Wednesday 27 June 2018

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Here are fifteen key songs from The Beach Boys back catalogue to play while you read our book!!!

AAA 1) Beach Boys by Alan Pattinson

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Copy of Copy of AAA 1) Beach Boys by Alan Pattinson

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Monday 25 June 2018

10cc Essay: Not-So Rubber Bullets!

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

Occasionally the people around me ask me what book I’m working on. Very occasionally I tell them (all those ‘who are they? And when are you getting to the Spice Girls?’ jokes are getting old now). The response to my various drafts of all things Tencc can be separated into three categories that I’m sure all of you who are fans enough to be reading this can identify with. ‘Ten what? Oo the hell are they?’ is the biggest response, scoring around half of all the people we surveyed. ‘Why are you doing such a drippy band? I thought you liked rock music?’ comes from about thirty per cent more who seem to have confused [43] ‘I’m Not In Love’ and [64] ‘The Things We Do For Love’ as representative of the other one-hundred-and-fifty songs in this volume. And my second-favourite response: ‘What on earth can you possibly say about a comedy band?’ (Closely followed by my favourite response ‘isn’t it about time you had a lie down and stopped writing? I think you’re getting delirious – there can’t possibly have been a band with that name’. Things get worse when I try to explain where the name 10cc comes from – whichever of the two explanations I give, the least controversial of which still involved mentioning Jonathan King).
Are 10cc a comedy band? I like to think they are. They have a deliciously wicked sense of humour that matches my own, one where every establishment figure and every societal norm is fair game for their biting humour. Their wordplay, especially in the early days, is second to none: never have I heard a song with more jokes in it per square inch than [20] ‘The Dean and I’ and I say that knowing I inevitably probably missed a few there somewhere. This isn’t obvious humour either: I know of no other band who ever lived who would write a song about the topical 1970s setting of a bomb on board a plane from the point of view of the bomb itself! ([34] ‘Clockwork Creep’). Or a band who have such a view of the absurd that even themselves are fair game (there are many great responses to fame coming calling in the AAA circles from Oasis’ ‘but of course!’ purr of ‘Morning Glory’ to The Kinks’ cynical ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’ through to The Who’s ha-ha-ing that they were filling in a hole as a ‘Substitute Rolling Stones’ but my favourite will always be the ‘why the hell did you lot buy our records? Are you thick or something?!?’ shock of [31] ‘The Worst Band In The World’). Not every 10cc song is funny – indeed my favourite music from the brief finale in the early 1980s is about as funny as a Conservative Government announcing more spending cuts without the letters falling off the wall behind them to ease the monotony and hopelessness – but it’s fair to say that most of their songs are meant to be heard with a chuckle or a throaty roar.
For many fans that’s enough. 10cc are the jesters to rock music’s crown in the 1970s. They’re there to lighten up the top forty and spent so long waiting for the big time (after roles in several leading band of the 1960s) that by the time they got to the top of the tree a second time they know that the idea of rock musicians having anything deep to say is ridiculous. What I love about this band though as opposed to, say, The Beautiful South is that they don’t just exist to be laughed at and they can do more than cute. There are some really bitey teeth going on underneath the humour and they always had a clever balance which means you don’t have to dilute the message just because you’re laughing your head off – and equally you don’t feel the punchline any less just because they’ve metaphorically punched somebody or something that deserved to be punched. In drama terms they’re the rare world where drama and comedy can exist side-by-side, where the fact that you’re just been laughing your head off at something a second ago doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to be crying now. They’re a ‘Mash’ comedy, not a slapstick comedy, where the humour comes from acknowledging that you’re living in a surreal world where if you didn’t externalise how mad it was you’d go insane yourself.
To some extent 10cc’s career was set after the success of their debut single [19] ‘Donna’ . This is an interesting one because it wasn’t the debut of the performers (who’d been working for three years together by this point under a variety of disguises and around ten separately somewhere in the music business), just the name. 10cc had tried everything with the public in an attempt to get a hit, most successfully with the surreal nuttiness of [7] ‘Neanderthal Man’ but also with pure heartfelt emotion (‘Umbopo’ credited to ‘Doctor Father’) and quirky purely comic hit singles (‘There Ain’t No Umbopo’ credited to ‘Crazy Elephant’). Fed up of getting nowhere with their brand of quirky humour they actually planned to release the gorgeous [27] ‘Waterfall’ as the A-side, a gorgeous slice of mystical prog rock that doubles as a marine love song, with ‘Donna’ a last minute B-side until public reaction and Jonathan King’s intervention saw the sides turned around. How different 10cc’s career might have been with ‘Waterfall’ the hit song with dark and brooding thoughtful songs their stock in trade. Instead Britain fell in love with a dark doo-wop number about what’s arguably secretly quite an abusive relationship between Donna and the narrator hidden behind all the joking. When this song, which reads like a drama but sounds like a comedy the way the band do it, became a hit it rather set the tone for everything else that followed, with 10cc veering from one side of comedy-drama to the other.
At first the sequel decided to copy the fake doo-wop but [17] ‘Johnny Don’t Do It’ didn’t click with the public because it’s not as funny – or as serious. Instead the defining moment came when 10cc came up with another song that reads like heartbreak but sounds funny. [23] ‘Rubber Bullets’ was celebrated as a hysterically funny comedy song about a prison riot which is clearly a pastiche of 1950s movies set in prison like ‘Jailhouse Rock’. However it’s not a gentle pastiche – instead it comes with fangs, with not an inch of mercy to be found anywhere. Yes the prisoners are written as if they’re dancing at a ball when they’re really dodging bullets and yes Lol, Graham and Kevin do draw the parallels between a party and a riot (‘They’re having a tear-gas of a time!’) But these bullets aren’t rubber and they sting like hell: just listen to the venom that’s dripping from Lol’s voice who has never sounded this angry. Or Graham’s uncharacteristic comic cameo as the jail owner who ‘loves to hear convicts squeal’ and longs to use real truncheons instead of rubber ones. Or Kevin’s angelic choirboy as the police chief thinking about his medals and honours as he brings on the padre to make the prisoners think about God and stop what they’re doing. It’s completely out of touch for what the prisoners want: respect and maybe better conditions that make prisoners better people when they come out the other side than when they went in. The verses tell us that the people who go in to stop things are only using rubber bullets. But what if they weren’t? It’s only a step away from someone getting hurt (the flipside of almost all comedy, whether physical or verbal, against someone else or against the person telling the joke) and it makes you think: if everyone takes it to the next level the next time this won’t be compared to a party as it will be a funeral. Though 10cc maintain the feel that everything is a party until the ending, the lyrics say something different: ‘We don’t understand why you called in the national guard, when Uncle Sam is the one who belongs in the exercise yard!’ If that line had been an editorial in a newspaper column the writer would have been thrown to the Republicans and never be allowed to write another article again, but this band have realised very quickly that if they treat a song as a ‘comedy’ they can get away with things that protest singers can’t. You just know, though, that this is a song that’s less about laughing at the jail antics than asking why these riots take place. This first #1 hit even comes with the middle hook that turns to the world and asks ‘what you gonna do about it?’ as the prisoners break their chains. ‘What you gonna do?’ Sadly 10cc never played a prison concert Johnny Cash style during their time together but you sense this song’s mixture of ironic celebration and grimaced frustration would have been a huge hit with the convicts inside. ‘Rubber Bullets’ pulls no punches despite the fact that the song itself references the idea that it’s aiming softened blows at a target it really wants to kick in the shins; but a song that came out and said that would not have been a #1 hit that got the general public talking about these issues – it would have been banned from radioplay and we’d have never heard of 10cc again.
For their next big target 10cc pick bankers. In the age of the credit crunch most of probably think ‘why didn’t they go further?’ but for 1974 [30] ‘The Wall Street Shuffle’ is a pretty hard-hitting little song. Once again we’re at a dance, but the people who dance are doing so with our money, our taxes, our hard-earned pay. Eric’s vocal drips with an ice-cold venom even Lol couldn’t match as he portrays a cold hard banker getting rich on everyone’s money who doesn’t have time (or sympathy) for the homeless he sees on the streets. Eric imagines the bankers with their priorities twisted, lured by bits of green paper to the exclusion of anything else, to the point of selling their mothers (‘You can buy another!’) as he cries ‘you’re living on instinct’ – and the problem with instinct is it doesn’t have a heart. There’s a namecheck for Howard Hughes too, amongst the richest yet most unhappiest of men, locked away in a cocoon of his making, paranoid of the germs that people lived amongst to the point where he cut himself off from being able to enjoy his money with anybody. This is a song that cries for the bankers as much as us because everybody loses: the bankers lose their humanity as they lose touch with humanity while the rest of us suffer from a lack of money when these people’s spare change would make so much difference to ‘us’. Tell me another song from the 1970s pop world – the middle of three peaks in the Cold War – that could get away with saying out loud what a terrible system capitalism was and is and still have a top ten hit with it (just about anyway).
In case you’re thinking I’m getting carried away and 10cc just wrote songs to laugh at – sometimes you’re right. But it’s the brand of humour that’s interesting. This shift in writing is a far cry from the humour with which the band could have done, such as when 10cc started as ‘Hotlegs’ which is more quirky than thoughtful. [7] ‘Neanderthal Man’ is a great song but its most definitely not one you’re meant to analyse and think about deeply or  read between the lines of the lyric sheet for (all studio albums under the 10cc name came with lyric sheets, at a time when not every band did this automatically). I adore the cavemen chant of [1] ‘Um Wah Um Who’ but it’s meant to take us back to the start of music-making, not forward to the contemporary day and the problems people face. Equally [9] ‘Desperate Dan’ is one of the funniest, silliest things 10cc ever dad but the idea of a comic strip hero eating cowpie doesn’t excite my subconscious the way other 10cc songs do. Equally even 10cc’s serious songs have something going on in them – [61] ‘Don’t Hang Up!’, a devastating song about a longterm relationship going wrong and waiting for your lover to dump you is livened up no end by the wordplay that includes a cameo from the local dustbinmen commenting on the relationship and a line that skirts as close as any band can dare get away with on 1970s radio to the word ‘mass debating’ (which is, uhh, really easy to mishear). This is surely deliberate too because so many Hotlegs songs come over as po-faced – you spend thirteen whole minutes sitting through [13] ‘Suite FA’ for a punchline but the only joke the band can manage is the one in the song title.
It’s not just the A-side either – early album songs also laugh while crying and on which the band can get away with things that just wouldn’t work if they were all comedy or all serious. Can you imagine a band this young sneering at all the reporters getting stuff about them wrong? They’d be told to stop being so wimpish and look on it as the downside of fame. Yet 10cc can safely write a song like [21] ‘Headline Hustler’ and pretend it’s a comedy about a reporter whose so eager to score a scoop he doesn’t realise that the joke is on him; he’s meant to represent the public who send him letters ‘but I haven’t got time’ and he’s stabbing everybody around him in the back, little realising that they’re going to stab him too. He’s a pathetic little figure who is creating his own comeuppance – had someone outside done it to him we’d be accusing 10cc of being too cruel but being hoisted on your own petard is fair game in comedy. [25] ‘Ships Don’t Just Disappear In The Night (Do They?!?!?)’ makes fun of fear and paranoia in a song no other band could have possibly created. It’s a natural response to human living to be afraid of death and all it entails. We don’t know what comes next and don’t want to acknowledge that out short time on Earth might all be for nothing. But it’s hard to get a song like that on an album – so in 10cc’s hands it becomes a question about ghosts and zombies with the cheery chorus that ‘you better be nice to Vincent Price’ because his ghost might come to get you and take you other to the other side. [26] ‘Fresh Air For My Mama’ reads like an utterly devastating song – it’s the tale of a slum kid who is desperate to make money so he can rescue his mother from the bad part of town and get her some ‘fresh air’. But there are so many kids doing the same thing that it takes him ages and then she dies, in poverty. Two minutes in the song switches gears from wry chuckle to needing some tissues to cry into as we return to a re-make of an older song ([3] ‘You Didn’t Like It Because You Didn’t Think Of It’) which sounded out of place there in the middle of a jazzy jam but makes perfect sense here. ‘Take me away. I’m just about ready to hit the road – and I’ve got to believe in something’.
Some 10cc songs just sound funny but are actually all-sad when you look at them properly. [33] ‘Old Wild Men’ is sung in the same wry chuckle-voice of 10cc’s most famous songs, but it’s really about a youthful rock and roll band in old age, hanging around an old folk’s home and still ‘waiting for a miracle’ and a chance to show what they can do. For a band like 10cc, who’d waited a long time to be a success in one configuration or another, it’s clearly not a joke at all. [24] ‘Hospital Song’ is performed by Lol as if he’s in ‘Carry On Hospital’ in an effort to lighten the mood when he’s really such a scared man coming round after an operation and really needing the loo. Then there’s the chilling [22] ‘Speed Kills’ with its comic riff and a rare example of four-way harmonies that sounds like it’s going to be a cute song – but is really about speed-driving, the idea that the narrator got away with it this time (but might not next time he tries it). [37] ‘Baron Samedi’ sounds like a cartoon version of a cannibal, but what he’s really up to in between the origami of his victim’s bodies is blatant murder. At last [32] ‘Hotel’ sounds as if it’s a genuinely funny song about Americans away from home and completely out of place in an African tribe and their stupidity – and even that song steps outside itself for an angry middle eight as the poor tribe turns on their potential benefactors with the lines: ‘We’re sick of all things American, we ate our way through half the Pentagon, Yankee go home!’ As for [38] ‘Sacro-Iliac’, as fun as it is to hear a dance especially for the old and disabled that only they can do so they can keep up with the youngsters and abled, I still can’t hear this song without wincing.
Things turn darker on third album ‘The Original Soundtrack’ (even though it contains the first 10cc song that is an out and out comedy with no hidden motives – [49] ‘The Film Of My Love’, which really doesn’t fit). [42] ‘Un Nuit En Paris’ is a tale of corruption, a whorehouse that exploits its girls and can’t be shut down in a raid because the chief of police ‘was up in my boudoir with some other fella’. Funny as all the voices are, it’s corruption and scandal like this that means the poor and struggling are always going to struggle. [43] ‘I’m Not In Love’ has the joke on the narrator with the idea that he can’t see that he’s in love and is letting a beautiful potential life-changing romance drift away from him, with comical ideas as he gets out of the relationship-that-isn’t with all sorts of comic excuses. [44] ‘Blackmail’ too has the joke on the narrator and again deals with scandal as he’s a nasty piece of work – desperate to make a girl go out with him, he blackmails her by filming her every time she goes to the loo. He sells the pictures to a magazine and is shocked to have turned her into a star that is too far above him to ever want to date him. [46] ‘Brand New Day’ is about a slave whose really happy with his lot in life, fooling you into thinking that this is a sweet song about having a long and happy life to look forward to – until you realise how ironic this song is (it represents a change in tactic too as Kevin sings this song ‘straight’ for his change and it’s his angelic vocals as much as anything else that doesn’t give the game away until right near the end). [47] ‘Flying Junk’, meanwhile, is about that laugh-out-loud subject: drug addiction. The song is about a sleazy dealer whose your best friend but only as long as you have money, making income off the people he got addicted. [48] ‘Life Is A Minestrone’ is another dark song about what it means to die – that then decides to compare it to a ‘cold lasagne’.
And then there’s this song. [45] ‘Second Sitting For The Last Supper’ is a blasphemous joke about how the Bible can’t be right because if God thought things were a mess enough two thousand years ago to send us his only son then surely we’d have a whole tribe of them running round now things are so bad in the modern age. Underneath the jokes though is the thought that underlines many a 10cc song: the poor are starving, the blacks are being discriminated against, the women don’t have equal opportunities and lie is unfair for everyone; on that evidence even non-believers start thinking ‘you’d better come down’ (actually this is an interesting song for this band to write. We’ve tried to be relatively equal on the religion front in the AAA books so you can read about Christianity in the Byrds book, Sikhism and Hare Krishna in our George Harrison book and Cat Stevens’ conversion to Islam in our book on Cat/Yusuf Islam. Most of 10cc met at Jewish Boy’s Brigade, which is basically Scouts without the woggles, not that you’d know it from their music where this is their only religious song). The world is a wicked place, but you’ve got to laugh – because otherwise you’d cry.
I’m not quite sure what happened on ‘How Dare You!’ (the band were breaking up) but the ethos changes again. The Stewary-Gouldman songs [56] ‘I’m Mandy Fly Me’ and [58] ‘Art For Art’s Sake’ are gentler digs than before, imagining a James Bond-style film epic where a man hallucinates being saved from a plane wreck by a pretty air stewardess and a landscape where the creative world exists to serve money not the other way around. Godley-Crème, meanwhile, have gone weirder: [55] ‘I Wanna Rule The World!!!’ is the sound of a psychotic who clearly isn’t in charge of his marbles never mind should be let loose on an entire planet, with the hinted theme that he’s got to this breaking point after being bullied his whole life (what usually happens in the 10cc universe is that the nastier we are to people, the nastier they are to us and why can’t everybody just get along?) [60] ‘Head Room’, meanwhile, is a horny teenager’s desperation to understand sexual words he doesn’t quite understand yet and perhaps the makings of a sexual deviant who won’t be satisfied the normal ways (was he too not shown enough loving as a kid?) Only when the two duos meet in the middle do they sound like their old selves: the highlights of the record are [59] ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Lullaby’ (in which weary parents try to croon their child off to sleep with some swear words hoping he won’t notice or understand them) and [54] ‘Lazy Ways’, an ode to being lazy that sounds like one of the busiest productions 10cc ever made. Godley-Crème admitted that they didn’t like the recent batch of their partner’s songs and Gouldman-Stewart probably concurred. Did they both ‘forget’ to use their traditional template on this album? Had they outgrown it? Or had they simply never noticed it was there?
To some extent the band stay in their separate grooves from now on. Godley- Crème make some truly bonkers albums that sacrifice emotion for intelligence for the most part (though highlighted by the gorgeous ‘Freeze Frame’, their most drama-comedy album, in which singing toasters despair that they can’t move and live full lives and in which an Englishman is completely alien in New York, a world that works to different rules he doesn’t understand). Gouldman-Stewart, though, get more serious. There are exceptions (the chord-name referencing [69] ‘I Bought A Flat Guitar Tutor’, the furious rocker [70] ‘You’ve Got A Cold’, the ‘I don’t like…I love it-ah!’ singalong chorus of their third #1 hit [74] ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, the ‘my broker is broker than me’ gag in [101] ‘Overdraft In Overdrive’) but for the most part the funny songs stop being funny because they’re too silly (the ‘old’ band would never have allowed a song as one-dimensional as [82] ‘Don’t Squeeze Me (Like Toothpaste)’ into the act, while single [63] ‘Good Morning Judge’ confused many people in being a tale of a habitual criminal who never learns rather than a ‘Rubber Bullets’ style plea for better understanding of the causes underlying crime rather than attacking the people who commit it.
Instead the humour works best when it gets very dark indeed. [79] ‘The Anonymous Alcoholic’ could be really funny had it been done by the earlier band, but instead this drunk chatting up his boss’ wife at a Christmas party who loses his job and his wife as a result is having a horrific time. [80] ‘Reds In My Bed’ has 10cc playing behind the Iron Curtain and trying to keep their British stiff-upper-lips despite all the poverty they see; paranoid about being bugged or mugged they realise the people around them just want money and food. [83] ‘Old Mr Time’ is a mad scientist everyone laughs at – but ‘we didn’t understand’ that he actually offered us the greatest gift of time-travel and we laughed in his face. [88] ‘Welcome To The World’ sounds like it will be a funny, sunny song – until you play it. Infants are being born to parents who don’t want them and can’t afford them, on an Earth whose population is rapidly outgrowing its means and where violence and misery are commonplace. Some welcome that is! [90] ‘Don’t Send We Back’ is the plight of refugees who know they will be doomed to an ugly death if they get deported, ‘we know you don’t want us’ they tell the officials, ‘but we’ve got no one’. Even the long awaited sequel to ‘Worst Band In The World’ titled [98] ‘We’ve Heard It All Before’ is darker, a band who have written themselves out of ideas because everything they do is always going to be compared to something that already exists. So why bother?
The last two 10cc albums are, for me, the epitome of why music exists. Delayed for a year that all but split up a group because of a car crash that nearly killed Eric Stewart, the band’s most prolific writer and singer is never quite the same past 1980. ‘Ten Out Of Ten’ is a dark album. It opens with [100] ‘Don’t Ask’, about a man whose recently been divorced breaking down at night when he’s all alone and misses his girl with all his heart. It includes [102] ‘Don’t Turn Me Away’ where a friend is rejected when all he is trying to do is help and understand someone else’s pain before realising that sadly he can’t – that he’s helpless to stop the misery. [103] ‘Memories’ tries hard to be a cute nostalgia song, but it can’t be that, not with what Eric has just been through, so instead it becomes a song about missing the ‘important’ parts of life that you held so tight when you were young, the halcyon days that meant so much to you once but got forgotten. [105] ‘Les Nouveux Riches’ is a morality tale about a girl who longs to have money so she can swan around and lord it over her lessers – only to find that because she’s ‘new money’ the people with ‘old money’ still lord it over her. And [106] ‘Action Man In Motown Suit’ is stuck in a career that doesn’t suit him at all but he’s so trapped in it he can’t escape. So much for belly-laughs.
10cc’s finale and their unsung masterpiece ‘Windows In The Jungle’ goes further. Eric writes about his near-death experience with the angry desperation of someone who needs to get a message across and the message is this: ‘stop wasting time’. Life is precious, the only things that really matter are who you love and who loves you and everything is window dressing, unworthy of even being laughed at. The album opens with the majestic [114] ‘24 Hours’, a song about a world waking up each day with so much potential that we then waste competing with each other when we should be helping. Every day could be treated as special, like our birthday, but instead we wait a year to make the most of the world and what we could do with it. Throughout the day the narrator is angered rather than amused by what he sees in the world: [115] ‘Oomachasooma’ sighs over how unlikely it is to find a loved one compatible enough to stay with you but our inbuilt desire to look for that nonexistent person anyway. [117] ‘Americana Panorama’ sighs over politics and the fact we might all get blown up any minute with the classic line ‘Reagan is a right banana!’ [118] ‘City Lights’ makes a break for a night out but it’s over in minutes after a busy dreary day – why are we living our lives this way round? Before too long we’re heading home in a [1231] ‘Taxi! Taxi!’ having learnt nothing, even though the narrator has spent all day thinking of his love and how to propose to her. No one else cares though – for them life is just another ordinary boring day and this romantic couple are just getting in their way when they want to shut up shop. Eric knows, though, how precious life is and how frightened he is that it could be snapped away at any time – the trouble is he can’t always afford a taxi-far home if he stops working and one day his beloved will have to make her own way home on the subway. Is it worth the risk though? There are lots of funny and clever moments on this LP, but it’s the fact that it’s so dark and bleak and serious, delivered by a band known for being so funny and light and commercial, that makes it all the more powerful. You’re almost lulled into a false sense of security if you hear their catalogue in order before it hits you how cruel, bizarre and twisted the world really is. After doing that the reunion albums fail not just because the band don’t want to make them and don’t work together that much (not to mention how uncharacteristically mean-spirited a lot of it is such as [  ] ‘Charity Begins At Home’) but because they’ve seen how important and precious life is and still waste our time on trivial songs that are there only to be funny and nothing more.
That’s not unique in comedic terms of course. Comics are often the saddest people in the room in real life (the world’s best comedians - Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, even Eric Morecambe in his fictional works – all were being eaten by something that made them miserable and the only way they could cheer themselves up was by making people laugh. There was something eating all of these men, who felt compelled to show how ridiculous life was. Surface comedians, like Sarah Millican or Michael McIntyre, just don’t have the depths to their jokes to see life as absurd and so will never make the most out of their humour). So it is with music’s funniest band: far from being court jesters who love being silly, 10cc are funny precisely because they *get* how dark and depressing life can be and yet choose to laugh at it anyway (at least until near-death experiences changed their outlook). Laughter is a great gift, a most under-rated technique for surviving the slings and arrows of misfortune, mistreatment, mis-treatment and mistakenly celebrated music (like The Spice Girls).
The few people who understand my 10cc fetish can assume that I’m into other comedy bands as well, that I guffaw to the deeply pretentious Beautiful South and that I groove to The Wombles while having a complete collection of Benny Hill singles. But they don’t do anything for me because the humour isn’t hiding anything, except how badly the writer wants a novelty hit to make them rich. 10cc, though, understand that the best comedy comes out of tragedy and that humour in music can be richer than the equivalent of someone slipping over on a banana skin. Yes 10cc can be hilarious. There are lots of their songs that make me laugh my head off even now several thousand playings on (we didn’t even get onto [35] ‘SSSSSSSSSSSSSSilly Love’ the greatest love song either, which throws away every cliché and comes up with something plain but heartfelt). There are other songs so deftly and cleverly written that you can’t help applauding (the complex lyrics to [36] ‘Somewhere In Hollywood’ and [61] ‘Don’t Hang Up!’ deserve an essay each themselves). But I love my 10cc best when they are making us laugh while turning red with anger the way they do on [23] ‘Rubber Bullets’ or [30] ‘The Wall Street Shuffle’, while making us long for change through the unfairness of [44] ‘Blackmail’ or [45] ‘The Second Sitting For The Last Supper’ or which merely remind us how fleetingly beautiful wonderful and magical life can be (Most of ‘Windows In The Jungle’). What’s one of the best things you can do with such a short, brilliant and pretty life? Why, laugh, the greatest gift human beings ever gave each other (that goes for music too).


'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

Otis Redding: Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Songs

You can now buy 'Change Gonna Come - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Otis Redding' 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! Otis never did play that many shows as a solo act and when he did it was usually as part of a ‘package tour’ with other performers where he only got three or four songs in. Even so, there are some truly key moments of the Otis story contained here, from his first beginnings at the bottom of a star studded bill to his appearance at maybe the most star-studded bill ever assembled anywhere in the history of music, a gig which Otis owned and which made him famous. Otis may have played maybe a hundred (two hundred?) shows in his brief lifetime but I tell you something too: in all my research I never ever found a bad review of one of his gigs, which is remarkable (the worst anyone ever said was that Otis was amazing and his support act Sam and Dave were somehow even better!)
 Where: Apollo Theatre, New York When: November 13th 1963 Why: First Gig Setlist: [  ] Pain In My Heart [  ] These Arms Of Mine
Otis was already a seasoned live performer pro by the time he made his first gig as a solo act, thanks to stints with Little Richard’s backing band ‘The Upsetters’ and his own group ‘The Pinetoppers’. However this first gig couldn’t have been more nerve-wracking with such a lot riding on it. Atlantic records had signed up the services of Otis as the bottom-of-the-bill act on a who’s-who of music headlined by Ben E King and featuring such other stars as The Coasters, Doris Troy and Rufus Thomas. As if that wasn’t enough, Atlantic were financing the live performance as a record – Otis’ first to be released, though he was already deep into sessions for his debut. The first time the world would hear Otis’ voice, then, was as effectively the warm-up act to these huge names and he only had one shot to get it right. Even performing in the auditorium would be nerve-wracking: the arena seated 1500 people – a good thousand more than Otis had ever played to before in one go.What’s more, Atlantic wouldn’t finance Booker T and the MGs to perform with him, so Otis was left singing to an unfamiliar backing band. What’s more, he got swindled: offered a then princely $400 for the performing and recording rights for two songs, it was the most money Otis had made in one night up to that time by far. Imagine his horror, then, when Atlantic informed him at the last minute that it had cost $450 to make up the sheet music for King Curtis’ Band to play his two allotted songs, which left him in debt. Otis was a wreck before going on, lonely and isolated in his dressing room and feeling sick. It took King Curtis, with whom Otis quickly struck up a rapport, to tell him: ‘You got this: forget all the sea of faces, pick out one and imagine you’re alone in the room with her’. The trick worked and Otis’ first released performance, captured for posterity on a strong-selling soul record, is a good ‘un, with Otis blowing the other much more established performers of the stage with two smoky ballads. A talent had arrived.

1)  Where: Apollo Theatre, New York When: September 10th 1965 Why: Breakthrough Gig USA Setlist: Respect I’ve Been Loving You Too Long That’s How Strong My Love Is Papa Got A Brand New Bag

It took nearly another two years of flop singles, missed opportunities and a slow hard slog through the club circuits until Otis came back to The Apollo Theatre (the in-place to go for black soul singers) as a headlining act in his own right. By now Otis is in a good place: third and classic album ‘Otis Blue’ is five days away from release, he’s got a whole bunch of songs in his setlist that show off his natural range and after rubbing shoulders with many of soul’s names as a fellow ‘nearly’ star, he now has the likes of Dee Dee Stewart, The Marvellettes and chief rivals Sam and Dave opening for him. This marks the first time Otis would have sung two of his most famous songs in public: ‘Respect’ some two years before Areths Franklin had a hit with it and a smoky new ballad ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’. ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’, meanwhile, had been in the set for ages but was a much talked about song in 1965 courtesy of recent cover versions by The Hollies and The Rolling Stones.  Interestingly Otis also performs a track that he rarely sang in public: James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’. Redding’s version won’t be released until the album ‘Live At The Whiskey-A-Go-Go’ many years after his death and suits him rather well, a tone down from James’ interpretation to become a slowly purring piece of funk rather than manic intensity.

2)  Where: Odeon Manchester UK When: September 17th 1966 Why: Breakthrough Gig UK Setlist: Unknown but sample from the same period consists of Respect My Girl Shake Day Tripper Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction Try A Little Tenderness

Though it took until the ‘Monterey’ performance of June 1967 for Otis to be a household name in his homeland, he was already a star in Europe thanks to a memorable tour there in 1966 on the back of strong sales for the ‘Otis Blue’ album. Peaking with this debut gig in Britain, Otis was regarded as a king of music in Europe where many of the day’s brightest and finest had namechecked him as a star of the future they admired – The Rolling Stones and The Animals, for instance, between them got Otis a coveted appearance on a ‘Ready Steady Go!’ TV special that year. Otis even had an ex Animal, Alan Price, as his ‘warm-up’ act for a coveted show that was the talk of the nation, for a few weeks at least. Perhaps more importantly, though, it’s the first time he worked with Booker T and the MGs on stage rather than just in the studio: aware that he needed a smaller band for financial costs, he reluctantly agreed that he would leave the Bar-Keys and the Mar-Keys behind and make the biggest splash possible (This pleased the organisers who also had the MGs as an act in their own right, playing their big 1962 UK hit ‘Green Onions’). By now Otis has a seriously strong live act, full of most of his celebrated classics, although unfortunately nobody thought to record this tour – it’s the more famous return the following year (with Otis the guinea pig for a whole troupe of Stax stars) that will be released posthumously as ‘Live In Europe’ and will be filmed for posterity, turned into the documentary-concert film of the same name. At the time of this show Otis admitted sheepishly to the Melody Maker that he’d never been out of America except for one brief holiday in Jamaica and had under-estimated the jetlag involved. Worryingly he talks about how excited he is to even be on a plane for only the second time in his life, a mere fifteen months before the one that will take his life. He must have put on a good show, though, as all the papers raved about him, as indeed they did for the rest of the brief tour. Otis did have to modify his setlist after this first gig though: told that his lyric in ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ of ‘a shaggy dress’ might be too rude (Americans don’t really have the slang term ‘shag’ for sex’) he made sure to sing the line as ‘shabby dress’ – over-exaggerating the enunciation to comic effect every time he sang it. The shows also marked the first time that Otis met his future duet partner Carla Thomas, who was also on the bill.

3)  Where: Monterey Pop Festival, California When: June 17th 1967 Why: Breakthrough Gig Planet! Setlist: Shake I’ve Been Loving You Too Long Respect (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction Try A Little Tenderness
The big one that made Otis a star! The Monterey Pop Festival was meant to celebrate all types of music around in the summer of love and the organisers (including The Mamas and The Papas and Paul Simon plus various Stones and Beatles) were adamant that black soul and r and b acts would have to be included to fulfil that request. At first, though, soul went down very badly with the ‘love crowd’ – on the Friday night Otis’ one-time rival Lou Rawls was the closest to a name act and his act went down poorly with the crowd. By the end of Saturday though, after so many free-wheeling psychedelic bands and Ravi Shankar, the crowd was growing restless. Not quite sure who Otis was, the crowd suddenly found that the performer had grabbed their attention. ‘Shake!’ bellowed Otis into the microphone, all trace of nerves gone, demanding the crowd join in with him, while working up a sweat. Otis was coming off the back of the 1967 European Stax tour and his confidence was sky-high. You can tell as rather than ignoring the crowd and singing to one woman he addresses everyone, commenting on the size and spectacle and treated the crowd intimately as if they’re all one person. This wasn’t just noisy soul either: Otis absolutely nailed his target audience, offering up a revved up Rolling Stones favourite to make up for those disappointed that band couldn’t come (though Brian Jones, in the crowd and a big Otis fan, must have loved it), a recent feminist anthem (‘Respect’ which Otis joked had just been ‘stolen’ from him) and aching ballad ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ which was so utterly perfect for its times with its mini-skirt dresses and talk of love. Otis nails the inter-song banter too, asking the audience ‘This is the love crowd, right? We all love each now don’t we? Let me hear you say yeah!!!!’ What the summer of love crowd wanted as much as love and peace and flowers, though, was authenticity and in Otis they found both. Within twenty minutes he went from being one of the most obscure acts on the bill to American white audiences to one of the most adored performers on the planet. Otis didn’t even get to play a full show (the second day of Monterey was over-running so badly he got yanked off stage after five songs, not the seven or eight he was planning to play) telling the audience ‘I gotta go – Lord, I don’t want to go!’ What are those other songs Otis might have played? Rumour is he had ‘Day Tripper’ all ready to go alongside ‘Satisfaction’ as his other tip of the hat to the 1960s’ premier bands who couldn’t show at Monterey (he used to perform ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ sometimes too), while he would surely have found room for his other major hits of the period ‘Mr Pitiful’ and ‘Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)’. By eliminating those two, though, Otis was canny: this wasn’t a day for pity or misery, this was a day for happiness. And he was no longer a lovable pitiable loser but the single hottest act on the planet. Overnight Otis’ back catalogue was suddenly high in the charts again, but the day changed Otis more than in terms of fame or money. The love and serenity and equality that he’d witnessed at Monterey fed its way into his writing and his last batch of songs are very different to the ones he played at the gig, influenced by the psychedelia and folk of the other acts around him. Otis was a changed man.
4)  Where: Leo’s Casino, Cleveland When: December 9th 1967 Why: Final Gig Setlist: Respect Try A Little Tenderness Knock On Wood Satisfaction Tramp (incomplete)
Unfortunately Otis didn’t live long enough for us to see much of that change on-stage. Just six months later here we are at his final show. Otis’ last full day on Earth was a very busy day as his promoters urged him to build up as much interest in his Christmas shows as he could. Otis and his Mar Keys and Bar Keys backing band criss-crossed America a lot, playing endless shows here and there (1967 is by far the busiest of his touring years). This week it was Cleveland’s turn, Otis playing three shows that week (this being the last) with an appearance on TV show ‘Upbeat’ in the afternoon. It apparently went down very well, as Otis had done all year; certainly the TV footage is some of Otis’ absolute best. The very next day they had a gig to play at the University of Wisconsin and took off, unwilling to cancel despite some nasty Wintry weather. Knowing that he had a busy few months ahead of him, Otis had even invested in an aeroplane in the Autumn for his band to speed things up, chartering a Beechcraft H18, one of the most successful plane types in the world (at least until 1969 when, partly due to its involvement in Otis’ death, it was pulled from service). Nobody quite knows what went wrong but, only four miles from home, their plane radioed in or help and a request for an emergency landing. They never made it. Instead the plane crashed into Lake Wisconsin, at the time packed full of deadly ice. Otis, four members of the Bar-Keys band, their valet and the pilot all died in the crash, with trumpet player Ben Cauley the only survivor (he had undone his seatbelt when he felt something might be wrong and got thrown clear of the wreckage) and Otis’ lifeless body was discovered the next day still in the seat he was strapped into. This mean that Cleveland unexpectedly became the site of his last full performance. Sadly we don’t have a full setlist for this show, which by Otis’ standards was one of his smallest gigs post-Monterey. It seems likely though that he would have ended the set the way he usually did with ‘Try A Little Tenderness’, while the last song he sang in public on that TV show was in retrospect an ironic choice: the ‘I need good luck’ song ‘Knock On Wood’. Otis never did get to sing in public a song he’d recorded that very same busy week ‘Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay’.

That passing on of the musical baton works the other way too and there are lots of acts who were in turn inspired by Otis. Some of them even covered his songs and in this other regular feature we give you 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 trouble with Otis is that he didn’t write all that many of his songs himself – perhaps ten released in his lifetime and another ten that came out posthumously. Perhaps that’s why to date Otis has only ever had the one ‘tribute’ LP ‘Soul Instinct’, which is unusual for an artist who died so young and so loved. Recorded live in 1993, it’s a bit of an oddball as live LPs go (even if Rufus Thomas in particular turns in a good set). Instead we’ve looked to three rather more studio-bound recordings for our list. Interestingly all three are covered by girls – why does Otis’ songs appeal so much to female singers I wonder?  Is it the tenderness underneath all that power? The fact that Otis, as ‘Mr Pitiful’, was more approachable by the other gender than other soul singers? The success of the irst big Otis cover song as listed here as our first entry? Or is it just that male singers know that they can’t ever get close to the original?

1)   [   Respect (Aretha Franklin, A Side, 1967)
‘I had this song that this girl stole from me, a good friend of mine, this girl she just took this song – but I’m still gonna do it anyway!’ That’s how Otis introduced this song to the Monterey crowd in June 1967 out of ‘respect’ to Aretha Franklin who had scored a huge hit with this track earlier in the year. Most of the crowd were surprised: Otis’ original was an album track that hadn’t made much impact and many in the crowd wondered why a man was huffing and puffing a feminist anthem on stage. The song wasn’t written that way originally though – knowing Otis he probably had the Civil Rights movement in the back of his mind when he wrote this song, although the starting point was a grumpy trip home in a tour bus with backing band The MGs when Otis was griping about getting ‘no respect’ and drummer Al Jackson’s response ‘well, maybe you’ll find respect at home’. Jerry Wexler, producer of Otis’ version, loved the song and recommended it to Aretha who back in 1967 was on the cusp of stardom and looking for a breakthrough song. She had never met Otis at the time of recording and was a bit nervous of it, having altered some of his words and arrangement along with the help of her backing singer sister Carolyn Franklin (this is where the ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T. tell you what it means to me’ version common to all the other cover versions that follow originates, along with soul’s first ever ‘sock it to mes’). Figuring the song needed  a bridge, Wexler then copied a part from a Sam and Dave song he liked ‘When Something Is Wrong With Me Baby’. The new arrangement was a huge hit,  spending two weeks at the top of Billboard (the only Otis song to do so in his lifetime), especially with the feminist movement who saw all sorts of things in this song that weren’t anywhere near Otis’ thoughts on the original. Thanks partly to Otis’ push at Monterey the song re-charted all over again in July 1967 and inspired a whole bunch more cover versions from Diana Ross to Joss Stone. Aretha’s remains the best, though, with the most heart and a liveliness that only Otis’ original can match.
2)  [  ] Security (Etta James A Side 1968)
I was always surprised that Otis and Etta’s careers never crossed paths – a similarly polite yet powerful singer, like Otis she combined the sheer power and charisma of Otis Redding with the subtlety and depth of an idol they shared, Sam Cooke (she even went to his funeral). Surely a far more suitable choice for the ‘King and Queen’ album of duets than Carla Thomas, Etta was only three years Otis’ senior but had already achieved a huge career before he’d even got going, scoring her first hit aged fifteen. Her career was on the wane by the time the Beatles came along and washed her style of r and b/jazz hybrid away and she was getting increasingly ill thanks to an addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers. Maybe some of that bleeds into her jaw-dropping performance of one of Otis’ more obscure original songs, released as a tribute to him just a few weeks after he died in early 1968. Rather than ‘respect’ Etta longs for ‘security, at any costs’ and this song is a good foil for Aretha’s cover, demanding faith and love from her man in a similarly powerful way. She doesn’t change as much as Aretha did, but does find the time to add a few lines here and there: ‘Your love is alright, but I need a little more honey!’ she cackles at one point. An impressive cover, also included on the album ‘Tell Mama’ which AAA fans might be intrigued to learn features the original of one of Janis Joplin’s most recorded songs as its title track.
3)  [  ] I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Cat Power ‘From The Dark End Of The Street’ 2008)
Timeless music never dates and I wonder how much of Cat Power’s 21st century audience realised that this song was forty years old at the time it was recorded here. Born Charlyn Marie Marshall in Atlanta, Georgia, local lad Otis was an obvious influence for this smoky-voiced former model. Otis’ slowest tempoed original ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ is a good match for Cat’s vocals as she teases out every note against a backing that’s more jazz than soul, though keeping in Steve Cropper’s increasingly fragile sounding guitar riffs. The drums a little bit heavy and boom-thwacky, but otherwise the arrangement is impressively simple and could itself have come straight out of the 1960s. Well worth hearing – Otis covers could become a habit to me after three of the better AAA trios out there.

A Now Complete List Of Otis Redding Articles To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

'The Soul Album' (1966)

'Complete and Unbelievable - The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul!' (1966)

‘King and Queen’ (1967, with Carla Thomas)

Surviving TV Footage 1965-1967 plus The Best Unreleased Recordings

Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums 1963-2014

Otis Redding Essay: It Takes Two – The Art Of Melancholy In Soul Music