By Dave Thompson
But 10cc was also renowned for never doing things in quite the same way as anybody else might, which was one of the things that made the original four-piece so exciting. So, it was probably inevitable that, when they did reconvene, that proud tradition should be maintained.
The group has not released an album. Instead, music has slowly leaked out over the past year via their Web site. 10cc has not toured, although one member does still play out under the 10cc banner. They aren’t even called 10cc and, if you know the band’s history — formed by Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman in 1972, then splitting into those same two halves in 1976 — they aren’t fronted by either of the permutations you might expect. Stewart today has a solo career; Creme is working with producer Trevor Horn. So, it’s Gouldman and Godley who take the spotlight, in the appropriate disguise of GG/06.
Because it isn’t a 10cc reunion after all. It’s something far better than that.
“It was Kevin who instigated it,” explains Gouldman. “After having massive success as a video director, he quite simply wanted to get back to making music, and the other thing was, we’d always stayed in contact throughout the years, whereas I’ve completely lost contact with Eric and Lol. Kevin and I were always in touch, even if it was just a Christmas card. And, while it’s difficult to tell if these things are going to work again after such a long time, there’s only one way to find out.”
Godley continues, “We had dinner in 1993 or so and discussed doing something together. Then nothing. Years went by. Then Graham asked me to write a lyric for him. My effort was too dark and got canned, but the experience got the juices flowing again. I’m not sure why it took us so long to attempt anything properly. Maybe the planets weren’t aligned. Or maybe we were cautious about revisiting the past, and failing to come up with the goods.”
Throughout the original 10cc’s four-year reign, Gouldman primarily wrote with Stewart, Godley with Creme. “It was very rare,” Gouldman says, “for the teams to swap over.” But Godley/Gouldman did pen three songs together – “Baron Samedi” (on the Sheet Music LP), “Iceberg” (from How Dare You) and the b-side “Channel Swimmer,” and Godley recalls, “my outings with Mr. G were always enjoyable and challenging. ‘Iceberg’ is one of my favorites… it originally began, as I recall, with a proposed monologue that went something like ‘Hey baby, I want to get down on all fours and shit in your handbag,’ or words to that effect. Part of my personal brief, when working with Graham back then, was trying to f**k him up.
“Lol and I were into structural changes and being outrageous, and I saw that as my job, to bring a slither of darkness into Graham’s life. And it worked, he was receptive to it, although he did balk at that monologue, as did everybody else. Now, because we’re older and wiser, I’m more appreciative of what he has to offer and he’s more appreciative of what I’m trying to do, and it’s a matter of finding what works from the elements that we both bring to the table. So, while we were picking up where we’d left off, it was also something we’d toyed with, but never realized its potential. It’s a completely different way of working, and it’s much more relaxed. We’re not doing it because we have anything to prove, we do it because we like it.”
The duo have completed (and posted – see www.GG06.co.uk for details and downloads) five songs so far – “The Same Road,” “Johnny Hurts,” “Hooligan Crane,” and two songs that have already seen CD release aboard 10cc’s All The Hits… And More anthology, “Beautiful Loser Dot com” and “Son Of Man.” More, says Godley, will appear as and when they complete them.
“It’s an ongoing thing. We get together when we can, we write, and when we finish something, we put it on the Web site. You might not get anything for six months, you might get three in two months. There are about a dozen or so pieces waiting to be finished. We’re currently working on a song called ‘Barry’s Shoes,’ a myth woven around real teenage memories of rebellion and first exposure to forbidden pleasures. It all depends on when we can do it. It’s a bit like a very involving hobby.”
“The other thing we’ve talked about,” Gouldman interrupts, “is doing the stuff live, which would be quite a challenge, but we’ve got to try it. It would have to be done initially in a small way, a little jazz club, some kind of music appreciation venue rather than a big theater, and see what happens. We’d also have to do it with no 10cc connection whatsoever.”
That gesture he leaves to his current live show.
“I started doing gigs again around 10 years ago, just under my own name, and it became obvious that people really wanted to hear 10cc songs. So, eventually it morphed into ‘10cc featuring Graham Gouldman and Friends, which we’ve been doing for a few years now.”
Although Gouldman is the sole original member, alongside post-Godley-Creme era guitarist Rick Fenn, “it gets better and better. Each year, we do more work, and it’s something I really enjoy. I never lost the touring bug.”
Godley, on the other hand, has scarcely appeared onstage since his final 10cc tour in 1976 — a guest appearance at a Phil Manzanera show in Manchester in 1978 would appear to be it. But, this habit of half a lifetime was finally shattered earlier this year, when Gouldman asked him to guest at his latest London show, which was being shot for DVD release later this year. Godley performed three songs — “my bits of ‘Rubber Bullets’,” “Beautiful Loser Dot Com” and, aptly, 10cc’s “Old Wild Men,” a song written in the first flush of 20-something youth, asking how the rockers of the day would appear in 30-odd years time. Well, now they know.
“It was an extraordinary experience,” says Godley. “We staged it so I stepped out of darkness, up to the mike for the second verse of ‘Old Wild Men,’ and the crowd went nuts. They were throwing children in the air. I felt 25. Unfortunately, as the DVD will prove, I looked 75. But hey … that’s the breaks.”
All five of the duo’s new songs are solidly excellent, but, deservedly, the most attention so far has been focused upon “Son Of Man,” a tribute-come-follow-up to “Neanderthal Man,” the 1970 hit that first introduced 10cc (in their earlier guise of Hotlegs) to the world.
Godley originally conceived the song back in 1993, at the request of the band’s then-manager, for possible inclusion on a forthcoming hits collection. Godley’s attempts to record the song with Gavin Friday and Monty Caesar came to naught, however, “and it hung around for the next 13 years, waiting for a reason to be completed. GG/06 seemed the perfect reason.”
The song will resonate for anybody with a sense of 10cc’s history. “The lyric sums up a lot of dues paying from 1969–1972, and is how I remember the years of transition from Hotlegs to 10cc, via good spliff, bad curry and unlikely recording sessions.” Plans are now afoot, Godley continues, to expand it across a full audio-visual package which, “should it ever be completed, will feature archive / documentary Hotlegs / 10cc footage; plus, if I can pull enough strings, a f**ked up CGI Neanderthal grotesque performing the song.”
That’s for the future, as is any further broadening of GG/06’s activities. In the meantime, Godley remains one of the most in-demand video directors of the age (his recent credits include videos with U2, Bryan Adams, Keane and the Corrs), Gouldman continues to write with a variety of other collaborators (Paul Carrack, Gary Barlow and habitual U.K. chart-toppers McFly), and 10cc’s own legend lives on through the Feeling, a British group who not only formed around a mutual adoration of the original band, but who was actually discovered by Gouldman’s son (an A&R man at Universal).
May 2007 saw the Feeling receive its homeland’s highest songwriting award, an Ivor Novello Award for Songwriters of the Year — proof indeed that 10cc’s legacy is in safe hands. And that is as it should be. “That was an incredible few years that we had,” reflects Gouldman, “and, although there’s not that much output, I think our light burned very brightly.”