Monday, 31 July 2017

The Moody Blues "Keys To The Kingdom" (1991)

The Moody Blues “Keys To The Kingdom” (1991)

Say It With Love/Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back)/Is This Heaven?/Say What You Mean/Lean On Me (Tonight)//Hope and Pray/Shadows On The Wall/Once Is Enough/Celtic Sonant/ Magic/Never Blame The Rainbows For The Rain

“Underneath the sea of doubt there’s a million voices shouting let me out!”

The Moody Blues were nothing if not ambitious weren’t they? This album promises to not just be another album but to offer us the ‘keys to the kingdom’, although we never actually find out where that kingdom is or where these keys came from. If this had been the days of old I’d have given the band the benefit of the doubt, assumed that this was a ‘House Of Four Doors’ style discussion about life and death and the universe and that we were being let into some big humanitarian secret. But in this context (1991, with this album released after a typical three-year gap sounding much the same as last time) I can’t help but wonder if the title is misleading and if that key opens the door not to a kingdom but to the cupboard where the band keep their synthesisers. You may have seen already on this site, dear readers, that the Moodies’ 1980s work isn’t exactly my cup of tea, replacing the glorious humane hope, guitars and go-anywhere sunny optimism of the band’s work in the 1960s with a diet of regimented synthesisers, production techniques and robotic monotony. Well, sorry to say this album is worse: at least ‘Long Distance Voyager’ had some great songs underneath the ‘surface’, ‘The Present’ had quirky ideas and an even quirkier front cover and ‘The Other Side Of Life’ and ‘Sur La Mer’ were performed with confidence, if not exactly subtlety. But ‘Keys To The Kingdom’ has none of these things, being a very soggy collection of wet songs performed with a distinct lack of direction or confidence to a template sound that’s only broken once for the album highlight when the drummer decides out of nowhere that he’d really like to tap dance. It’s a moment that stands out because it’s the only thing on this whole album you can imagine the 1960s Moody Blues doing: this album needs more eccentric moments, it’s just too ‘safe’ and the things we get are here because The Moodies are now an ‘institution’ that does these things rather than exploring their musical curiosity, with this an album that goes back to cementing the ‘empire’ with the keys to the kingdom rather than breaking new ground or simply basking in the glow of what the empire looks like now. ‘Keys To The Kingdom’ sounds like a colossus decadent (with synthesisers anyway) institution that’s got too big and is about to fall – which is, as it happens, not far off what happens, with this album such a distressing one to make that there won’t be another one along for eight years.

In fact maybe this is the sound of Rome falling as the band were coming apart while making it. After two albums where the band had real consistency for the first time since their early days (working with producer Tony Visconti over a bank of Patrick Morz keyboards) suddenly it’s all change in the Moodies kingdom and this record got made in three separate goes with three separate producers, always the sign of a band in disarray and none of these three parts sound right together. Oddly Tony Visconti produces the softer, quirkier material despite being chiefly behind the noisy pop of the past two albums (maybe the drummer tap-dancing is why he left?!) and this is the better part of the album with ‘Is This Heaven?’ ‘Say What You Mean’ and the autobiographical lament ‘Say It With Love’ recorded first easily the album’s strongest hand, even if I’m not entirely convinced by the band’s most prog rock moment ‘Celtic Sonant’ (which the band would have struggled to get right in 1966 without laughing never mind a quarter century later). As for the replacements, Alan Tarney is a logical choice, an Australian producer once a member of ‘The James Taylor Move’ (something in the way she...? maybe) who pretty much does what Tony Visconti did on the past two albums, not that far removed from his productions for Aha and Barbra Dickson (though thankfully very different to what he did with a rollerskating Cliff Richard in the 1980s!) Eurovision writer Christopher Neil is a more interesting choice though who got the job on the back of his work with Cher and Rod Stewart, not that you can really hear much of his input there either (chances are he happened to be free when the other two weren’t). It’s a surprise, though, that The Moodies didn’t simply produce themselves as they don’t seem to have much direction or been prepared to alter their sound all the way through the sessions, with ‘Keys’ most definitely not the sound of a confident band out to capture the MTV audience as had happened on the last two records (indeed the videos for this album are worse than the songs, with some peculiar ‘cut out dictionary’ posing on ‘Bless The Wings’ and an ugly collage style for ‘Say It With Love’, with both singles predictably flopping though the un-promoted third single ‘Lean On Me (Tonight)’ actually did ok.

A bigger change even that that, though, is what’s been happening in the synthesiser department. After a full decade of grooming Yes’ Patrick Moraz to be the band’s wunderkind destined to bring the band of older rockers fame and fortune and making his banks of keyboards the de facto sound of the all-new Moody Blues sound for several albums now, suddenly the band get a bit edgy over whether this is really what they want to be doing with their careers. Some of the reviews said that ‘Sur La Mer’ was a bit synth-heavy and over-laden and Moraz tended to be the member who came in for particular criticism, predictably you could say. The slow gradual switch from ‘wow these robotic synths sounds great!’ in 1981 had now become ‘Really? Synths again?’ by 1991 though before Britpop most people weren’t sure quite what to replace them with just yet (*hint* guitars still sound quite good *hint*). Suddenly Patrick’s style began to look less like the wild new frontier and more like the days of future passed and the band began wondering about giving up so much of the album to their only non-founding member. The resulting fallout is, even by the AAA’s standards full of Apple court cases and Pink Floyd walls, pretty spectacular. So spectacular it even made it onto TV – an odd move for a band who have always loved shunning the limelight. We said a few hundred reviews ago that it was always the bands who preached the most peace and love who had the biggest arguments and splits and that sadly is as true here as anywhere else, with Patrick taking the band to court for several million dollars in front of the cameras on the showbiz channel ‘Court TV’, for ten whole hours (one of their longest cases, now seen more or less complete on Youtube, not that you need to see any more than a sample five minutes to get the gist of it). Patrick’s argument was that the band had always promised him that he was a full-time member with equal rights, that there was a ‘plot’ to ‘ease’ him ‘out of the band’ and that they couldn’t get rid of him if he didn’t want to go. Their counter-argument was that there was no bit of paper that said this (even Patrick said it was only ever a verbal agreement, which would indeed be a very gentlemanly Moody Blues thing to do) and as they were called into the dock one by one (with Justin, John, Ray and Graeme all suddenly developing amazing amnesia over certain conversations that may or may not have happened) it became clear that things hadn’t just gone a little repairably wrong but horrifically badly. The band wanted out, the keyboardist wanted out too – but after many years of suffering in silence it took an international court case to make it so.

To be honest the keyboardist probably had a point: all the surrounding publicity in 1981 talked about Moraz – almost as big a star as the Moodies at the time thanks to ‘Yes’ - becoming a ‘full term’ member of the band and if this was a ‘wrong’ thing to think back then it seems odd it wasn’t corrected somewhere down the line. Patrick certainly appears on an awful lot of publicity shots and album credits where his name is in as big a print size as the others, which is usually a sign of how much of a ‘real’ band member you are or not. However for his part Patrick didn’t seem to like being a member of The Moody Blues very much and was in it more for the money than the music and the money wasn’t exactly flowing in by 1991 anymore. Shortly before the court case, during the first Tony Visconti sessions for this album, there was a damning interview Moraz gave to Keyboard World in which he complained at the band’s ‘stagnant growth’ (a bit rich given what The Moodies had accomplished compared to ‘Yes’ but it’s probably true their previous four albums aren’t the greatest they ever made), their resistance to the changes he wanted to make to their sound and the fact that in over ten years with the band he’d ‘only ever written half a song with the drummer – that was, like, my allowance’. Moraz concluded that the band were ‘no longer a musical challenge to me’ and that their recording techniques were very different, as he performed his contributions in one take where he could and would then sit around waiting for the others to take ‘six months’ to add their parts, time he felt he could have put to more creative use (that hairdo probably required a lot of maintenance too, to be fair). Remember, this is an interview given to a magazine that might have had a small readership then and now (well, still bigger than ours I guess but whose counting?!) but was quite influential among musicians of the day and these are complaints that hadn’t been addressed or aired out loud first. Reading it must have been a slap in the face for the other Moodies and suggests that things had been going sour for a whole now.‘Maybe they won’t like me for saying all this’ Moraz ends the article, ‘but I don’t care!’ the sound of a man at the end of his tether, not the beginning as he tried to point out to the lawyers. One wonders, reading the article, why Patrick even wanted to be part of this band anymore and how the band were supposed to respond. Was this a last minute coup to try and make them more interested in his ideas? If so then being pro-active was never the way to get The Moody Blues’ attention and in a rare act of solidarity and aggressiveness the band fired him accordingly three songs into the sessions (the mammoth bank of keyboards on ‘Say What You Mean’ being his last truly huge contribution to the Moodies’ catalogue). What with the loss of Mike Pinder to a new life on a new continent and the retirement of Ray Thomas through ill health, it marks the only time a Moody Blue ever leaves under a cloud. For the record Patrick won the court case, but for far less money than he was expecting, receiving $100,000 rather than the millions he expected, for which he had to pay a lot of court costs too and so he arguably would have made a lot more money working on even the paltry returns of this flop album. As so often happens in AAA legal battles, everyone was the loser and no one the winner: Patrick’s solo work never quite took off and The Moodies looked bad in the eyes of their fans by ignoring all talk of Moraz and even going to the lengths of having Patrick’s picture edited out of all re-issues from then on.  It’s a little like Stalinist Russia, trying to spot where the ‘gaps’ are nowadays, only with leather jackets and 1980s hairdos.

One of Patrick’s arguments was that he’d brought The Moody Blues a distinctive sound that nobody else could possibly offer. Interestingly, rather than ignore his sound altogether, the rest of the band re-create it so well most casual fans probably wouldn’t even have noticed but Patrick wasn’t there (very casual fans didn’t know who Patrick was anyway). Notably of his replacements Bias Boshell and our old friend Paul Bliss (‘discovered’ by The Hollies in 1983 and who was later ‘borrowed’ by Graham Nash for work with CSN) one lasted for quite a while and the other is still with The Moody Blues today, even though their creative contributions are significantly less than Patrick’s ever were and even though they are very much treated as hired hands. The result is perhaps the Moodies’ most electronically-heavy LP (which is really saying something after the last four!) and which seems to be going out of its way to fill every bit of sound with extra flash, colour and noise, as if going ‘what do you mean the keyboardist has left under a controversial cloud? Gee we, uhh, hadn’t noticed!’ One wishes the Moodies had listened to their departing member and recorded this record a bit quicker and more spontaneously – even by the standards of ‘Sur La Mer’ this is overdub city with every track sweltering under the heat of a hundred casio keyboard bulbs; even the pretty ballads that really don’t need them and this time there are no exceptions to this noisy rule, not even a ‘Vintage Wine’ or three (‘oh-oh-oh’ indeed). The result is an album that’s often ugly, frequently lumpy and which sounded more dated on release than any of their supposedly old-fashioned hippie-era albums ever did, as far from the Moodies’ psychedelic and R and B authentic roots as it’s possible to get.

Oddly the songs aren’t ugly or lumpy at all, whatever the sound is like and in pure compositional form this is a much more interesting album than the last two, if only because it’s so different to the sad wistful world-wearyness we’re so used to hearing from them. By Moody Blues standards this is a happy, cheerful album where everything is warm and bright and sunny: it opens with a slice of slightly defensive autobiography about how the band always told their tales with love and will continue to do just that forevermore, whatever it takes; it moves on to offer us a happy ending on ‘Bless The Wings’ where after two albums of ‘knowing you’re out there somewhere’ the narrator and his old flame actually reunite and live happy ever after; ‘Is This Heaven?’ might well be the silliest, fluffiest, treacliest song The Moody Blues ever wrote and even though it sounds pretty stupid and a bit grumpy performed like this, it’s meant to be the happiest-go-lucky moment in the band’s career; ‘Lean On Me (Tonight)’ is a more typical and grown-up love song about co-dependence and romance that’s one of the band’s sweetest songs; ‘Hope and Pray’ is a noisy optimistic song about life being better that’s as hopeful as this most melancholy of bands have ever been; ‘Magic’ too is a silly pop song about how good and mesmerising love can be. ‘Keys’ might, perhaps, have been named because this feels like a beginner’s guide to the Moodies corridors, without any ‘off-putting’ heavy stuff. Which is odd when you think about it because the heavy off-putting stuff is what made the Moodies unique; other bands could offer lightweight pop trifles far better.

That causes its own problems too. This album really doesn’t sound light or fluffy at all with such a heavy and claustrophobic production. Though the lyric sheet reads like a love-fest, the sound you hear on playback is a nightmare, so that even when you’re heart is meant to soar and your toes are meant to tap it feels like you’re being interrogated in Guantanamo Bay with death-by-synthesiser. Perhaps aptly given the circumstances, the synths sound like a dark cold hard blot on the landscape, growling their way through the tracks as a counterpart to all this sunny joy and optimism. Just listen to the coda on ‘Say What You Mean’, the only vaguely un-joyful song on this whole album, which becomes downright sinister thanks to a mass of screaming synthesisers howling and a cod-Vincent Price voiceover from Justin Hayward (who has never sounded as uncomfortable!) It’s there elsewhere too though: ‘Say It With Love’ has an angry dark vibe beneath the words, partly from the relentless drum machine part and the synthesisers that are big and loud and almost angry, getting in the way of Justin playing his guitar and rise above them. For a song that’s meant to be celebratory and uplifting, it doesn’t half sound dark and sinister. ‘Is This Heaven?’ tries hard to be comedy music-hall but ends up sounding like one of those child pageants where the smiles are false and there’s a showbiz mum behind the scenes waiting to go ‘thwack!’ if anybody messes up. ‘Bless The Wings’ sounds less like a brilliant reunion both partners have been waiting for across the years and more like round two of a battle that never quite got finished. The slightly trippy ‘Celtic Sonant’ comes across as a mass of artificial roboticness so at odds with the light and playful vibe of the song, the most parodic of all Moodies recordings.‘Shadows On The Wall’ is a scary paranoid little song that doesn’t say much on page but the synthesisers somehow turn it from being a sketchy cartoon into a Hitchcock movie where the lighting alone suggests something dark and sinister. And ‘Never Blame The Rainbows For The Rain’ could have been a sweet little number had it actually, you know, featured more guitar-band rainbows and less synthesised rain. How odd, then, that what should be a light and fluffy album which the keyboard player really didn’t want to make ends up becoming the most dark and scary synth-filled album of the band’s career – even after he’s gone. If only The Moody Blues had waited a few years and done this ‘Britpop’ style...(It’s great to hear Justin’s return to lead guitar playing on ‘Say It With Love’, for instance, even if he is playing against the backdrop of a sodding drum machine!) I say this a lot on this website but especially for this album: please, somebody, remix this album so we can hear what it’s *really* like away from all that synthesised madness.

Or would this album sound flimsier? Hearing it en masse you sense that Patrick had a point, even if it was one he put badly. Remove the growling synthesisers, always doing their own thing, and what would this album be left with exactly? This record opens with a fan friendly self-referencing song and a sequel to past classics (both of which are comparatively easy to write) then moves on to a daft song about falling in love that involves tap-dancing, a silly song about hoping and praying, a silly song about magic and a silly song about rainbows. That might do for a comedy band (or even a weather channel or a magician show) but it’s now what The Moody Blues are all about. What happened to deep and emotional and poignant? All we get here is flimsy and jokey. Considering this is the band that once literally went to the moon and back to discuss the fate of mankind on our behalf and searched for the lost chord to unite humanity and solve all their problems, listening to an album where the highlight is the drummer tap-dancing does seem a little bit, well, pointless. There are other bands that do light and flimsy so well – here The Moody Blues sound as if they’re singing sweet and happy love songs while in the middle of having a blazing row or whilst they’re too distracted by doing their income teax returns or something: the sound and feel of this album just doesn’t go with what it’s trying to say. And yet because of the synths we don’t get the breathless energetic pop of the last two records either, which at least had energy and power if never finesse: this album just doesn’t have much going for it at all: one or two sweet but trivial songs, some weird use of synthesisers and a production that’s as ugly as anything in the AAA canon does not a classic or even a half-classic album make.

This troubled misguided album is, then, the nadir of the Moodies’ ‘normal’ canon (believe it or not Christmas record ‘December’ is a lot worse, but then that’s festive albums by prog rock bands for you...) However it’s not without some worth. ‘Is This Heaven?’ gets a lot of stick from fans, especially the tap-dancing sequence, but on its own merits it’s a very sweet and playful song, a worthy B-side. ‘Lean On Me (Tonight)’ might be the start in a long sequence of insincere copycat John Lodge ballads that make me as sick as a dog, but it’s by far the best of them – almost earnest enough to work in a cosy romantic way. ‘Say What You Mean’ doesn’t sound much when you hear it at random on your mp3 player’s shuffle button, but it really stands out nicely on the album, a sudden burst of focus and worry on an album that’s best described as ‘coasting’. That’s more or less it though: for the most part The Moody Blues have never sounded more like peasants, so offering us the keys to the kingdom – a title that might have fitted almost any other Moodies album – really doesn’t work here. This is, by old standards, horrid and even by 1991 standards is pretty rum stuff. Is this heaven? More like hell, on balance. What on earth happened?!

‘Say It With Love’ is one of those songs that’s 90% of the way to greatness but the remaining 10% is so bad it all rather gets in the way (and I would so love to talk about ‘Say It With Love’ with, err, love). The idea behind this Justin Hayward song is sound: asked repeatedly by interviewers over the years what the ‘message’ of The Moody Blues is, he re-shapes ‘All You Need Is Love’, with the idea that every song the Moodies ever wrote was sang with love. A clever lyric urges the fans to follow the same metaphor: ‘’Wherever you go, whatever you do, whatever you say, say it with love!’ Justin then tells the ‘story’ of the band like a parable – the band experienced how horrible the world could be, but fell in love with music and learnt that their ‘mission’ in life was to spread love through their songs and make the world a better place. Very very fine, very suitable for the last of the still-going hippie bands and very very sweet. But alas this song doesn’t sound like love – it sounds like war. The song opens with the most ridiculously ‘fake’ drum part in the whole of the Moodies’ catalogue, artificial and noisy – can a robot really say anything with love? The banks of synthesisers treat the famous Moody vocals so that they sound less like a humane group of loved-up troubadours and more like a choir of Daleks (the cry of ‘Let me out!’ sounds oddly like ‘exterminate!’) Even Justin’s guitar, which has been missing for such a long long time, is played slow and carefully, like it’s peeling off a bunch of pre-arranged notes instead of going for guts and glory in a passionate loved-up way. It’s not just the sound of this song either: the melody adds a curious Buddy Holly style hiccup in the middle that makes what’s a sweet and heartfelt message sound false and clumsy (‘I was thinking the way people do ‘bout the things that matter to – *breathe in* – me and you!’) This is also the ‘wrong’ melody for ‘those’ words (even though Justin wrote both): the lyrics want to be uplifting and rousing, like ‘All You Need Is Love’ meets ‘Hey Jude’; the melody is something dark and slightly sinister, more Rolling Stonesy, saying things with love 2000 light years from home. That’s probably why fans never really took to this, the album’s first single, even though it’s clearly meant to be a fan favourite: we get to eavesdrop when Justin falls in love with the guitars and he in turns shines the spotlight on us, getting the band’s energy and spirit from ‘the happy faces on the boys and girls’ where we all come together and bask in the beauty of life and ignore the hell happening around us. We ought to leave this clever, funny, poignant song feeling content and fulfilled. Instead, thanks to that drum sound a melody that sounds sour rather than sunny, we end up feeling that we’ve got a headache instead.

Equally on paper ‘Bless The Wings (That Bring You Back)’ sounds fantastic. After two records teasing us with songs about old flames who pass each other like ships in the night (‘Your Wildest Dreams’ and ‘I Know You’re Out There Somewhere’) finally the lovers meet, patch up their differences and live forever after. This should sound really special right? Wrong!!! The title blesses the ‘wings’ that bring the narrator’s lover back into his arms but the rest of the song is more about the distance that kept them apart and how it was destined to be that way. Instead of concentrating on soaring in each other’s arms, this couple spend too long talking about the desert that grew up between them and the ‘dust of many centuries’ that should have been long put to bed. This couple don’t feel as if they were destined to get back together again or that they feel particularly passionate about each other when they meet, given that this is one of Justin’s dullest and curiously empty songs, slowed down to a crawl in places. Yet again it’s a song that sounds different to what it’s trying to say to us: the words say ‘The more life keeps us apart, the more our love will grow’; the music says ‘There’s a gulf between us, ‘our hearts divided by an ocean’, as a slow mournful guitar part spits feathers throughout the rest of the song. The metaphor of love being a ‘bird’ is also rather strained as it strains to be ‘free’ because we don’t get what the next part of the story is: Why can’t the pair be ‘free’? Is one or both of them in a relationship? Presumably they live a long way from each other now and met by chance so – will one of them have to move? Is there a difficult elderly parent in tow to look after? This is a song that tries to reach out with open arms but whose brain is already trying to be logical and can’t work out what is for the best. It’s an oddly ugly song by Moodies standards, deeply forgettable and surprisingly unlikeable considering that it’s wrapping up one of the most celebrated trilogies in their canon. We spent all those years hoping these characters would come together just for that?!

Thankfully the playful ‘Is This Heaven?’ is unashamedly telling us and showing us the same thing. This is a clever fluffy love song about how wonderful the world looks from the eyes from someone in love, the narrator re-acting to his lover’s coos that the world looks suddenly much more ‘beautiful’ suddenly. It’s very uncharacteristic for the sort of band who treat love and romance with the long dark night of the soul that’s ‘Nights In White Satin’ rather than something light and fluffy but it works – well nearly! In truth what’s a cutesiepie riff when played on a very 1950s style guitar is awful when screeched by synth-violins that are so 1980s and the ending goes on way way way too long. But the sudden power that comes in on the strident middle eight that points to just how long this couple have been alone and starved of love (‘I know that Heaven waits for those whose love is true...’) is a masterstroke, suddenly turning this unusually happy-go-lucky song into a more typical Moodies fare of desperation and passion. And even the tap-dancing, an idea ridiculed ever since fans first heard about it, is actually rather sweet: no this part wouldn’t work on any other more dark and serious and inhibited Moody song, but here it’s a brilliant invention: of course this narrator would suddenly get up and dance and whistle while he’s doing it: the normal rules of how he lived his life have been relaxed and suddenly tap-dancing is the most natural instinctive form of expression. Listen out too for the yell, rather buried in the mix, of ‘I love this world!!!’, which is the real message of this song. As on ‘Say It With Love’ and so many other Moodies songs the world is a very scary place indeed sometimes. But not now. Not anymore. The narrator can only think about his beloved and after a lifetime of searching suddenly all the stars in the sky are blowing him kisses. No this isn’t the Moodies’ best song, it isn’t dark or deep or brave and the heavy drumbeat and pulsating synthesisers over-laden what should be small and humble. But it is very very sweet and very very cute and on this low quality album that’s enough to make this easily the best song of the set.

The second best song is ‘Say What You Mean?’, one last return to the ‘old’ sound with Patrick Moraz’ sudden free-flowing synth tickles firmly up front and a repeat of the 1980s Moodies vibe that the world is a dark and scary place. Here too the melody and lyrics are going in the same direction: the melody builds verse by verse, getting more desperate and unhinged as it struggles to cope with a dark and anxious world; meanwhile the lyrics are the sound of the lover more and more desperate to put things right and getting increasingly desperate to get through to his sweetheart that he really is there for her. In typical Moodies tradition, the lovers’ biggest problem is that they don’t know how to communicate with each other and in true English traditions of politeness have become trapped in their own separate worlds. ‘Think about the words that you’re using!’ snaps Justin at the beginning, before urging his lover to talk directly – no ego games, no power plays, no passive aggression, what do you want from me?! Along the way Justin’s narrator promises to play his part – he’s always going to be ‘by your side’, he’s going to be the most trustworthy person she’s ever met, she’s going to be so safe with him. But in return he needs her to leave her isolated room of darkness and come talk to him – separately they’re doomed to disaster, but together they can conquer everything. An urgent bouncy synth riff, which shows just how good Patrick’s sound was to the Moodies on their darker, scarier songs, is a good reflection of what’s going on in the song, with sudden peals of notes that dart around the song as if they’re just out of our ear-shot, straining to tell us something we can’t quite understand. I’ve often wondered, given the passive-aggression between the band at this point, whether this was Hayward’s attempt to say ‘sorry’ and offer out an olive branch, belatedly giving Patrick more to do on a song than he’s had in a long time while encouraging him to air his grievances out loud (this could, of course, be complete nonsense). Justin too is at his best on a song that finally gives him something to do that’s more than just romantic crooning, while at last an untreated choir of Moody Blues sounds excellent (especially John’s strident harmony and Ray’s comedy chain-gang of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’). Alas what seems like it’s going to be a second really strong song in a row is rather undercut by ‘Part Two’. After a sudden swirl of ‘say what you mean what you say...’(which sounds like a perfectly fine ending to me!) we get a slower, darker, duller re-tread of the synth’s familiar sigh. And then Justin starts talk-singing, sounding deeply unconvincing as he tries to croon his way through a Mills and Boon novel that’s undignified by Moodies standards and talks about what must be the weirdest night of love-making around (‘Let us walk into the forest only witnessed by the moon, and the breeze that once would chill us now excites...and we’ll touch the secret places as the Earth beneath us breathes and the raw exquisite ecstasy rushes in...’ Err, is everything alright, Justin?!) We said it before on our 1980s reviews but somehow The Moody Blues managed to avoid the pitfalls of most hippie bands of their style and 1960s era (their spoken words tend to be yelled or screamed or are funny or sound as if they fit) and yet fell into every single one twenty years later (this part is awkward as hell and makes no sense – it’s the sort of thing non-fans assume are on every Moodies album!) Still, for half a song at least, this is pretty good stuff.

Against the odds ‘Lean On Me (Tonight)’ makes it three decent songs in a row. John Lodge’s big moment on the album, it has the pomp and seriousness of ‘Isn’t Life Strange?’ with the cosy intimacy of ‘Ride My See-Saw’ which adds up to one of the bassist’s better love songs. Like much of the album it works because it’s simple: John never really gets to say much more than ‘I’ll always be there for you’ and a few asides that even though the couple in the song are getting older he still adores her as much as the night they first met. The melody fits nicely too again, going from quite cosy warmth to cor-blimey-this-is-powerful in the middle,. Topped off by a rousing Justin Hayward guitar solo that’s far more exciting than the part on ‘Say It With Love’. What this sing doesn’t have is ambition: you know exactly where it’s going from first bar to last and there’s nothing said in this song that hasn’t been said elsewhere, usually a little better if I’m honest. There’s also a curious part of the song that never seems to rhyme where it should (a rhyming scheme of ABABABCDEF that really stands out every time I hear it – it’s most notable on the line about the ‘Southern Cross’ which honestly doesn’t rhyme with anything). Still, this song doesn’t get much wrong and was more than enough to make John’s many fans swoon (Justin usually gets all the romantic songs to sing!) and it’s also easily the best performed song on the album with a candidate for Lodge’s greatest ever lead vocal, sweet and innocent yet deeply in love.

Over on side two things aren’t looking quite so good. ‘Hope and Pray’ must surely be the last gasp of the sort of song we used to have a lot back in the 1980s: a sudden rushed rock song who gets the aggression not from the tempo or the urgency of the performance but the manic fake drumbeat that sounds as if the robot drum machine is about to keel over at any second. As with the opening two songs, that and the dark, eerie claustrophobic melody are a poor match for the lyric that is more unusually sunny upbeat optimism. Basically the narrator is lonely and dreaming of a loved one – we don’t know if she’s dead, divorced or if she’s just popped off to the shops but either way the narrator keeps starting up when he sees a shadow on the wall or hears a noise in the distance and he really hopes it’s his loved one. A chorus tries to add some depth to proceedings, nicking lots of ideas from Justin’s big solo hit ‘Forever Autumn’ as he talks about the months passing by outside his window and how inside it is always Winter and how he’s not quite sure how he ended up here, alone and miserable, when he had seemed so in control so recently. He feels that this great love affair has all been a big dream and only the love letters he still cherishes tell him otherwise. This song is still bouncy though, the ‘hope and pray...everyday!’ catchy chorus undoing the knots that have been tightly wound by the verses and making this another surprisingly bouncy song. The problem is it doesn’t sound lonely or despairing enough – there’s no sense that the narrator really has had his heart broken and instead this all sounds like ‘just’ a pop song – and with such a forgettable melody and clichéd lyrics not a terribly inventive pop song at that!

John returns for another song about ‘Shadows On The Wall’. John’s narrator is in love, but he’s already worried about things that seem to be going wrong that he can’t quite put his finger on. He feels happy and content and his missus is everything he dreamed she would be and shines he bright light in his dark world, but why is it, out of the corner of his eye, that he can see shadows and hints of things going wrong? What could have been an interesting song is, again, rather let down by the fact that the melody and lyric are saying two different things. This piece sounds on face value like it’s as stupidly silly and flimsy a love song as any the Moodies ever made: it has *that*cheesy synth accompaniment (which is sounding more dated song by song by now), another silly hiccup of a Justin guitar solo and harmonies that sound as if they’ve been parachuted in from a Duran Duran or Take That recording. There’s no hint anywhere, not even in John’s vocal, that he’s actually singing about love going wrong not right. It’s all a little bit over-written too: ‘On the sea of mediocrity drifting from a distant shore...’ begins the last verse, which says in thirty garbled words that ‘Driftwood’ said so succinctly in far less. If this was another band or a group making their first album I’d let it go, but this is another song like ‘Say What You Mean Part II’ that falls in so many traps of cliché you can’t help but wonder why a band as experienced and established as The Moody Blues didn’t see it coming.

Next up would on the CD (but not the LP) version be ‘Once Is Enough’ but – fittingly – once is indeed more than enough for the album sessions’ worst song and we’ve previously reviewed it as part of our ‘non album songs’ last year (when we were feeling strong enough to tackle it!) So instead it’s the long awaited return of Ray Thomas after eight very long years with ‘Celtic Sonant’. For a Brummie band (right in the heart of the UK) The Moodies were always very into their Celtic roots, with Scottish, Irish and Welsh overtones in much of their work (especially anything with Ray’s flutes). Here Ray finally spends a whole song discussing a possible Celtic past and a lyric that seems to have been ‘stolen’ from Tarot cards (cups overflowing, chariot wheels moving, ‘fools’ making it round – there’s no ‘Hanged Man’ though, the card I seem to get every bleeding time!) Many Moody Blues songs are right on the limit of what even a prog rock band can get away with, but this one is so far over the line it’s unintentionally hilarious. What can you say about a song that opens with the greeting ‘Deep peace of the running wave to you’?! (Especially as that’s the ‘wrong’ greeting, more American Indian than Celt). Or some garbled metaphors about ‘open pages’ that left a poet ‘crying’ or a man ‘standing guard’ as the oceans blow for centuries (I bet his legs are tired) or how ‘every star in the sky is there for a reason’ (what reason?!) Throughout the song we keep returning to the central theme of wheels going round – but why, what for? There’s no sense in this song of any progression or indeed any anything. Even Ray’s lyrics don’t rhyme anywhere (something you can do in poetry but which just sounds wrong with the ‘balance’ and setup of a song), that particularly stands out as he’s given himself such a naturally nursery-rhymey sing-songy melody to go with it. Oh and this song is not really a ‘sonant’ – that’s ‘a speech sound that by itself makes a syllable or subordinates to itself the other sounds in the syllable’ apparently (who says you don’t learn anything on this site?!), which pretty much includes every word ever but less so the sort of words in this song like ‘wheel’ or lines like ‘one man stood firm’ that are all one syllable words. Ray, meanwhile, sounds demented on his first vocal since ‘Sorry’ many many moons ago. At least, unlike most of this curious album, the track has ambition galore but it’s bravery isn’t matched by the piece which doesn’t have anything to say or any really ear-catching ways of saying it. Sorry if that review’s a bit below-the-belt (it’s good to have Ray back in any form), but truly, this song has nothing to say about anything and is itself below-the-Celt.

Typically, the other Moodies try to pretend that the last track never happened and blow it away with the catchiest song on the album. John’s ‘Magic’ is another flimsy silly song about being in love. After years of having romance as the highest form of expression in the universe, it’s odd to hear it suddenly turned into nothing more than a magic trick as John’s narrator looks in the eyes of his partner and feels a special something, a ‘mystery’ to this day because he can’t explain it in words. Alas what starts off a good track (with a grungy guitar riff from Justin and more noisy synths which at least sound as if they ought to be noisy and extroverted) soon ends up a boring repetitive recording where the chorus ‘work your magic on me!’ gets repeated way too many times for comfort. And I mean way too many times – you’ll find yourself parroting this line in your sleep and it isn’t even the best line in the chorus, never mind the song. And check out that vocal: at least Ray sounded vaguely human on ‘Celtic Sonant’, but John sings this track in a key that’s somewhere between his natural singing voice and his high falsetto, coming out of it sounding squeakier than he’s ever been. That isn’t magic, its black magic and if his lovelife is doing that to him fulltime then he clearly needs a doctor. Strangely, though, for such a noisy song that’s so desperate to have your attention all the way through, this track’s biggest problem is that it is all so terribly bland.

The album then ends with the first Justin-Ray collaboration since ‘Watching and Waiting’ twenty-two years before. Alas, like so much of this album, it’s all a bit fake: Ray wrote the flute part to Justin’s song, something that in the days of old would just be what a bandmate did to make the overall band sound better without even thinking, but nowadays is such a big thing for the creatively blocked flautist that he gets a whole co-credit. ‘Never Blame The Rainbows For The Rain’ is an odd song, even for the oddest side of the Moodies’ oddest ‘normal’ record. It’s moral is that you can’t have happiness without sadness and you should never ‘blame’ the good things in your life for the bad things that happen. Confused? Me too. Unfortunately though it’s hard to concentrate on how overwhelmingly poor the lyrics are (‘The last whispered wish of age is to live it all again’) when the whole song sounds so unbelievably cheesy and ‘wrong’. Justin is going for his most doe-eyed vocal yet, joined by John’s harmonies at their treacliest, while the synthesiser washes add a whole layer of detergent fakeness that ‘purifies’ the full thing but in a very false-sending artificial way. This song is nothing less than the equivalent of a Conservative party political broadcast where they stare into the camera and  try to brainwash you. It’s icky, tacky and horrid and easily the worst song on the Moodies’ worst LP. At least the flute part adds something of the old Moodies sound, but what disappoints most is that this doesn’t sound like the Moodies at all but every other half-baked no-good pop band of the era who were more interested in selling records than connecting with fans’ hearts. This whole song sounds as if it was written from the first to be a ‘standard’, but it has nothing to say and the way it says nothing is utterly dreadful.

This album ends with a verse about how a ‘whirlpool of doubt’ can ‘spin you around’ so that you miss ‘passion’s spray’. That’s a typically convoluted way of saying that it’s all too easy to feel ‘lost’ when things aren’t going your way – and that’s pretty much my verdict on this album. After a decade of having painfully re-shaped the Moody Blues sound to something that was now decidedly out of fashion and with disagreements in the ranks (with Patrick disappearing and both Ray and Graeme barely doing more than appearing on the back cover) The Moodies (well, Justin and John for the most part) aren’t quite sure where to go on from here. They try to offer us a third blast of songs in the ‘Other Side Of Life’ and ‘Sur La Mer’ mode but the production is less daring and the songs less suitable, without ever quite establishing their own separate identity. This is a silly, dotty, loony, empty album that’s made to sound fierce and harsh thanks to the overall sound and it’s also an intimate, sparse sounding collection of songs delivered with the manic glare of a gorilla on acid. There are some good songs and in many ways the first side of ‘Keys’ is the most enjoyable Moodies set since side one of ‘The Present’, but the second is so woefully wrong and misguided that in many ways it’s a blessing that the next record will be delayed by some eight years. The Moodies seemed to have made this record more because they felt they had to than because they wanted to and nobody – the band members there and absent, the producers there and absent – seem to have had a clue about how to take this already dodgy set of new songs and make the most out of them. The band just don’t take their own advice and occasionally across this album do you get the sense that they really are saying what they mean or meaning what they say. This record may offer the keys to the kingdom but it was also the key to finally breaking my heart as a Moody Blues fan who’d already struggled to give them the benefit of the doubt across two other needlessly relentlessly empty poppy albums. Thankfully things will get better, as the band dump the synths altogether to return to orchestras for the first time in thirty years and the rest will do the band good. But for a while there it really did look as if the Moodies catalogue was going to end on one of the single worst albums in the AAA catalogue, matched in it’s pure awfulness only by Paul McCartney’s ‘Chaos and Creation In The Backyard’, The Monkees’ ‘JustUs’, The Beach Boys’ ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ and The Hollies’ ‘Staying Power’.

'The Magnificent Moodies' (1965)

'Days Of Future Passed' (1967)

'In Search Of The Lost Chord' (1968)

'On The Threshold Of A Dream' (1969)

'To Our Children's Children's Children' (1969)

‘A Question Of Balance’ (1970)

'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' (1971)

'Seventh Sojourn' (1972)

'Blue Jays' (Hayward/Lodge) (1976)

'Songwriter' (Hayward) (1977)

'Long Distance Voyager' (1981)

'The Present' (1983)

'The Other Side Of This Life' (1986)

'Sur La Mer' (1988)

'Strange Times' (1999)


Surviving TV Clips 1964-2015:

The Best Unreleased Recordings 1961-2009:

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1964-1967:

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1968-2009:

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part One 1969-1977:

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Two: 1979-2015

10cc: Non-Album Songs Part Two (1981-2006)

Non-Album Recordings Part #11: 1981

While 10cc's albums were released on the Mercury label in most of Europe, over in America they were on Warner Brothers - a curious side effect of the management fiasco that saw the band's managers changing a plan that the band had agreed on while they were all away on holiday in order to make 'more money'. Mercury had done better out of 10cc in general and 'I'm Not In Love' in particular and weren't too fussed about the fall in sales but Warner Brothers were. So they ordered the band to re-think their just-submitted LP 'Ten Out Of Ten' with the help of a young hot-shot they thought would be on a similar cerebral level. Actually their choice of Andrew Gold was a better idea than it sounds and both sides brought something out of the other - Andrew brought some much needed enthusiasm into a band that was becoming a little stale, while Eric and Graham taught Gold how to reign in his slightly more OTT qualities. In total the band made four  recordings together before Gold returned to his own career, with three of them appearing on the 'Ten Out Of Ten' record and additionally two appeared as A-sides and two as B-sides. The first to be released was [112] 'Tomorrow's World Today' which first appeared as the flipside of 'Don't Turn Me Away'. A cheeky eccentric Gouldman song in the 'Sheet Music' mould, it couldn't have sounded less like Eric's earnest A-side. It's kind of a plea to the band's fanbase that things have got to change because music is forever evolving, sung by Graham with a wild-eyes stare that suggests he's right on board (Eric, less happy about being what to do and who to work with, also turns in some genuinely exciting guitar bursts in the background). Sadly the lyric soon becomes a 'list' song, with people of yesteryear ('Howard Hughes and Blue Suede Shoes') and things that used to seem science-fiction but which are 'normal' by 1981 standards ('micro-chips and sci-fli games, transplants, sperm banks and body scanners') set against each other. Fittingly the arrangement is a clever mis-mash of the retro 50s rockabilly style and the then-current new wave trend of blaring twinkly keyboards. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Ten Out Of Ten'  

The most potmodernist 10cc song since 'The Worst Band In The World' and 'SSSSSilly Love' , this similar Gouldman-Gold collaboration [  ] 'We've Heard It All Before!' has Graham trying to fit 'my life into three minute symphonies' and struggling to come up with something that isn't clichéd by the end of the record. The title seems a tad mean, given that 10cc had never quite sounded the way they did in 1981, it is however exactly what the record company asked for: a more '10cc' sounding song reborn for the modern age. Sadly the modern age then was the 1980s and the Wax-style synths date this song very badly (you really have heard songs like this by now, many many times, though that wasn't true in 1981) but the song underneath all this is sound and the most genuinely funny 10cc release in some time. production hi-jinks allows Graham to move 'from mono to stereo' while complaining that 'Mozart would be shocked by the crap on the radio!' Andrew himself guests on the chorus as he tries to croon, Lol 'SSSSilly Love' style', only to get laughed off the record with the cry 'we've heard it all before!' Perhaps too little too late to reverse 10cc's fortunes (the single missed the charts everywhere, outperformed by the 'proper' album singles 'Les Nouveaux Riches' and 'Don't Turn Me Away') and not a patch on what the heartfelt emotional complex songs the band were making in their 'day job' but an intriguing curio nonetheless. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Ten Out Of Ten'  

The next 'Gold' flop single - if that's not an oxymoron - [  ] 'The Power Of Love' was a more traditional ballad. No, this is  not the Huey Lewis or even the Frankie Goes To Hollywood single but arguably a better song written between the two members of 10cc and Andrew Gold. A slinky, sultry song turns more uptempo as Eric sings about just how overpoweringly massive love can be even though it's often dismissed as something light and silly. Eric sings about getting 'hooked', how 'life can never be the same' once you've felt the pull and tug and how differently he views the world afterwards. A middle eight has Graham waiting to be served in a restaurant when he spies the waitress and 'forgets all about the food!' The instrumental, though, is pure Andrew Gold - synth sound effects that couldn't be more 1980s if they came with a perm and shoulder pads. An interesting song in asmuch as it sounds very like the serious songs Eric was writing in this period about 'making the most about life' and 'there is nothing more important than love', but it's done in a very old-fashioned 10cc way with a very poppy feel about it. The two things don't quite fit together and the song is more forgettable than the other tracks Eric was pouring his heart out on in this period, but it's another overlooked minor gem from the period. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the CD re-issue of 'Ten Out Of Ten'

The 'odd one out' of the quartet of Andrew Gold recordings, [  ] 'You're Coming Home Again' is arguably the best despite only ever being released as a B-side (to 'Power Of Love'). A gorgeous Eric Stewart ballad right up there with his best, the narrator sits at home alone wondering when his baby is going to 'come home again'. The enforced loneliness has made him realise for the first time just how much his lover means to him and how desperate he is to have her in his life, as he vows to make up for every quarrel they've ever had. It's hard not to see this track, especially with the 'Windows In The Jungle' songs on the horizon, as a delayed response to the car crash that nearly killed him in 1979 and left him alone in a hospital ward re-evaluating his life and priorities. The other songs all have Eric vowing that he's realised something big and to make amends, but this is the most heartbreaking apology of them all as Eric apologises for everything he got wrong and tries so hard to make a difference, with a typically gorgeous guitar solo - perhaps the best ever use of his natural 'clarity' style - cutting through the song with warmth and guilt. Eric's vocal too is beautiful, reaching a peak in the last verse when instead of hanging his head again sadly he soars, holding the line 'I love you soooooooooo' as if he's never ever going to let go ever again. Superb. The best 10cc B-side wince 'Waterfall' and even by the high standards of the 'Ten Out Of Ten' LP one of the very best things recorded in this period. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Ten Out Of Ten'  

Godley-Creme seem unlikely to be the sort of people to give into record company needs themselves, but that's what [  ] 'The Power Behind The Throne' sounds like, the commercial new-version-with-lyrics of the previous year's B-side 'Submarine'. Oddly enough, it's this track that sounds like it's more about a 'submarine' with a vessel going down and 'all hands on deck' a metaphor for a romance that's going wrong ('I'm sick of dodging rolling pins, I want some loving instead!') Godley's hen-pecked narrator passes all power over to his missus and declares her 'the power behind the throne' but it makes no difference - this 'real bossy woman' still rules with a fist of iron. The closest Godley-Creme ever get to aping the reggae style of their former band's new style (on 'Dreadlock Holiday' et al), it's actually a lot more inventive than the better received A-side 'Under Your Thumb'. Listen out for a voice shouting out 'World War Two!' at the start of the track, for no apparent reason (unless of course Clementine Churchill or Eva Braun had more impact on their husband's politics than we've long assumed). Find it on: 'Images' ( 1993) and the CD re-issue of 'Ismism'

You don't tend to think of 10cc as a 'sexy' and yet two of the most horny, outrageous and kinky tracks in the entire AAA canon are theirs. Godley-Creme wrotethe eye-opening mastubatory tribute 'Headroom' for 'How Dare You!' in 1976 and followed it up with the  equally risque B-side [  ] 'Babies'. 'I'm not a building, but you erect me' deadpans Godley as he tries to woo a girl into bed, promising not to love her forever but to have children together. My guess is this weird song started out as an attempt to make a sequel to 'Neanderthal Man' (by now over a decade old) - it's a very percussion-heavy backing at roughly the same speed just on 1980s instruments and the lyrics are more spoken rather than sung. Both also touch on the 'purity' of cavemen love and lust being the only reason any of us are here at all. Some of the lines are hilarious: 'Last time we did it I was shy' sighs Godley, 'But this time I'm not going to miss the target, I'm going to score a bulls-eye!' Lol's intense throbbing guitar part is pretty darn great too. Whether coincidental or not, the coupling of this B-side with the A-side 'Wedding Bells' seems an entirely natural pairing somehow. Far more inventive and way funnier than anything on the 'Ismism' album, this song will either haunt your dreams or your nightmares, or more likely both.  Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Ismism'. 

Non-Album Recordings Part #12: 1982

The only 10cc release in 1982 was the sweet single [110] 'Run Away', an Eric Stewart ballad that could have easily slotted on as part of either 'Ten Out Of Ten' or 'Windows In The Jungle'. Eric is still kicking himself for letting someone important walk out of his life and it all feels so unreal, as if he's in a 'dream'. The kinder, softer companion song to 'Don't Ask' from the previous album, it's at one with Eric's other songs about only now realising how precious a loved one is to him. The song is sweet, with a typically golden Eric vocal mixing love with humility and there's a nice return to the 'I'm Not I Love' choir of 'ahhhh's in the background vocals. There are some nice lyrics too, Eric apologising for being 'backward ain coming forward' and again admitting that, 'SSSSilly Love' and 'I'm Not In Love' style, that cliches 'won't cut it' compared to the depth of his feelings. This song needs a little something else to make it truly stand out though - a middle eight or a solo or something. Find it on: 'Tenology' (2012) and the CD re-issue of 'Ten Out Of Ten'

While Stewart is lamenting over his past, Godley and Creme are predicting the future on [  ] 'Welcome To Breakfast Television', the art concept B-side to 'Save A Mountain For Me'. It's a superior version of the sing-songy tune from 'Joey's Camel' from 'Ismism' but this time there is no escape - the new breakfast television channel is there to hypnotise us into surrender instead. If this song had been released in this day and age Godley-Creme would surely be laughing at 'The One Show' because that's what they're really getting at here - the stupidity of sticking things that don't fit together and then treating them as wallpaper background television no one is watching anyway.  'It's been put together with money and love - and only ten commercial breaks!' laughs Godley at one stage. perhaps best not to remind the couple of how much breakfast telly they'll be doing to promote their 'Goodbye Blue Sky' album in 1988...An odd track that's more like the first two Godley-Creme albums; conceptually brilliant but a drag to listen to with nothing really musical here. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Birds Of Prey' 

Non-Album Recordings Part #13: 1983

 [122] 'She Gives Me Pain' (B-side of 'Feel The Love') is a return to the quirky instrumentals of the early 10cc years - which is rather fitting given that we're getting near the end of days now. Unfortunately, like those early singles, it all feels rather pointless - surely this killer riff and nicely flowing chord changes could have been turned into something really good with some lyric, any lyric! (Perhaps especially the lyrics suggested by the intriguing title, which could fit with either the BDSM vibe of 'Shock On The Tube' and 'Exclamation Marks!!!' or the heartbreak of the songs on 'Ten Out Of Ten' and 'Windows In The Jungle'). Without them the track sounds a bit 'so what?' and I can't shake off the nagging feeling that I've spent more time writing about this track than the band did making it. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Windows In The Jungle' (wow, there's actually a CD version of 'Windows', I still can't believe it!)

[123] 'The Secret Life Of Henry' is very nearly the last thing 10cc released pre-break up, on the back of the flop single 'Food For Thought' (though the very final release was an edit of '24 Hours' with a repeat of 'Dreadlock Holiday' on the back). It's a fitting end, characteristically ambitious, gut-wrenchingly moving and quite funny in a sad sort of a way. The track sounds as if it was very much intended for the 'Windows In The Jungle' LP, starting off with the same jungle/birdsong/footsteps sound effects and following a similar message to '24 Hours'. A sleepy couple of Erics open their windows to greet a 'brand new day', still very much asleep, with the echoes of their dreams and what their life could be flickering through their sleepy heads as man and wife kiss each other goodbye and head for work. Suddenly a minute in we get a manic, ugly guitar riff that rushes us off to work and tells the tale of poor Henry, a typically hapless character for whom everything goes wrong. The pace is non-stop and Henry never gets time to reflect on what, as a human being, his duty should be (his dreams and what he can offer life), instead of what, as an employee, he's made to offer. Henry is 'schizophrenic', pulled in two between his dreams and his nightmare reality and he gets worse, turning grumpy when he reads the paper, grabbing the glory and trying to 'crucify you' at work and looking up his secretary's skirt. Pushed to the point of desperation by ten years of monotony with no promotion, he sits in the bar dreaming about the day he can run off with the company's money but the time ticks away in the bar and he forces himself to rush back to work in a mad panic, worried about being late. A furious guitar-saxophone duel, similar to the one on 'The Anonymous Alcoholic', drives the song forward before a similar finale where he passes out, drunk, on the office floor. It's a life-changing moment - and yet you get the feeling that it's happened before, most days in fact. 'Hello darling, how's your day been?' croons one of the Erics to the other. 'Can't complain dear' he replies, knowing he's trapped, 'Same as usual!' while the birds of his dreams call softly in the background. A much under-rated song, even for this period of 10cc, this is a stunning way to say goodbye, at least the first time round. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Windows In The Jungle' (1983)
Non-Album Recordings Part #14: 1984

Everybody knows 'Under My Thumb' 'Wedding Bells' and Cry', but nobody except the really committed Godley-Creme fans know about the single released in the middle,  'Golden Boy'. This, dear readers, is one of the greatest tragedies in the book, because while the other singles are great this flop single is their masterpiece. It's everything the pair have been working towards and trying to make their own for so long - progressive use of cold synthesisers back when they were still new, a gorgeous warm emotional lyric over the top mixing jealousy and fate and a terrific use of guest stars such as the backing singers who both soothe and taunt Kevin Godley's heartbroken narrator. Like a lot of the best Godley-Creme songs (their joint work anyway, if not their 10cc stuff) it's a defensive song about being passed over for somebody everyone else thinks is better, brighter and more talented while the duo do everything they can to prove 'them' wrong. Usually in the hands of Godley and Creme this turns into anger (see 'Punchbag' and 'Wide Boy' especially), but this song is more like a sad trial run for the later 'Cry'. Godley is off in the corner, watching the great love of his life throw her love away on 'the great pretender' and wondering why she doesn't feel 'pins and needles' from him when he loves her so much more than the clearly acting 'Goldenboy'. The chorus of harmonies falling sighs on the simple chorus 'Goldenboy', which cries itself to sleep, is one of the prettiest moments in the Godley-Creme catalogue even though the song is an ugly one, about jealousy and coming off second best. The angry stabbing Creme synthesisers are perfectly cast too, defensive rather than aggressive and howling empty threats of things to come that the girl just ignores. Even though the song has the backing girls warn 'all that glitters isn't gold', you know she'll never listen and that her true love will be watching it fall apart just as he said it would.  A remarkably song, more from the heart than the brain compared to most Godley-Creme releases, which together with a stunning video (in which a video literally 'plays' the song via a moving 3D hologram projection, which by 1985 standards was even more mind-bogglingly creative than 'Cry') is arguably the pair's masterpiece whatever the sales figures say. Sadly most fans only know it as a bonus track on the end of the generally unlistenable 'History Mix' CD and most people don't get that far. 'My Body The Car' was the B-side by the way. Find it on: 'History Mix Volume One' (CD Re-Issue)

Over on the Graham Gouldman side of the 10cc multiverse, Wax were making their aborted debut under the name 'World In Action'. Taking the 'Hotlegs' view that eventually one of these songs would be a hit, Graham and his new writing partner Andrew Gold kept releasing singles until one of them - 'Ball and Chain' - finally started doing well. To be honest you can see why the soppy poppy 'Don't Break My Heart' didn't chart. The drums are the loudest thing on the record and the track is low on subtlety with Gold singingan OTT lead vocal, while the lyrics aren't exactly original (they basically boil down to 'be nice to me because I love you and we had a great kiss last night'). The walking melody is rather cute though. Find it on: the 1998 Wax rarities compilation ''

The Gouldman-Gold sequel was the more memorable is equally unoriginal 'Victoria', released under the name 'Common Knowledge'. One of the better songs from an entire debut album that got shelved, it's like a first try-out for Wax's stunning 'Marie Claire', a track about a feminine heroine who is ignored by everyone else. The narrator says Victoria has been 'good' and 'bad' to him but he's willing to give her a second chance because he only wants to do good by her. It's a shame the band had to invite what sounds like a complete kitchen sink of effects that rather distract the ear on what is at heart a sweet and simple song and this song is so 1980s it hurts modern ears, in every way possible. There's a sweet song in here somewhere though and it's not too much a stretch to imagine this song becoming a hit and Wax choosing to stick with the name 'Common Knowledge'. Find it on: the 1998 Wax rarities compilation ''

Non-Album Recordings Part #15: 1985

Released as the B-side of a remixed 'Golden Boy', 'Light Me Up!' is the song that can be heard as the basis for the 'Wet Rubber Soup' bit of Godley-Creme's 'History Mix' and thus shares the rather unusual distinction of the extended, messed-around version being far more common than the original. A Motown/soul parody high on the innuendo stakes with Godley's love a burning cigarette, this is a lesser 'Wedding Bells' but it does feature some interesting, umm, colouring: an ugly six note synth riff, a lit cigarette and backing singers brought to a climax of orgasm several times across the song (you can hear this much more on the 'History Mix' version where the screams lead into a killer live version of 'Second Sitting For The Last Supper'. Though far from Godley-Creme at their best, this track may well be Godley-Creme at their most, well, Godley-Creme: it's the one song from their canon that mixes the atonal art school vibe and their commercial Motown ear. You wish the band had concentrated on one over the other though - the two together just don't mix. Find it: as a CD bonus track on 'The History Mix Volume One'

[  ] 'Love Bombs' was the even more unlistenable B-side to 'Cry'. The track sounds like 'Neanderthal Man' on speed, with lots of thrashing wild percussion and sound effects and not much of a tune while Godley murmurs random words over the top ('Can't get it...Can!') before a whole room full of people suddenly call 'Love Bombs!' It's not a patch on the sexy, sultry, comedy vibe of 'Babies' and really isn't worth your time tracking down (it's one of the few tracks in this book not to have appeared on CD) but would have been hailed as a masterpiece if someone like Madonna had released it. Find it on: 'Cry' (the original single)

Non-Album Recordings Part #16: 1988

Godley-Creme's final LP 'Goodbye Blue Sky' was their biggest concept work of all, about the destruction of the world to the sound of a million mouthorgans and a doo-wop quartet. The B-sides taken from the album singles, though, have a very different vibe andare clearly individual songs that didn't fit rather than bits of the concept that got chopped off.  'Rhino Rhino' is the funniest and perhaps the most 10cc of all the duo's post-band songs, telling the sweet tale of the title character and the 'two tonnes of hay' he eats every mealtime as he decides to wander off down a main road. Mankind, for all their supposed technological superiority, can't move him for love or money (or hay). The backing is as suitably dense, strong and stubborn as the animal, while Godley indulges in some fine vocal acrobatics, clearly having fun compared to the intensity of the main album sessions. You can tell why this didn't make the album, but in truth it's way more fun than the too-earnest A side. Find it on: 'A Little Piece Of Heaven' (original single)

Oddly the debut single's other 'freebie' was [  ] 'Bits Of Blue Sky', a selection of ten second long extracts from 'Goodbye Blue Sky' strung together. This was the first time most fans would have heard the record and it doesn't really leave them much reason to buy the whole thing as most of the key 'plot points' of the album are here. It kinds works as a mini-update to the 'History Mix' though and doesn't cause quite the same sense of dizzyness with tracks rammed on top of each other when they clearly won't fit, although if you own the album (and if you don't you should) then this is pointless. Bizarrely this compilation was revived for the Godley-Creme 'Images' compilation, even though none of the actual songs from the record made the album. Find it on: 'A Little Piece Of heaven' (original single) and 'Images' (1993)

[  ] 'Hidden Heartbeat' is one last encore for the gizmo which backs a typically period-glossy love song that finds Kevin on fine voice. Godley so wants his love to hear what he's trying to say and the hidden messages in his words with his loved one and adds a 'hidden heartbeat' to every word he sends. The middle changes though - presumably he's got a response by now and sighs 'there's no hidden heartbeats there'. By the last verse things have gone wrong but he still feels love and a 'hidden heartbeat' when he thinks of his loved one. Though the track is missing that wonderful Godley-Creme originality, it's a far better 'pop song' than 'A Little Piece Of heaven' and features just enough aggression to avoid becoming too soppy, thanks to a churning Lol guitar solo and a relentless drum pattern that sounds like a heart running a little bit too fast.   Find it on: '10,000 Angels' (original single)

Non-Album Recordings Part #17: 1992

[ ] 'Man With A Mission' fits in completely with the parent 'Meanwhile...' album - it's an ugly song using ugly synthesisers about an ugly character playing power games sung by Eric in an ugly variation on his usual voice. However, unlike a good three-quarters of that record, it sounds as if Eric is genuinely enjoying himself and he pours a lot more energy into the lead than most of the album. His guitarwork is pretty funky too, although he's outshone by a grungy Graham Gouldman part and some classic backing vocals between the two old friends who have rarely sounded more together (while, ironically, in real life never growing further apart). There's a fine harmonica solo too which sounds like it's wondered in from Godley-Creme's 'Goodbye Blue Sky' LP (where you can't move for stray harmonica solos all the way through). At first the lyric starts off as a man who has everything, but the trouble with climbing your way to power is that other people want to climb over you and Eric warns his character not to get too comfy on his throne and to 'open your eyes'. While no classic not bad either, considering the vintage - 'Meanwhile...' is long overdue a CD re-issue and when and if there is one this track more than deserves to be on it somewhere.  Find it on: 'Woman In Love' CD single (1992)

[  ] 'Don't' is Graham's only lead vocal across the whole of the 1992 album sessions, so it seems a bit cruel to relegate it to B-side status. In truth though this sloppy and rather boring love song is more like a 'Wax' song than a 10cc one, with its twinkling poppy keyboards and comedy 'don't!'s shouted every other line. Only the reggae makes it sound like a 10cc song and to be honest the watered-down 10cc brand of reggae is a good decade past it's sell by date by now. Still, Graham's in good voice - on the lines where he isn't drowned out by the backing chorus - and his cry of denial everytime he fears his lover is about to walk away from him does make for a neat sequel to 'I'm Not In Love'. Find it on: the 'Welcome To Paradise' CD single (1992)

[  ] 'Lost In Love' is more like it! Eric returns to the turbulence of his love-life in the early 1980s as he sings about being in too far with an intense relationship and struggling to fight his way to the surface. The narrator keeps on swimming forward though, knowing that the couple just have to be 'together' despite the new waves of grief and disputes that keep coming. You could argue that the lyric is as much about Eric and Graham as between a couple though and taken in that light sounds as if it's being sung through gritted teeth - the pair are tied together forever even though they've gone in two very different directions.  The poppy chorus is less impressive than the more soulful verse and the pretty middle eight, but no matter - Eric's equally gritty vocal and guitar get the band out of trouble. The real mystery isn't why the narrator keeps trying to swim while he's drowning (fighting on against the odds is a tradition for 10cc characters after all) but why this fine and expressive (albeit noisy) song didn't make it onto the parent album either when it's second only to 'Shine A Light In The Dark'. The original CD single is hard to find nowadays but then so is the album - again, a re-issue with this on the back sometime would be great. Find it on: the 'Welcome To Paradise' CD single (1992)

Non-Album Recordings Part #18: 2004-2007

With Eric and Graham apparently not speaking after the 1990s reunions, the 10cc fandom was awash with theories about which of the 10cc partnerships could work together next. Eric and Lol seemed a likely bet, given that they were in-laws and had kept up regular contact with each other and that between they had written quite a few of the band's biggest hits. Instead it was the pair of Mockingbirds, Graham and Kevin, who surprised everyone by teaming up out of nowhere and releasing a half-dozen songs exclusively via their website (although a couple did later turn up at the end of the 10cc compilation 'Greatest Hits and More' in 2006). When asked why they'd got back together again, Graham said that he'd put the exact same reason to Kevin when he rang up out of the blue, but his answer 'just to see if we can' was all he needed to rekindle a forty-year-old friendship. As Godley noted, despite being the oldest pairing in 10cc they'd worked together the least of any songwriting partnership in the band  (except for Graham and Lol) with just 'Iceberg' and 'The Sacro-Iliac' to their credit before this. As things turned out the fans weren't too thrilled with the rather ordinary, poppy songs (which sounded more like the poppier end days of Godley-Creme twinned with Wax rather than the 'Consequences meets Ten Out Of Ten' style everyone was hoping for) and the collaboration fizzled out, with a promised second batch of songs - due circa 2011 - never materialising. This was clearly an older, maturer Godley and Gouldman and you miss the unique spirit and laughs of the old years, with most of these songs meant to make you cry instead. But just as with Eric's songs about tears on the 1980 10cc records, there's a pathos and poignancy here that's deserving of your time, even if the songs aren't what you might have been expecting. You sense, too, that  it was good fun for the duo who overcame the problems that caused the original split back in 1976 and gave both men something they'd been missing during the past decade or so of working solo - Kevin really missed Lol, probably more than he let on, and needed someone with a musical brain to turn his lyrics into songs; for his part Graham was always happier as a team player and having Godley back in the touring band as well (albeit temporarily) boosted his claim on posters that he was '10cc'. Though a minor part of the 10cc canon, without the wordplay and originality of old, if you treat these handful of songs like a bonus feature after a great career you'll still get something out of them and both Kevin and Graham were still in great voice.

Arguably the most impressive of the new songs, '' is a moving piano ballad that features the first time Kevin sang in his older, deeper, wearier voice. Like many a Gouldman song in particular, it's a tribute to a girl who overcomes obstacles who may well be the pair of singers themselves, older and wiser, 'ringing the same bells they rang before'. The metaphor of the door crops up, 'How Dare You!' style, as the girl tries to find an escape from her narrow little life. Sadly all her optimism is replaced by a nervous breakdown and she becomes just another sad story about the world being too tough for the human condition on some website of similar stories. The best couplet of the song comes next: 'The world got turning and we got into learning how to be grown-up and tough and we all turned into doctors and lawyers and stuff'. It's pretty, but very unlike anything 10cc had really done before and at six minutes without a change anywhere is arguably a little too long. Find it on: the Godley-Gouldman website and the 2006 10cc compilation 'Greatest Hits and More'

As the GG06 website puts it, 'Hotlegs morph noisily into 10cc via self-medication, mutant primate and a Northern work ethic'. A 'Neanderthal Man' for the 21st century, the proto-rap song 'Son Of Man' takes us through a weird time-travelling story that tells the story of 10cc and it's unlikely formation. The song starts out like the Bible with the Garden of Eden and ends up with an abortion in a back-end London street as Godley struggled to understand whether Hotlegs, the first version of 10cc, was born by fate or accident and decides that it's a little of both.  A deformed child is born 'into a world of blues and bubblegum' instead, 'a test tube baby who made no sense' that happens to be the 'Neanderthal Man' single: 'It wasn't music and it wasn't art but it got to #2 in the charts!' The band get a holiday and a car out of it but the world forgets them and moves on. An older Godley looks back on the unlikely event with the confusion of a musician whose spent his entire career trying to be that lucky again before moving on to the start of 10cc and the band's democracy backing other acts ('They were joined at the heart, joined at the hip, working on any old piece of shit!') 'It didn't come that easy and it didn't come that fast' sighs Godley as 10cc try over and over again to hone their own style, so different to anything else around at the time. A final atonal burst of 'Neanderthal Man' and a short interview snippet from Graham then ends this odd alternate history lesson, which could have been really something had it, you know, sounded even a little like 10cc. The Graham Gouldman touring band usually use this song as their 'warm-up act' nowadays, played over the speakers before they hit the stage. Find it on: the Godley-Gouldman website and the 2006 10cc compilation 'Greatest Hits and More'

Johnny Don't Do It! 'Johnny Hurts' is a much softer, kinder, heartfelt sequel to the band's original second single. Instead of laughing at the misfit who dies a typically 1950s loner rebel death in a biker death, Godley pays tribute to a confused teenager with a jumble of emotions he was too young to understand. Perhaps returning to their own childhood, GG06 tell us that Elvis was playing in the background as they talked in the dark, their teenage struggles making them feel that 'the world might be ending'. The backing track is a curious mis-mash of the worst from the 1950s, 1980s and 2000s with its stylised guitar, keyboard washed and hip-hop drum effect which is a shame because the lyrics are quite sweet and make for a nice 'before and after' contrast between the early jovial 10cc and the more empathetic, emotional band of later years. Find it on: the Godley-Gouldman website

'Hooligan Crane' is an odd little song, by far the quirkiest song out the new batch and the most like the Godley-Gouldman co-writes of earlier years. Godley recalling the first time he meets a future important figure in his life 'when I was nine and you were seventeen'. For a while this is another Godley song about being the 'punchbag' for an older, cooler bully but the song sounds darker than that. The victim has a dream that the bully has died from cancer (presumably all the cigarettes he was smoking to look cool) and he pleads to the younger lad not to remember him badly because he did turn over a new leaf and became a loving husband. There's a final verse where one or the other (or both?) escape their slum backgrounds by driving a crane into the heart of the school that tormented them both. 'It's not right, it's not good and it's not fair' sighs Godley, before he gives in to the inevitable and admits that good and bad alike are afraid of dying, though only the bad are afraid of 'coming back'.  Like 'Johnny' (both versions) this is another misunderstood rebel come good, but the song is hard to grasp and Godley barely leaves a break between the verses and choruses that just keep on coming until your head spins. Find it on: the Godley-Gouldman website

The most straightforward of the six new songs, 'The Same Road' is a pop song with an irritating 1980s Wax keyboard-drum sound as Godley croons about trying to work out if he and another are heading in the same direction or 'nowhere fast'. He may be singing about Lol here on this tale of two friends who used to be so close but now have different priorities and have taken each other for granted. A high-pitches Godley falsetto even sounds a little like Creme now that Kevin's voice has dropped a little. The song then branches out into the tale of a city where everyone is anonymous and is filled 'with a million weary souls shooting for the moon'. It's all so sad, as the lyrics pout it, so why goes the melody insist on being so intensely cheerful? It looks like Godley and Gouldman were going in different directions too on the same song. Find it on: the Godley-Gouldman website

The best thing about [  ] 'Barry's Shoes' is the very Godley-ish drum sound whose raw and slightly off-beat power makes this song instantly more memorable than the others with their drum machines. Graham actually gets to sing on this one too and the two singers' voices go well together so it's a shame they didn't work together more. Lyrically this is a teenage Godley talking about his expensive new footwear during a time in his life when 'shoes are more important than God!' Kevin becomes close with a boy with shoes he envies, but the shoes are a 'gateway drug' to a life of rcime and rebellion - or sagging off school at any rate - and the young lad's heart is broken when his friend stops turning up to hang in the park. Sadly by the end of the track the lyrics have just become a list of various unlikely trainers ('crystal meth shoes?!') but there is at least a great roaring guitar solo in this one that's very Eric Stewartesque and Godley is in the best voice out of the six songs. Find it on: the Godley-Gouldman website