Monday 30 July 2018

10cc: Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

You can now buy 'Memories - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of 10cc' in e-book form by clicking here

I don't know about you, dear reader, but so far this book/website has seemed awfully studio-bound: yes there are the odd live albums dotted round in the discographies but a touring life was usually as important if not more so to our AAA artists. Even we can't go through every gig they ever played however, so what we've decided to do instead is bring you five particularly important gigs with a run-down of what was played, where and when and why we consider these gigs so important. Think of these as a sort of 'highlights' covering from first to last, to whet your appetite and to avoid ignoring a band's live work completely! 10cc often struggled to perform their songs live. They were all four multi-instrumentalists who perfected the art of overdubbing to such a degree that at any given time in the 1970s they could each be playing four instruments at once on record. Doing all that lot while singing is a big ask for any band, with 10cc bringing in a number of auxiliary members to the party down the years. Nevertheless they became a really great live band and it’s a tragedy that to date nothing from their heyday is out on DVD (indeed the only concert that seems to exist is the half hour BBC show ‘In Concert’, which only includes part of their repertoire even in the early days when they didn’t have much. The ‘reunion’ era has made up for this with more live albums than studio sets, especially in the 21st century under the care of Graham Gouldman but even so it feels somewhat as if 10cc’s days as a touring band weren’t recorded properly for posterity. Here, then, are our picks of their performances – some 500 or so for the pre-reunion years and probably double that since 1992 in various configurations.

1)  Where: Palace Lido, Isle Of Man When: August 26th 1973 Why: First Gig Setlist: [22] Speed Kills [18] Sand In My Face [19] Donna [39] Oh! Effendi [27] Waterfall [21] Headline Hustler [30] The Wall Street Shuffle [23] Rubber Bullets (sample setlist from same tour)

Not for 10cc the years of plugging away as a live band before they got their first sniff of a recording contract. Instead 10cc were created after years in the studio backing different bands or playing under pseudonyms before they finally hit the big time with ‘Donna’. Their first gig under the 10cc name didn’t happen until a month after the release of their debut record – one that was already a year old by that point in most cases.  By this point 10cc were already big enough thanks to their #2 and #1 hits (‘Donna’ and ‘Rubber Bullets’) to be headliners and already had extra drummer Paul Burgess in the band. Though 10cc were slow to start as a live band, they were quick to catch up with a 75 date tour that would run off and on until June the next year slotted around recording sessions for second album ‘Sheet Music’. Though three of them had played together live briefly as ‘Hotlegs’ in 1970, it must have been nerve-wracking indeed playing in front of people for the first time with so many dates already booked to follow? What if it had all been a disaster? Instead the gig seems to have gone down very well indeed, the band re-creating five songs from their debut LP (the five simplest?) as well as previewing three from their second LP including recent single ‘The Wall Street Shuffle’. What’s interesting in retrospect is the ratio of the vocalists. In time it will become obvious that Eric is their natural frontman (good looking, that voice, that guitar, that haircut) but here the vocals are about equal: actually Lol gets the most vocals of the night (including two hit singles) with three to Eric’s two and Graham’s one while poor Kevin doesn’t get any (it is hard to sing and play the drums at the same time – they’ll rectify this by their next tour). The first words sung by 10cc live on stage? The characteristically unlikely ‘One fine day I started riding home…’ I’ve always wondered why 10cc were booked to play the Isle of Man (off the coast of Liverpool) as their first show – it’s not that local to home town Stockport, it’s too big to ‘hide’ if the band went down badly and too small to kick off a big tour and interest the press, it’s the sort of job in front of holiday-makers artists tend to do on their way up (or down) when they can’t get anything bigger. The ‘Palace Lido’ started life as the ‘Palace Pavilion Ballroom’ –with the biggest ballroom in Britain – and is now ‘The Palace’ Cinema by the way, seating 5000 in its day (though now oddly its 400 cinema seats. Are we all getting fatter and is it all that popcorn?) However the band are soon booked to play bigger and bigger gigs eventually leading up to their only festival date of their ‘original’ run…

2)  Where: Knebworth Park Festival When: August 21st 1976 Why: Biggest  Gig?  Setlist: [42] Un Nuit En Paris [31] The Worst Band In The World [63] Good Morning Judge [35] SSSSSSSSSSSSilly Love [61] Don’t Hang Up! [33] Old Wild Men [30] The Wall Street Shuffle [7] Neanderthal Man [5] Run Baby Run [25] Ships Don’t Just Disappear In The Night (Do They?!?!?) [23] Rubber Bullets [56] I’m Mandy, Fly Me [45] The Second Sitting For The Last Supper [43] I’m Not In Love

This is – I think – the biggest audience 10cc ever played to at a gig (200,000?) most remembered for a rare post-Altamont festival appearance by headliners The Rolling Stones. Music historians also remember it as a rare British appearance by Lynyrd Skynyrd before their deadly airplane crash the following year. As for 10cc, it was a big deal too. The final gig after a lengthy and weary 1976 tour, though the band didn’t know it this would end up being their last performance on stage with Kevin and Lol until the brief reunions in 1992. The band were hit with problems from the first when there was a delay setting the stage up, with the crowd growing restless after several delays. Then when the band did appear the sound system started playing up. Many fans at the back missed the opening part of their set and the band played on oblivious – when it did come back on they were about to play ‘Don’t Hang Up’, the quietest song of their set which didn’t exactly grab the crowds. Godley and Crème left partly because they hated the new material their colleagues were coming up with and didn’t know what to play on them. Interestingly one of those songs makes the setlist, with this the only time Godley and Crème ever played on future single ‘Good Morning Judge’. This set is also notable for a two-song return to the ‘Hotlegs’ days, now six years old, with both ‘Neanderthal Man’ and ‘Run Baby Run’ part of the setlist. ‘Un Nuit En Paris’ is also an extraordinary and ambitious set opener, even condensed from the fourteen minutes on record and ‘The Worst Band In The World’ is a daring song to play so early on in front of people at a festival who aren’t necessarily all going to be your fans! Reports say that the biggest cheer was during ‘I’m Mandy Fly Me’ when 10cc sang ‘like a rolling stone I’m inside looking in…’ expectant crowds who were impatiently waiting for the headliners assumed they were about to take the stage and started screaming but still had another two songs to get through first. A film crew did attend the event to film Lynyrd Skynyrd (their footage can be seen in the documentary film ‘Freebird’) and rumours long abounded that at least the audio of 10cc’s set was recorded professionally for possible release as the band’s first live album. ‘Rubber Bullets’ and ‘I’m Not In Love’ must have been taped by a professional film crew for something and survives, in very poor condition it has to be said with the band still beset by sound issues, ‘Bullets’ stretched out to thirteen meandering minutes with Kevin losing his way during a lengthy drum solo. The band seem happy enough with each other though, with lots of smiles between Eric and Lol trying to outdo each other in ‘rock poses’. Meanwhile both men play piano on ‘Love’ while the tapes play the synthesised ‘aaahs’ and the band cut the entire ‘big boys don’t cry’ bit to keep the song to a compact four minutes. Some photos do exist too and oddly show the band with their back to the audience (especially when Eric is on the piano – did they not have room to turn it round on stage?) The full set has yet to come to light, however, if indeed it was ever filmed. Note that the band’s last performance, barring one final encore with that year’s biggest song ‘I’m Not In Love’, is ‘Second Sitting For The Last Supper’. Which nine months later also happens to be …

3)  Where: Apollo Theatre, Glasgow, Scotland When: May 27th 1977 Why: First Post-Split Gig Setlist: [45] The Second Sitting For The Last Supper [25] Ships Don’t Just Disappear In The Night (Do They?!?!?) [27] Waterfall [30] The Wall Street Shuffle [43] I’m Not In Love [56] I’m Mandy Fly Me [58] Art For Art’s Sake [63] Good Morning Judge [64] The Things We Do For Love [66] People In Love [67] Modern Man Blues [70] You’ve Got A Cold [65] Marriage Bureau Rendezvous [68] Honeymoon With B Troop [71] Feel The Benefit

The first song played by the new-look band led by Eric and Graham, as if to say ‘where were we? Oh yes!’ This concert then marks the debut of three new members of the band on stage: Rick Fenn (whose still in the band now), Tony O’Malley and Stuart Tosh. This setlist is much like the official concert album ‘Live and Let Live’ recorded in London and Manchester a month and two months later (albeit in a different order in some cases) and is high on songs from new album ‘Deceptive Bends’ as well as the live debut of single ‘Art For Art’s Sake’ that never was performed by the Godley-Crème era band live. Again it’s interesting that 10cc should re-launch themselves here at this middling sort of venue: it’s too big to hide if the new-look band with so much riding on them goes wrong but it’s hardly the sort of place to show the press what you can do (Scotland’s too far for most of them to travel for one thing, unless you’re at a really big arena) while the Stockport bound band had no obvious links to the area. The shows were particularly well regarded at the time for their back projections at a time when this sort of thing was quite new – most of it features Eric and Graham mucking about in the diving suits from the ‘Deceptive’ album cover. Alas this gig doesn’t exist in any format, but the Hammersmith Odeon one that made the record does.

4)  Where: Winter Gardens, Margate, UK When: October 20th 1983 Why: Final Gig  Setlist: [22] Rubber Bullets [35] SSSSSSSilly Love [48] Life Is A Minestrone [56] I’m Mandy, Fly Me [114] 24 Hours [30] The Wall Street Shuffle [110] Runaway [64] The Things We Do For Love [63] Good Morning Judge [118] City Lights [58] Art For Art’s Sake [108] Lying Here With You [84] From Rochdale To Ocho Rios [115] Oomachasooma (Feel The Love) [74] Dreadlock Holiday [43] I’m Not In Love [71] Feel The Benefit

And here is where the journey ends, at least the first time round. By now 10cc have changed a lot in style and execution. Now in snappy suits with short hair and several periphery musicians in tow, they look more like Madness than the prog rockers they always were. Eric is still recovering from the car crash that nearly killed him in 1980 and keeps his sunglasses on the whole time, partly to protect his eyes. Sadly though, with Graham naturally quiet on stage and no one else to make introductions, this also makes it feel as if the band are distant from us somewhat. Thankfully the music is quite brilliant, with 10cc performing three songs from their masterpiece out that very same month ‘Windows In The Jungle’ and classic B-side ‘Runaway’ (the only live performances these songs will ever have is on this tour). None of them sound quite as sharp as the record somehow and ‘City Lights’ especially lacks punch, but its brave to have a stab at such complex works like this on stage. This gig doesn’t exist in any form sadly, but one from three days earlier – at the Hammersmith Odeon once again – does and was broadcast on UK TV. The last words the band sang on stage from their uninterrupted run? ‘If all the people in the world could sing together how would it sound? What would we feel?’  That would be it for nine years. Two reunion albums later and we arrive at…

5)  Where: Esbjerg Rock Festival When: June 3rd 1995 Why: Last Gig (Sort Of!) Setlist: [58] Art For Art’s Sake [56] I’m Mandy, Fly Me [  ] Welcome To Paradise [63] Good Morning Judge [  ] Take This Woman [30] The Wall Street Shuffle [  ] The Night The Stars Didn’t Show [  ] Margo Wants The Mustard [18] Sand In My Face [  ] Code Of Silence [  ] Ready To Go Home [64] The Things We Do For Love [71} Feel The Benefit [74] Dreadlock Holiday [43] I’m Not In Love [22] Rubber Bullets [35] SSSSSSSSSSSilly Love [48] Life Is A Minestrone ‘Johnny B Goode’ (sample setlist from same tour)

This isn’t, of course, the final 10cc gig technically. Graham and Rick still tour under the 10cc name to this day and are more prolific than ever in terms of the gigs they’ve notched up. However this is the gig that feels like the end of an era – the last one to feature Graham and Eric alongside each other on stage. At the time the two weren’t getting on at all well. Unwilling to make music together at all, they’d only revived the 10cc name after their record label Mercury reminded them that they still owed two albums. 1995’s ‘Mirror Mirror’ is a sad album for fans, with Graham and Eric dividing the album up between them and the pair never working together in the studio on an album that’s effectively two solo albums stuck together. So the fun on this tour is seeing them play on the other’s tracks for the only time with two songs apiece, with only Rick for company this time. The best part of the show is a new format though – an acoustic set in the middle where the three perched on stools to play these songs. There’s a very surprise revival of ‘Sand In My Face’ for the first time in two decades too! The very last song played by the band on stage? Erm, Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B Goode’, a song the band had never played before this tour – no I wasn’t expecting that either, but then this is a band who always like to give us the unexpected!

Sometimes when artists pick up that musical baton they pay tribute to their heroes by covering their favourite songs. Here are three covers that we consider to be amongst the very best out of the ones we've heard (and no we haven't heard them all - do you know how many AAA albums out there are out there even without adding cover songs as well?!) The 10cc catalogue doesn’t hold quite as many songs ripe for covering by other bands as some other AAA acts. 10cc tend to go for the maximum sound and invention they can so there’s little point in copying many of their songs, while most bands wouldn’t get their weird or surreal humour. Most of their cover versions are restricted to the obvious ones: [43] ‘I’m Not In Love’ [64] ‘The Things We Do For Love’ and [23] ‘Rubber Bullets’ (oddly I can’t find a single decent version of this song aside from the original, even though it’s 1950s good humour and riffs seem like an obvious starting point for so many different directions it could go). To date there has yet to be a full 10cc tribute CD either, the way there are for so many other AAA bands out there. Thankfully it’s not all bad and these three cover songs at least are all inspired in their own ways.

1)  [43] I’m Not In Love (Richie Havens, ‘The End Of The Beginning’, 1976)

There are – would you believe – around a hundred cover version of ‘I’m Not In Love’ out there and probably more I haven’t tracked down yet. Almost all of them are wretched and a struggle to sit through for more than a few seconds: they’re slow, they’re pompous, they’re performed without the ‘loved up’ voice of Eric Stewart that makes what’s actually quite a cruel lyric sounds believable and few budgets stretch to the sheer delight of the synthesised ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. You can always rely on Woodstock opening act Richie Havens to have a go, though and his version of the song is a masterpiece. Tougher than the original, with a full band sound covering for the synthesisers, he somehow finds some gospel strings to pull in the original and turns the song into a weary sigh. This narrator sounds as if he knows that he’s genuinely in love, but can’t go through with it for whatever reason (maybe he’s in an arranged marriage?) Richie’s rough sandpaper vocal removes all the awed beauty and gooey eyes of 10cc’s original for some hand-wringing and pained ‘no no nos’. The result is an excellent cover that’s very different to the original (it dispenses with the entire ‘big boys don’t cry’ passage for a start, replacing it with a synth solo) but somehow just as emotional.

2)  [64] The Things We Do For Love (Karen West, A-Side, 1982)

Karen is something of a one-hit wonder, he one hit being her down-to-earth no-nonsense cover of this song five years after the original. Starting her career as a backing singer, she recorded this song simply on the side in between sessions and was surprised when it became a big hit. It’s nice hearing this song done more simply than 10cc did it and on a far smaller budget (there’s just a piano and some synth drums throughout) you can hear just how much of the prettiness is in the song not the 10cc production values. There’s a nice soaring quality on the ‘oooh you got me…’ chorus and an odd and very 1980s sound effect that sounds like Karen was playing a computer game while doing some overdubs. The result was a surprise hit maybe but it’s heartfelt and her vocal nails the ups and downs of love in the original rather well. Sadly Karen looked elsewhere for more material, with two flop sequels taken from the Cliff Richard back catalogue that deserved to sink without trace, and went back to singing backup vocals. It’s a shame she didn’t hook up with 10cc on their reunion tours, where I suspect she would have sounded rather good.

3)  [33] Old Wild Men (Steve Hogarth, ‘Live Spirit, Live Body’, 2002)
Marillion’s lead singer (known in the band and to fans as simply ‘H’, but not to be confused with the wally from S Club 7) must have an impressive record collection as he’s always trying to slot a few forgotten gems from the 1970s into his solo shows. Here’s one of the very best, an unexpectedly faithful cover version of Kevin and Lol’s gorgeous song from 10cc’s second album ‘Sheet Music’. Singing with a similar sweet falsetto to Kevin, Hogarth still manages to get the sweet ‘n’ sour feel of the original on a song about old men ‘waiting for miracles’ and there’s a clever guitar part that manages to do single-tracked what three guitarists and a gizmo put together for the finished album. Heard like this, with less effects, you realise just what a pretty song this is.


'How Dare You!' (1976)

'Meanwhile' (1992)

'Mirror Mirror' (1995)

Pre-10cc: 1965-1973, A Guide to Mindbenders, Mockingbirds and Frabjoy and Runciple Spoon!

Non-Album Songs Part One 1972-1980

Non-Album Songs Part Two 1981-2006

Surviving TV Clips, Music Videos and Unreleased Recordings

Solo/Wax/Live/Compilation Albums Part One 1971-1986

Solo/Wax/Live/Compilation Albums Part Two 1987-2014

Landmark Concerts and Cover Versions

10cc Essay: Not-So-Rubber Bullets

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