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INTERVIEW: GRAHAM GOULDMAN, 10cc – September 2015

| 26 October 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW: GRAHAM GOULDMAN, 10cc – September 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

Graham Gouldman 10cc 01

Graham Gouldman’s 10cc bring their Greatest Hits tour to Australia this October and November, promising, “this is as near as you’re ever going to get to hearing the perfect 10cc. Hit after hit after hit. It’s relentless. We show no mercy.” SHANE PINNEGAR spoke with the hit writer, bass guitarist and singer on the line from his London home.

10cc Greatest Hits Tour 2015:

Wednesday 28th October, Perth, Astor Theatre
Friday 30th October, Melbourne, Palms At Crown
Saturday 31st October, Bendigo, Ulumbarra Theatre
Monday 2nd November, Frankston, Frankston Art Centre
Wednesday 4th November, Canberra, The Auditorium @ Vikings
Thursday 5th November, Wollongong, WIN Entertainment Centre
Friday 6th November, Sydney, Whitlam Theatre – Revesby Workers
Saturday 7th November, Gold Coast, Twin Towns Services Club
Sunday 8th November Airlie Beach, Airlie Beach Festival of Music

10cc logo
Reading through the history of 10CC, it seems Gouldman, Kevin Godley, Lol Creme and Eric Stewart pretty much met by accident and ended up as session writers, churning out minor hits as if on a production line, before starting the band which carried them to fame.

“Well, like all the good things, things happen by chance,” Gouldman chuckles. “We never sort of made a conscious decision to be a band. It was really the fact that we had our studio, that became really our home. That was the reason for us becoming a band in the first place. Although we were kind of like the house band of the studio, so we’d play on other people’s records, do backing vocals, and all sorts of things. Then when the studio wasn’t working, we would write songs just for our own amusement, really, until we did something that we thought was special, and then we thought, ‘we could be a band here,’ and it happened very, very quickly from there.”

After writing a string of hits for local bands and others including The Yardbirds, The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits, and spending time in New York working for Jerry Kasenatz and Jeff Katz as a contracted bubblegum hit writer, Gouldman returned to England and enlisted the help of the future 10CC members to record a bunch of his songs, churning out hits and misses under a huge array of different nom de plumes. Today he says he has no idea how many songs he wrote during that period.

“I couldn’t tell you. I mean, it’s hundreds, I would say.” A truly staggering output over a few short years. “I know,” he agrees. “Well, I have been doing it for quite a while. I’m always writing, I’m singing stuff. I’ve never actually counted them up. [laughing] I’m more interested if they get recorded, or become hits, and rather than the amount.”

At times during those years the quartet would write and record a couple of songs every day, prompting the question, did Gouldman have any methods or tricks up his sleeve to avoid repetition?

“First of all, the only time I was writing a lot, like doing two or three songs a day, was when I was working with Kasenetz-Katz, which was not my finest moment, I have to say. It was only a good experience in that I was working in New York, and got fed up with being there, and doing this stuff, [so I] said, ‘listen up, I’m involved in a studio back in the UK, and I want to do the recordings there’, which they agreed to. That was really part of what brought 10CC together. It wasn’t an artistically great time for me, but every cloud has a silver lining.

“To answer the question,” he continues, “I think every writer knows instinctively what not to repeat, what they’ve done. If you did, someone’s going to say, ‘excuse me, but we’ve already heard that bit of that song. You’ve used that before.’ I guess, as a writer, you just didn’t think of how not to do it.”

10cc in 1976 - Gouldman, Stewart, Creme and Godley L-R

10cc in 1976 – Gouldman, Stewart, Creme and Godley L-R

It’s still quite incredible how much material the original 10cc members did come up with in such a short period of time.

“I suppose it’s like anything, when you can’t do a certain thing,” he laughs. “Even if, to say, someone knows how to fix a car engine, but you aren’t able to… so you go, ‘well, that’s amazing!’”

Once the band did officially form and start releasing albums under the 10cc banner, their success was similarly staggering. Donna, Rubber Bullets, The Dean & I, The Wall Street Shuffle, Life Is A Minestrone, I’m Not In Love, Art For Art’s Sake, I’m Mandy Fly Me, The Things We Do For Love, Good Morning Judge and Dreadlock Holiday were all Top Ten singles in the UK, many of them charting well in the U.S., Australia and other countries as well. Gouldman says fans can expect to hear them all on this tour.

“Yeah absolutely! For Australia we’re doing just 10cc songs, nothing else at all. We are touring in New Zealand as well, afterwards, and there we do a thing called ‘Heart full of songs’, which refers to one of the early songs I wrote for The Yardbirds, and we have, in fact, kind of become our own opening act, in that we do an acoustic set just the four of us, which features songs that I wrote for other people during the ‘60s. We’re not doing it in Australia, though.”

Brace yourself for another disappointment: nobody should be holding their breath for a new 10cc album, either.

“No, that’s one thing I won’t do,” Gouldman says firmly. “I mean, I’m happy to have the name of the band 10cc, because it’s the music of 10cc. It doesn’t feel right for me to use the name as a new recording outfit, no.”

Is there a danger, then, that at some point you’re going to get looked on as merely a heritage act, rehashing the same old thing?

“You know, people can look on us exactly how they want to look on us,” he says with the confidence of a man who has nothing left to prove. “All I can tell you is that as time has gone on, for something that started as a bit of an accident, renewing the 10cc name, we’ve got busier, and busier, and busier. It’s all to do with the fact that it’s the songs which count more than anything, the songs are more important than the personnel of the band. The songs are the stars of the show. That’s why we can still do this.”

A quick look through the above list of top ten singles is enough to show that 10cc were reknowned for their quirky subject matter, often taking something mundane and twisting it into something unusual and unique. I tell Gouldman that I like to imagine that they learned to do that by sitting around saying, ‘what should we write a song about?’, and someone would throw out there, ‘oh, you’ve got a cold. Write a song about that.’

“It is something like that,” he chuckles. “I think that we wanted to avoid clichés and try and be original. You have a very good example [from You’ve Got A Cold, released on the 1977 album Deceptive Bends], who would ever think about writing a song about having a cold? That was the sort of thing which gives you a bit of a challenge, to see if we could come up with that.

“And with five people, it was a long time before we wrote a proper love song, and that was I’m Not In Love. You know, we kind of avoided it, because everybody did it. I wrote kind of love songs when I was writing on my own, but 10cc is a very different matter in that nobody wanted to do the predictable.”

Ironically, I’m Not In Love was the first track that really broke the band and finally made them some decent money?

“Well, we’d had hits before,” clarifies Gouldman. “We’d had Donna, and Rubber Bullets, which was a number 1 record, in 1973, I think that was. We’d done a lot, but I think I’m Not In Love really opened us up to international fame.”

Mention 10cc and I’m Not In Love is the first song most people will think of. Gouldman says he’s still fond of the song forty years later.

“Oh yeah. Yeah, very fond of it. When we play it, it’s amazingly – as soon as the opening chord starts, the atmosphere changes in the hall. It’s amazing, it’s lovely.”

Graham Gouldman 10cc 03

With four writers and singers in the band, it’s inevitable that Gouldman wasn’t the original singer on all the hits. He says they tackle that front-on with the current band line-up.

“There were some songs I did sing, that I do like. Dreadlock Holiday I sung on the original record. We have a wonderful singer in Mick Wilson, who is able to… he doesn’t do impressions of Eric’s voice, or Lol’s voice, but he sings in the same spirit and style. I’ve heard nothing but compliments about the way he interprets the songs. That is just something you would have hear to appreciate.”

With such a bevy of hits under his belt, it’s only right that Gouldman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at a ceremony in New York last year. Fittingly, he doesn’t attempt to disguise how proud of the honour he is.

“That was a very proud moment, yeah,” he says. “It’s something that you’re voted for by your peers, and there can’t be anything better than that. It was a wonderful ceremony, we had a great time, had a few nice days in New York, and the ceremony was fantastic. What can I say? As you’d imagine!

“It’s special, what can one say, it’s an honour. Like I said in my induction speech, a lot of the people that were actually in the room, I wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for them. They inspired me, and encouraged me, in their own way, to write. Every writer listens, and eventually tries, and emulates, other writers. There were writers in that room, and other members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, who I just wouldn’t have been there without them.”

At the time of talking Graham Gouldman was six months shy of his 70th birthday. He has an amazing repertoire of songs behind him, including many big, big hits, the respect of his peers, having written for The Yardbirds, and many, many more. He’s worked with people as diverse as Neil Sedaka and The Ramones. Is there anything that he has set his mind to over the past few decades in the music industry, but been unable to achieve?

“It would be nice to be involved in a hit record again,” he declares. “It wouldn’t be for 10cc, [that’s] just not going to happen. But I’m writing and I’ve actually just been to a writers retreat, and I was working with some upcoming young writers. To be sort of involved with them, and to see them get some of that success that I’ve had… I could write with these guys, and if something happens from there, that would be great. That’s what I would really like to happen. I know it’s not going to be me, it’ll be them, but I’ll be a part of it, and that would be nice. Whatever happens, in the act of doing one of these writers retreats, and coming up with something, hopefully, that’s good, is… I’m kind of at the stage where I can go, ‘if it’s a hit, I’ll be absolutely thrilled, but if it’s not, I just enjoyed the experience of writing it, and being with these other writers,’ and everything like that.

“You become a bit more philosophical about things. I’ve always been a realist anyway, but to answer the question, that would be nice, to have my name on another hit record.”

As nice as the cream on the cake that another hit would bring, Gouldman is happy simply touring the world playing the hit songs he created with his ex-bandmates.

“Well, I love doing that,” he says enthusiastically. “I don’t have to do it. It’s part of my well-being, I look upon it more than… I love playing the music, it’s good for me, it’s good for my health, it’s good to make some money out of it. I love being with the band, they’re people I like, actually very close friends, as well as fellow musicians. We have a lot of fun together, but we’re very, very serious about the music, and respectful of it.”

There’s little animosity between the original 10cc members, although Eric Stewart may disagree, not having many nice things to say about Gouldman in recent years. Gouldman plays it down and glosses over the issues between them.

“Kevin [Godley] and I are probably going to catch up at the weekend, actually, because he lives in Ireland, and we’re going to play in Ireland just this weekend,” says Gouldman. “Lol [Creme] I saw about three years ago, he’s with a band with Trevor Horn called The Producers and they were rehearsing in the room next to where we were rehearsing. We had a nice chat, and there was no animosity there whatsoever. The only person I’ve not seen, not for a decade, is Eric [Stewart]. I have no contact with him whatsoever.

“Yeah, we worked together,” he responds when I bring up some tracks Gouldman and Godley wrote together a year or two ago, before jumping straight in with a matter-of-fact comment about any possible reunion. “No, there’s no chance – before you ask the question!”

Graham Gouldman 10cc 02

Another question which everybody asks, but which we need clarification on, is the name of the band. Kevin Godley and Jonathan King insist that King had a dream of the name 10cc in lights on a venue marquee. You and Creme have stated that it was the average amount of ejaculate that a man produces. Which story is right, or are they both correct?

“Both are! The average male ejaculation is 9cc. [We were] one cc better than you!” he laughs, referencing Spinal Tap’s ‘one louder’ gag. “They’re both true. Jonathan King had a dream that the name was on a hoarding above the Hammersmith Odeon, which was big in London many years ago. It said: ’10cc, the best band in the world.’

“So he tells us that, and we thought about it. Okay, that’s fine. Later on someone says, ‘did you know the average male ejaculation is 9cc?’” he laughs, “We thought, ‘that’s more fun!’, so we used both of them, depending who you would speak to.”

Despite a wealth of stories, both happy and sad, from his four decades in the music business, Gouldman has been vocal in his opposition to writing an autobiography. It’s a position that he has not budged on.

“I am [against the idea], yes,” he says unequivocally, “because I never felt the urge to do it. I think there’s been enough written, with interviews I’ve done, which god knows are many over the years, but there’s enough there. Someone wanted to write a book, but I would want to tell the truth, and part of that wouldn’t be fair – it wouldn’t be right to reveal that. Like anybody, people have things that one shouldn’t dig up, because it’s not right.”

Category: Interviews

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