line and look oddly menacing. Included on both the 'Tenology' and 'Changing Faces' sets.
15. Don't Hang Up (Music Video 1976)
A rather poignant goodbye, with the last song on the last Godley-Creme era 10cc record featuring the drummer struggling to cope with a breakup and pleading with the others not to hang up the phone. It may just be really good acting to fit the song, but there's a real sense of poignancy and melancholia about this performance. It seems an odd song to make a video for this of all songs too, given that it was never released as a single and by the time they filmed it everybody knew this line-up of 10cc was 'over'. Included in the 'Tenology' box set.
16. Live At Knebworth ('Rubber Bullets' Concert 1976)
Presumably 10cc performed more than just one song when they appeared as second-in-the-line-up to The Rolling Stones in Knebworth's third annual music festival. The band's performance is their scrappiest yet and they can feel it too, Lol getting the most 'frontman' he ever got and screaming to the '200,000 people' in the crowd and giggling as he mimics the 'siren' sound better than the siren sound effect the band have on stage. The band are fragmenting like crazy and are holding on for grim death through this neverending version of one of their bigger songs that last for a full thirteen minutes (it has to be split into two parts if you're watching it on Youtube, posted back in the days when videos could only last ten minutes). The band have lost touch with the song long before the end and seem to be playing just for the hell of it. A sad way for the original 10cc to end, especially as none of the band will ever play in front of crowds this big again and Lol and Kevin certainly won't, even though Creme has got the act of fronting a band down fine by this point!
17. Top Of The Pops #4 ('The Things We Do For Love' UK TV January 1977)
By now 10cc are down to three, with Paul Burgess at last a full-time member. However the band try to carry on as if nothing has happened, with lots of 'trick-shots' that allow Eric to seem like he's playing both piano and guitar. It's perhaps the most straightforward video in this list but that's no bad thing - adding a gimmick to a song this catchy-yet-deep would have been a waste. Eric's hair is at the longest in this video too for those hairdressers amongst you keeping score! Included on the 'Changing Faces' disc but oddly not the 'Tenology' set. Some rights issue probably, given that the BBC own this one.
18. Good Morning Judge (Music Video 1977)
This promo is a lot more fun and the first evidence of 10cc thinking outside the book in their visuals, oddly just after Godley and Creme - future famed directors - have left. Eric and Graham appear multiple times over as an assortment of very different looking jurors (Eric looks very good with a full beard!) Graham plays the stern looking judge whilst Eric gets all the fun things to do, like robbing a car and running off with a 'shiny thing' (actually a girl!) Both judge and suspect get to play guitar in the courtroom which is surely contempt of court, while Eric and Graham end up in prison by the end (check out Gouldman's scar!) This video may well have been inspired by George Harrison's very similar 'This Song' from the previous year, a satirical take on his being sued for plagiarism that uses several of the same gags. Included on 'Tenology' and 'Changing Faces' and rightly so.
19. People In Love (Music Video 1977)
The song that helped split 10cc up (Godey-Creme hated it!) this slightly drippy third single from 'Deceptive Bends' gets a suitably drippy video. Eric sits alone at a white piano (this video taking its cue from a different ex-Beatle!) while getting doey-eyed with a silly romantic look on his face. Poor Graham barely features, which is a shame because his wild perm is the most convincing thing about this clip! Included on 'Tenology' , where it's the one everyone skips in between 'Judge' and 'Dreadlock Holiday'.
20. Live At The Hammersmith Odeon ('Good Morning Judge' 'I'm Not In Love' 'Modern Man Blues' 'Second Sitting For The Last Supper' 'Marriage Bureau Rendezvous' 'The Things We Do For Love' 'People In Love' 'The Wall Street Shuffle' 'Feel The Benefit' Concert June 1977 Released 1980)
A preview of what the new-look six-piece 10cc will sound like on the following year's 'Live and Let Live' concert album (recorded a month later), this show in London was filmed for The King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show - a soundtrack of the band performing for it in 1974 was released in the 21st century too. This show was released as a video in 1980 and is kind of a warm-up for the world tour to come and as such is slightly sloppy, exciting and energetic but not exactly tight. It's good fun though, especially the newer songs from 'Deceptive Bends' which sound a lot better here than they will on the official set oddly, tighter and rawer and a lot less tongue-in-cheek, Graham's strong take on 'Marriage Bureau Rendezvous' especially. An epic twelve minute take on 'Feel The Benefit' ever so nearly works too, holding the attention for longer than the 'Live and Let Live' one and with better gear-changes between the three main sections. The between-song patter is rather good too, with Eric embracing his new role as 'host' with digs at the director for the 'Good Morning Judge' promo sitting in the audience and throwing in jokes about the band. You do miss Lol and Kevin a lot though and all their songs are missing from the set-list so no 'Donna' 'Rubber Bullets' or 'Life Is A Minestrone', which is a great shame. Sadly this show has yet to appear on DVD which is a great shame as, while it's not as interesting as the 1974 'In Concert' set, it beats the 1992 'Alive' and 2006 'Clever Clogs' versions of the band hands down!
21. Dreadlock Holiday (Music Video 1978)
I don't love this video, but I like it-ah! Remembering their inspiration for the song (similar misadventures on separate holidays in the West Indies), Eric and Graham return there to shoot the video in the 'real' location. Sadly neither 10ccer 'acts' and instead they hire an outsider who swaggers around like the fish out of water he is (especially when he's pushed in the pool, fully clothed). The trio of Eric, Graham and Rick Fenn (in the middle) have got the 'swaying knees jig' down to a tee though when we cut back to the band in the choruses. Before you ask, no I've no idea why Graham pulls a 'shocked' face and shields his eyes from a 'light' at the very end either - the light of truth about the people out to con him perhaps? Inevitably included on both 'Tenology' and 'Changing Faces'.
22. Top Of The Pops #5 ('Dreadlock Holiday' UK TV 1978)
Another much-seen and oft-repeated clip that marks the band's last appearance on Top Of The Pops. Eric has a perm to match Graham's this time, whilst Eric 'gees' the band up (especially the wide-mouth laugh to the two drummers Paul and Stuart Tosh at the 1:30 mark) while Graham tries to stay serious. Sadly 10cc don't use the bow-legged dance this time around!
23. Top Pop #4 ('I'm Not In Love' Holland TV 1978)
I admit it, I haven't got a clue where this video goes but the 1978 line-up of the band perform it so that's why it's here. The second 10cc are effectively miming to the record made by the first and it's really odd to see the deep-voiced Rick open his mouth and have the Godley-falsetto come out of it, ditto the higher pitched Stuart Tosh who by now has the biggest perm of them all! Eric wears a bomber jacket for this one and looks to all intents and purposes like an RAF pilot. Made for Dutch television, who couldn't secure the rights to the original promo film.
24. HTV ('It Doesn't Matter At All' 1980)
Meanwhile, over in Wales (the 'H' stands for 'Harlech') 10cc are back after a break and playing live for the first time in a TV studio! They sound rather good too, especially Duncan Mackay's keyboards which are much louder than on the record and the note-perfect backing harmonies (which are presumably pre-recorded, given that Eric effectively sings twice!) The performance has a real swing about it and this sweet overlooked ballad actually comes across better than it does on the 'Look Hear' album.
25. One-Two-Five (Japanese TV/Music Video 1980)
The band mime to a new recording of this one, with Eric looking the rockstar part in his sunglasses. This is 10cc's coolest period in terms of 'look' (or at least the band clearly feel 'Hot To Trot') even though the song isn't one of their best (it gets badly cut in half too with a rotten edit down the middle!) Included on the 'Tenology' box set, rather surprisingly given how much is missing from the later years on there.
26. Don't Ask (Music Video 1981)
...Such as this rare video in which the band stand around a load of grey backgrounds looking uncomfortable. The star of this show is Rick Fenn whose grown a full beard now rather than his normal moustache and who really puts his all into his mimed guitar solo (which sounds suspiciously like one of Eric's to me). These are the last appearances of the six-piece 10cc, but then again the album these tracks come from, 'Ten Out Of Ten', were mainly made by Eric and Graham, with a bit of Rick and Paul, anyway.
27. Don't Turn Me Away (Music Video 1981)
Presumably taped the same day (the band are in the same clothes and mime on the same sets!) Eric has switched to piano and is at his cute/shy/the-cameras-on-me-and-I-secretly-love-it best, while a sax player - presumably Lenni Crookes who played on the recording - hangs around looking bored. A bit of trick photography captured the band in freeze frame - sadly the expressions they pull at this point aren't the best!
28. Top Pop #5 ('Don't Turn Me Away' Holland TV 1981)
We're back in Holland for the last time - not that you'd know that from the set, which is firmly based in Egypt! Presumably Eric is an archaeologist turned away by his mummy ancestors - or maybe it was left over from The Bangles doing 'Walk Like An Egyptian', who knows?! We're back to the mimed appearances sadly and with a different saxophone player - perhaps a Dutch local given the costs of flying someone halfway round the world for a fifteen second mimed solo.
29. Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (UK TV 1981)
'No band ever sees themselves on stage so consequently they never get a clear picture of how they appear'. A most fascinating clip on prime-time children's TV that seems to be the only footage of the 1980-1981 tour (the last as a six-piece) that we've got. The Swap Shop team filmed the 10cc show in Birmingham, with interviews conducted the next night in Brighton. We start with scrappy footage of 'Rubber Bullets', recently added back to the set, and meet the roadies and technicians including Charlie the chief rigger (who looks like a topless David Gilmour) and Patrick the lighting engineer (who sounds a bit cheesed off with the stupid questions to be honest). It sounds like hard work: 'Altogether there are 250 boxes to be shifted and every one's a dead weight!' It's all very fascinating though, even if the crew are a little grumpy and patronising, especially in comparison in how much work went into shows years before and after for comparison and trust 10cc to give so much air-time to their support staff instead of stealing the limelight themselves. For those only interested in the band, though, they finally arrive some 12 minutes in and we get to eavesdrop as they catch their lift and head to the show. A great clip of the finale to 'I'm Not In Love' then follows, although sadly it rather undercuts most of what we've heard about the hard work setting up the lights by being shot in semi-blackness! Eric hung around the studio to see the film being played in and offers a rare interview to host Noel Edmonds. Shy and edgy, he's not the best interviewee but he offers some fascinating titbits and the old 10cc engineering perfectionism shows as he admits to '3 or 4 hours' of sound-check every night. Noel asks about becoming a '10cc of the future' and gets an interesting comment about the early days of The Mindbenders, as Eric built up Strawberry Studios two-track machines by four-track machines! One of the quirks of 'Swapshop' was that young fans get to call in and their questions are nearly always more interesting than the presenters. Eric gets asked his favourite and least favourite track and nominated 'I'm Not In Love' for the former and 'Dean and I' for the latter ('I always thought that was like something from South pacific and Lol and Kev got very angry with me!') Another caller asks about the split in 1976 and Eric admits 'it was a good thing for all of us' through gritted teeth and defensively claims that their first songs afterwards were 'more successful'. Interestingly he claims it was a 'business split' when Noel asks how personal it was but says that he'd be quite happy to get back together again 'one day' (it will happen, briefly, in 1992!) Eric then gets the inevitable question about where the band got its name and - given that he can't talk about ejaculations on children's telly - copes very well, cutting that bit of the story out and saying that Jonathan King got it in a dream. However he still comes unstuck when Noel asks what King is up to now - given that he was in prison on child pornography charges a laughing Eric tells him 'we see him in court occasionally these days!' Next question: how is touring financially viable for a six-piece and multiple crew? Short answer: it isn't, Eric admitting the band lose money but perform because they like it. The 'swap' (ie the prize given away to whoever answers a question right) is disappointing though: an unused jacket from the 10cc Japanese tour! The question's a hard one too - who was the architect who designed The Brighton Pavilion near where the clip was filmed; good luck answering that one! (It's John Nash if you were wondering - thanks Google, where's my jacket?!) Most episodes of 'Swap Shop' were wiped, so kudos to Ian Norman who worked on the show and kept a copy, uploading it to youtube so other fans could share it! The full half hour would make a fantastic extra on a 10cc DVD one day; it's a fascinating glimpse into 10cc as band and touring behemoth and well worth watching by all fans.
30. We've Heard It All Before! (Music Video 1982)
The single the band recorded with Andrew Gold, years before he joined Graham in 'Wax', this little seen video is the wackiest 10cc video of them all. Graham sings lead 'normally', Eric sings the middle eight dressed up in a Tuxedo and looking like an inter-war crooner! We may have heard something like this before, but never seen it!
31. Pebble Mill ('Run Away' UK TV 1982)
The 1980s incarnation of 'The One Show' (random guests, very random subjects and extremely random presenters) doesn't really suit the quirkiness of 10cc and one of their quieter, gentler songs gets a bit lost in between items on household goods. It's interesting to note how 'mainstream' these TV appearances are becoming though now that 10cc's sales have started falling but alas even the exposure and some of their finest work isn't enough to stem the tide.
32. Live At Wembley ('Art For Art's Sake' 'Lying Here With You' 'The Power Of Love' 'I'm Mandy Fly Me' 'The Things We Do For Love' 'The Wall Street Shuffle' 'Dreadlock Holiday' 'I'm Not In Love' 'Feel The Benefit' Concert 1982)
Though casual fans are better off with the 'King Biscuit' or 'Hammersmith' gigs, this late period set stuffed with rarely heard material is better still for the collector. The year 1982 was something of a lost one for the band who only released two singles and no albums that year so it's nice to have a look at how good the band were live in this period. Eric is in great voice, is much more comfortable as a frontman (he sticks stage front and often sings rather than plays during this gig for the first time). Some of the performances he turns in here beat the records - especially a gorgeous 'Lying Here With You' that sounds far more heartfelt and emotional than the studio take on 'Ten Out Of Ten' or 'The Power Of Love' which loses that silly reggae-jive it had as a single and turns into quite a stirring rock song. 'Feel The Benefit' also sounds particularly hot played by a band who are clearly on it - it's arguably the best of the many versions around, including the original on 'Deceptive Bends'. Throughout the show, as well as Eric, the stars are Rick Fenn who passes up his usual guitar to contribute some excellent piano (usually played by Eric) and fellow Mancunian Vic Emerson of Sad Cafe (that's his own band's T-shirt he's wearing!) whose synth playing is a cut above that which plagued the last few 10cc records (and again usually played by Eric). There are problems - Graham gets barely anything to do ('Dreadlock Holiday' is his only lead vocal) and the 'oldies' in the set have sounded better (particularly ''Mandy', who never sounded too good live but who sounds positively sick here). All in all though this is another fine show by 10cc and another performance that desperately needs a first release on DVD (it would make a great three-fer-one set alongside the earlier 'Hammersmith' and later 'Rotterdam' show!)
33. Six-Fifty Five Special ('Run Away' 'Dreadlock Holiday' UK TV 1982)
The band are back to sing the same new song 'Run Away' on the Pebble Mill spin-off, which was generally filmed in the courtyard outside the special 'Mill' set (except when it rained!) Eric looks a bit daft singing in the dark with his shades on (even if it is partly to protect his eyes after ongoing problems from his car crash three years before) and he messes up his miming a few times, but no matter - this sweet understated song still sounds good. 'Dreadlock Holiday' is much the same, only Graham is much more animated and doesn't wear sunglasses! Jonathan King was a fellow guest and briefly reminisced about 'discovering' the band- though sadly he gets cut off far too early!
34. Saturday Superstore ('Run Away' UK TV 1982)
The group really went to town plugging this song didn't they? A shame it didn't sell. This time they're on a children's TV show which is a little more chaotic than 'Multi-Coloured Swap Shop' (and that wasn't exactly slick!) The performance is much the same as all the others, with no real banter between hosts and guests.
35. Oomachasooma (Feel The Love) (Music Video 1983)
The band's last album 'Windows In The Jungle' sank without trace and really deserves a re-appraisal containing as it does some of Eric's sharpest and most heartfelt material. This lead-off single, though, was the closest thing to a 'joke' and the 'wacky humour' of old and is well served by a video that's actually a very important and under-rated one in 10cc history. This was directed by Godley and Creme, already big names in the music video business, and while they don't appear in it or play on it both audio and visuals share their characteristic touch. Picking up on the 'love' theme this song is performed at a tennis match (the score for 'nought' in French), but it's madder even than the five set epic between Isner and Mahut in 2010 (70-68 in the fifth and final set!) Graham and Eric (with sunglasses back on) sit in the audience surrounded by extras who seem to have wondered out of a sauna, while the boy and girl playing tennis come up with a series of unlikely looking CGI tennis shots as their romance gets more and more desperate ('It's a million to one that you should find your right girl!') The girl wins by the way, even though she's barely playing and the boy is giving his all - is this a comment akin to Godley-Creme's similar songs about marital troubles in this 'Birds Of Prey' period? Funniest moment by far: the guitar solo, which is mimed by the entire audience on air guitar - and the players on tennis rackets - while Eric and Graham continue to stare out ahead, masters of the poker face. One of the better 10cc promos - certainly the most bonkers!
36. Pebble Mill ('Oomachasooms (Feel The Love)' UK TV 1983)
The band are back for more I-know-you-like-dogs-so-here's-an-item-about-a-hedgehog banter with the Pebble Mill hosts. This time 10cc are out in the open air and they turn in a far more accomplished (albeit still mimed) performance of this quirky song. Someone seems to have told Eric that the camera is up in a tree as he strains his neck looking 'up' even though the camera is 'below' him while the wind ruffles his hair something awful. Still a good clip though. That's Rick in bright green and Paul in bright yellow alongside Eric and Graham - the 1980s have really arrived by now! Included in both the 'Tenology' and 'Changing Faces' sets.
37. Top Pop #5 ('Food For Thought' Holland TV 1983)
A final return to Holland where 10cc perform under moody blue lighting and a girl stops by a table to eat ('Food For Thought' geddit?!), enters a boxing ring (?!) and dances in a 3D cardboard cut out of a door (less easy to understand: did the Top Pop producers mishear the album as 'Door in the Jungle'?!?) Eric is sitting down throughout this clip (was he still bad after his car crash?) and is noticeably reluctant to look at his bandmates, who in turn aren't looking at him. This really feels like the 'end' in retrospect.
38. Rock Around The Clock: 10cc Live In Rotterdam ('Wall Street Shuffle' 'City Lights' 'Oomachasooma/Feel The Love' 'Lying Here With You' 'Dreadlock Holiday' 'I'm Not In Love' 'Working Girls' 'Food For Thought' 'From Rochdale To Ocho Rios' Concert 1983)
The final entry of the 'original' 10cc and all the fun seems to have gone out of the band. This is easily their weakest gig out on video/TV (although the 'Alive' tour of 1992, out on DVD in the 2000s, is arguably even worse). The band play underneath that fuzzy purple 'n' pink strobe lighting particularly common to rock shows of this vintage (Pink Floyd's 'Delicate Sound Of Thunder' gig is similarly afflicted). Despite the presenter popping up every few minutes to tell us 'what a great time we're all having' the mood feels flat - the band aren't in tune in all meanings of the phrase, Eric and Graham are still ignoring each other, there's just one rather basic 'conversation' with the audience 'at home and around the world' and the band have just lost that slickness and tightness they once had. Even the only chance to hear the 'Windows' material in concert is a lost opportunity - 'City Lights' is filled with mistakes galore, 'Feel The Love' is tentative and wobbly, 'Working Girls' frankly doesn't work and 'Food For Thought' leaves so much food for thought you'd starve. The oldies don't fare much better either, with only another lovely 'Lying Here With You' standing out and even that was performed better in Wembley the year before. Once again Graham gets the short straw with only 'Dreadlock' and 'Rochdale' to sing (plus a couple of lines on 'City Lights'), although it's good to see Vic Emerseon still adding his subtle synth to the arrangements. The end result is far from terrible - 10cc can still play well even on an offday and their material is still top-notch - but you can tell the heart has gone out of the band and that retirement is the only answer. That really is it until the reunion - be strong, big boys don't cry...
39. Woman In Love (Music Video 1992)
A weird promo, especially for a 'comeback' album which doesn't even feature 10cc for the most part, just some random sepia tinged shots of people walking through a town centre. This song is called 'Woman In Love' not 'Woman walks randomly down a few streets and does some shopping'! Even when we do see Eric and Graham they're in black and white and not really responding much to the camera. Included in the 'Tenology' set where it makes for a very sorry finale, even if its chronologically accurate as the last promo there.
40. Countdown ('Woman In Love' Holland TV 1992)
'Top Pop' may have gone but 10cc's love affair with Dutch TV networks continues with the only 'live' TV performance of the reunion era. The band sound a little bit fragile and the mix is a little rough (Graham's harmonies cutting in and out) but it's the only live recording of any of the 'new' reunion songs so for that we must be grateful. Well kinda - have you heard the reunion material?!
41. ('I'm Not In Love' Holland TV 1995)
You wouldn't know it from Graham's chatty demeanour but he and Eric have had a huge row and are no longer working together but separately - actually you might guess that from the silent guitarist scowling behind his sunglasses! The duo only played together on this one song, which as Graham says was intended as a one-off for a TV broadcast but record label Mercury asked it to be put on the album instead. Very nice it sounds too - the folkier, simpler, 'unplugged' version of 'I'm Not In Love' makes up in simple purity what it lacks in groundbreaking synthesised 'aaaahs'. As Graham puts it, the band have always had a special place in their hearts for Holland, so it's a fitting place to end this list. We move on to Godley and Creme after the break though, so stay tuned after this advertisement!...
42. Consequences (News Report and Cinema Advert 1977)
...For Godley-Creme's 'Consequences' which really was broadcast in cinemas in 1977 (before the first 'Star Wars' according to one of my sources!) Rightly figuring that most rock and pop fans wouldn't have a clue what the hell the triple-album debut was all about - and wrongly figuring film-goers might - this promo features lots of Peter Cook, random shots of destruction and devastation and and actually rather good superimposition of the album cover logo in the sky as a big ol' 'face' made out of clouds. As the narrator put it Consequences 'began as a gizmo and ended up in a blaze of musical energy', so there. Three whole minutes is a bit much though, even a fan like me would have been tutting into his popcorn by the end. Picking up on the idea 10cc also plugged their 'Live and Let Live' album in cinemas shortly afterwards, though this short thirty second advert just features grainy shots of Eric singing 'I'm Not In Love' 'People In Love' 'Good Morning Judge' and 'I'm Mandy, Fly Me'. It 'comes from the heart' apparently - are you sure the narrator didn't mean 'bank balance'?! Back to Godley-Creme for a new item which features the duo walking around the outside of Strawberry Studios for a bit and a patronising reminder what the 'gizmo' is. Lol then gives a demonstration of 'the ultimate sustain' and plays along to a snatch of the 'Consequences' album. The string-bending device was on the market for £70 at the time apparently - more than all but the best guitars back then! Sounds like a fiddle to me - and a horn and a harmonica and a flute...
43. 5 O'Clock In The Morning (TOTP 1977)
Godley-Creme's first TOTP appearance shows just how respected they still were a year after the split with 10cc - this single didn't chart and is one of the few non-charting songs to ever be performed on TOTP. Lol looks good, singing and playing as if he's still the starry front-man, but a wild-haired Kevin looks as if he hasn't slept in weeks and leans nonchalantly on the piano. Nice performance all the same though. Warning: the beginning of this clip contains Jimmy Saville, which sadly means we'll never see it on BBC4's TOTP repeats worse luck...
44. An Englishman In New York (Music Video 1978)
Demented mannekins staggering round the block, deformed lyrics poured over clockwork rolling stock, Guggenheim attitudes back to back with vaudeville rock, this is Godley-Creme at their strangest and/or most groundbreaking. Lol winds up and conducts the orchestra of no less than fourteen working robot dummies (they don't look powerful to take over the world, but equally they achieve a lot for 1978 standards) while Godley sings (miming to the 'earlier' of the two phased vocals if you're wondering). This must have confused the hell out of most people and scared the rest, but once seen never forgotten...Included on the 'Changing Faces' set.
45. Wide Boy (Music Video 1980)
Considering it was made on a budget of about 50p and in a set that's deliberately so small you keep noticing bits being recycled over and over, this video is awfully good and just as pioneering as 'New York' but in a very different way. Godley looks the part of a new waver on a track that always sounded like Madness (both senses of the word) as he walks up and down corridors looking cross and - later - walks through a 'picture' of the duo and later still a smoke alarm (the theme: nothing is what you think it is). This is surely where 'West Wing' got their 'corridor' obsession from, if only CJ had worn a pin-striped suit and had stubble and wild hairdo.
46. Under Your Thumb (Music Video/TOTP 1981)
Both the video and TOTP appearance of this hit are virtually identical - Godley jerks around like a robot while Creme 'pretends' to be steering the mad twinkling synth. A bit of a disappointment given how visual this song about suicide and escape is.
47. Wedding Bells (Music Video/TOTP 1981)
This promo, though, is hilarious. Acknowledging the tongue-in-cheek gospel/Motown flavour of the song, Godley and Creme hire two dancers and a choreographer and put together a dance move that both spoofs and shames boy bands the world over from every era. Godley and Creme are, of course, the last artists who should ever be doing this sort of thing and that's what makes it so funny - especially with the pair's deadpan expressions! The 'square peg in a round hole...don't need a fanfare or a drum-roll' verse is so spot-on you start t wonder if the pair wrote this song around their planned dance sequence! The same quartet also put together a near foot-perfect performance on TOTP. Included on the 'Changing Faces' set.
48. Save A Mountain For Me (Music Video 1983)
'Jailhouse Rock' without the props, shot in arty monochrome and with Godley 'pretending' to be doing hard labour. Actually it's the listener doping hard labour as this squeaky repetitive song wasn't one of their better ideas and nor is this rarely seen promo one of their good ones. At least Godley looks the part of a scarred ruffian inmate and is very convincing, as is Creme leading a Rubber Bullets style 'riot' armed with a mop!
49. Golden Boy (Music Video 1984)
A fascinating video for a fascinating song, which spins a new meaning on the idea of '3D'! A video plays - normal so far - but we actually get to 'see' the video going round in the slot, while Godley, Creme and two backing singers appear 'projected' out the lid and go round and round at the same speed. Only they're flat one-dimensional characters joined at the neck, while below the duo lark about in some gold tinsel. At one point during the instrumental break the tape snaps and starts flying around before finally calming down and going back into its box. A most criminally under-rated work, both single and video, this is even better on both accounts than the better-known 'Cry'. Included on the 'Changing Faces' set.
50. Cry (Music Video 1985)
Talking of which, Godley-Creme's most famous moment is this camera-panning masterpiece. Having written a song that was unusually 'universal' by Godley-Creme standards, the duo wanted a video that was similarly 'universal' and came up with the idea of everybody round the world singing the song, regardless of creed, colour, gender or age (or species! Gonzo from The Muppets is in there too and he's a well, you know a whatever). They went through a book of extras hiring those with distinctive faces, stuck them in a chair with a tight zoom lock on it (and everyone's heads stuck in the back of a frying pan out of shot to keep them in line) and the duo then edited the track and 'morphed' it. The elder gentlemen who sobs at the end wasn't the great bit of acting everyone thinks by the way - he was one of the last to be filmed when the shoot had already done over budget and deadline and he hadn't learnt the two lines everyone had been asked to memorise and sing. The directors lost it and shouted in frustration and the tears you see are real! Much talked about for a reason, 'Cry' is special in many ways and much loved for a reason. The big finale of the 'Changing Faces' video, though you have to sit through ten minutes of nonsense via the 'History Mix' first.
51. History Mix (Music Video 1985)
Talking of which, do you remember everyone talking about how The Beatles 'Love' album/mis-mash was so groundbreaking years ago even though true fans knew a) other bands had done it before and b) the idea was inspired by a bunch of Beatle bootleggers (who to be honest did it better)? Well this is one of the earliest examples of 'sampling' as Godley and Creme celebrate twenty years of friendship and music-making with a collage of sounds taken from all periods of their career (though sadly not 'Frabjoy and the Runciple Spoon'). The video has the same idea and throws bits and pieces together willy nilly whether they fit or not and not always from 10cc/Godley-Creme (basically any video the pair directed and could afford the rights to and they did a lot!) - the result is a headache, but at least it's a pioneering headache. The problem for collectors is there is some genuinely fascinating material in there, such as 'Light Me Up!', based around a storming loop of an Eric Stewart guitar solo taken from an otherwise unseen performance of 'Second Sitting For The Last Supper'. And what do we get as visuals over the top after a few seconds? A mannequin telling us 'big boys don't cry' and some girls wrestling in mud from a Duran Duran video shoot to the sound of orgasmic grunts (which is no substitute at all and a lot less erotic than it sounds). Although that said it's great to see Police's 'Every Breath You Take' on fast forward, which is easily the best way to see it - that made my day! A mess, seen in all its unedited glory towards the end of 'Changing Faces'.
52. A Little Piece Of Heaven (Music Video 1988)
Picking up on the tongue-in-cheek style of the lyric, this is another 'Wedding Bells' that parodies all cheesy late 1980s videos where people walk down random streets strumming guitars (even ex-Beatles weren't immune; Paul McCartney does exactly this in 'Hope Of Deliverance' and that was five years afterwards!) Along the way the duo get interrupted by six (count 'em) harmonica players and three backing singers in the days before they formed 'Londonbeat' together. The result is a bit of an oddball, not sarcastic enough really for people who didn't know the duo didn't always look and sound like that.
53. 10,000 Angels (Music Video 1988)
The very final music video is a little disappointing too - gimmicky digital effects added onto Godley and Creme miming the song. The twist is that the pair must be sitting on fans as their hair shoots right up into the sky - and Godley's has never been longer in this period - until their hair final goes back to normal on the final note. So ends the final time these two are seen together.
54. Mondo Video (Indescribable, 1988)
I spent a fortune on this video - and from a charity shop as well! - and I still don't know what to make of it. This isn't a music video so much as an art installation that's clearly meant to mean something, but goodness knows what. We start with a ringing alarm clock, move on to a minute's worth of cigarette smoke twirling in the air, watch cuts of Creme playing individual notes on a piano shot from above, a close-up of Creme's guitar bubbles bursting in the air over violin frets and speeded-up shots of Godley on the drums. The end result is fifteen minutes of my life I will never get back and is the Godley-Creme video catalogue equivalent of similarly impenetrable second album 'L', although we might have thought less of them if they hadn't tried something so ridiculously outrageous, stuck it out on home video and charged a tenner for it. Erm, I think! In case you were wondering 'mondo' is an archaic expression meaning 'strikingly unique' and 'that there is nothing else of its kind'. You can say that again!
That's all for this week! The first of our Who columns should be starting next week as it's goodbye to 10cc. See you then!