Kevin Godley – Spacecake. A review.

cover225x225Kevin Godley

Spacecake

(Hand Held Company Ltd)

Once upon a time, there was a band called 10cc.

“Rubber Bullets,” that was them.  “I’m Not In Love” and “The Dean and I.”  “Old Wild Men” and “Sand in my Face,” “One Night in Paris” and “Iceberg.”  Other bands had other hits, but 10cc?  They were something special.

For a while, anyway.  Four albums, like the song almost said, should have seen them rule the world.  But they didn’t quite take that big step up to the annals of international renown, and when the pollsters demand that other pop stars talk of the bands that influenced them most, 10cc are generally conspicuous by their absence.

Maybe they’re just not that fashionable, these days.  Because they really weren’t that fashionable then, either.  While other bands went glam and glitter, 10cc stayed in their jeans and T-shirts.  While other bands went hell for leather for notoriety, 10cc denied the only sexy story that was ever told about them (the one about what their name meant.  Yeah, you know it.)

And while other bands reformed and bored the pants off everyone with their “new” material, 10cc have stayed off the radar altogether.  The line-up that tours in Europe today features just one original member, and the majority of albums that bear the band’s name comprised just two.  When they were four, they recorded just four, and next years marks the fortieth anniversary of their split.

But those who love them adore them still, and though they’re not the only people this book is aimed at… Godley and Creme fans will love it as well, Hotlegs nuts and Mockingbirds maniacs, U2 freaks and those who go to Frankie, Frabjoy and the Runcible Spoonerists, and anyone with an interest in the history of modern rock video… they’re the ones who will recognize the author’s name first.

Drummer and vocalist through the band’s purplest patch; but yes, since then, one of video’s most visionary executors, Kevin Godley tells his story with wit and wisdom, humor and humility, an eye for absurdity and a healthy dose of self-flagellation.  In 1977, he and fellow 2.5cc-er Lol Creme released Consequences, a three LP concept album concerning the end of the world.  And if you think the critics ripped it to shreds, you should read what Godley has to say about it.

It’s an e-book only, which might disappoint some potential readers.  But an e-book with a difference – an interactive tome, into which are embedded YouTube links and melodic snatches, together with a clutch of songs from across the career that have never even been heard before.  So it’s not just an e-book, after all.  It’s the boost your collection has been awaiting for years.

So, when Kevin Godley agreed to sit down to talk about the tome, there was never any doubt as to what the first question should be.  Even before Goldmine told him what a fabulous book it is.

Why did Chrissie Hynde have a trapdoor in her hallway?  A trapdoor, incidentally, that Godley contrived to fall through.

KG: “It was the only way down to her kitchen, so I’d like to have a serious word with her architect as, other than the acute embarrassment, I could’ve ended up in a pan of soup.”

GM: Okay, it is a great book.  So, one boring question – what made you decide to write it?  And one merely tedious one; did you really just follow memories where they led (as you suggest, and as it feels) or was there a degree of storyboarding as well?

KG:   “I was asked if I’d be interested in writing an ‘interactive memoir.’ How could I say no? I also felt a time coming when the idea of a biography would be redundant. We spend so much time on social media that, in twenty years, we’ll know everything there is to know about each other, in real time, so there’ll be no need for them.

“I started by compiling lists, then writing more lists, swapping things between lists, then losing stuff from some lists and adding them to others. Essentially I was stalling. I wrote the ‘SYNOPSIS’ first, as a way to convince myself that the rest might be worthwhile, and I still wasn’t sure but I jumped in and started at the beginning anyway.

“When I got bored [in one place], I jumped to another, disconnected thought, wrote about that, then simply kept jumping and returning – jumping and returning. It was bigger than I thought. I couldn’t see the edges of the book for a long time so yes, some storyboarding or wordboarding was happening.

“Like anything I do, I was looking for a way in. A clue. A hook. Something that suggested what the finished thing might ‘feel’ like.”

GM: It was interesting that you approach the story as a screenplay.

KG: “[That was] my wife’s idea.  [It] gave me some distance.

GM: You also deploy an alter-ego, KG(B)…

KG:  KG(B) [was] a set of brakes to slow me down if I started bleating on too much, or getting too technical. Eventually the holes kind of filled up and I could see the edges. I then treated everything like an album and made a track listing of chapters. Not quite that black and white but not far off.

GM: I really enjoyed the “interactive” element of the book… the embedding of music, the links, etc.  What made you decide to do this (beyond the fact it’s a good idea)… and I’m guessing it was licensing/copyright issues that prevented you incorporating more?  (Thank you for the early G&C songs by the way!)

KG: Thank you. As I said, that was the ask, and I had many complex ideas up my sleeve to start with. ‘Man, this could be the Oculus Rift of biographies!!!’

Then again, in the end, I was drawn to the writing more than the interactivity. Interactive was easy but could I actually WRITE? I had no intention of using a ghostwriter as the point of attempting it in the first place was to find out if I could string words together in a vaguely meaningful way.

GM: You paint such a great picture of your childhood world – especially the part where you’re off collecting slot TV money with your dad.  But it’s unusual to read a passage like that which isn’t simultaneously tinted through some kind of romantic filter (“eeee, they were poor but they were ‘appy”) – and there were a few other instances like that.  Straight observation without the nostalgic baggage.  Was that intentional… and was it difficult to pull off so successfully?

KG: “Thank you. Well, we weren’t that poor and I wasn’t that ‘appy so the mood is authentic. I’m wary of sentiment, so I kept trimming and honing the text until it read as real and as true as I could make it. It was 100% intentional.”

GM: The absence of nostalgia also shows up when you are talking about your own music.  You mention it yourself on occasion, but you are invariably harsh on your past output – not so much the actual records, but the attitudes that maybe lay behind them.  But would you, if you could, have done things any different?  10cc as Greasy Motorbike Glam Band… “Consequences” as an eco-punk holocaust?

KG: “Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but plonk yourself back in those times, and the influences orbiting them, and one would probably do things the same way. Mind you, the two options you suggest sound pretty tasty. Time machine anyone?

“Of course we could’ve done things differently and we certainly had the skills to pull visual ideas off, but we were purists in a way. The visual hoopla of the times simply wasn’t calling to us.”

GM: You talk about 10cc’s general lack of recognition in historical terms (although you do deploy a wonderful quote from John Lydon); in more personal terms, did you feel even a flash of “grrr” when Phil Collins got all the kudos for being the Fabulous Singing Drummer?

KG: Nah! I got to keep the hair…

GM: Diplomatically, I thought, you said very little about 10cc post-Godley-Creme, beyond what may or may not have been an acid “10cc were no more.”  Did you listen to the later albums, and did you ever have any thoughts of what they might have sounded like if….

KG: “I respect those times and that experience, so trashing it would be pointlessly mean spirited. We had our little disagreements but so what? Re the music that followed… actually I didn’t and still haven’t.

“Oh, I’ve heard bits and pieces over the years but never sat down and seriously listened or critiqued. I got a sense of it though. It felt like they were trying to continue a process that no longer functioned naturally. They didn’t have an organic feel for fucking things up, whereas that was our default position. 10cc 2 was successful though, which was half the point, I guess.

GM: The book being more of a life story than a career resume, you’re also very selective in the records and videos you do talk about… did you question that direction at any point while you were writing, knowing there’d be the fans sitting there grumbling “why no mention of such-and-such”?

KG: “Well, it’s both but the stories are born in the career. In the final analysis the narratives chose themselves. It was less about the ‘popularity’ of  songs / videos / projects / albums and more about the presence of a decent story inside them. If I couldn’t find an unusual or significant tale to tell, I’d can the chapter.”

GM: Do you feel you (with and without Lol Creme) have received more recognition for your video work than for music?

KG: “Yes, because we were in at the beginning of the music video medium and had more influence on its development than we did on music.

“No one quite understood what video would turn into in the early days, so we let our imaginations run riot before the suits wised up and closed us down. Got a long way too, and this time, unlike being in a moderately successful 70s band, we weren’t just part of a bigger picture, we were two of its chief architects. The videos for ‘Rockit’ by Herbie Hancock & ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police arguably had a further reach than ‘Rubber Bullets’ or ‘I’m Not In Love.”

GM: Following your example, I played the whole of Consequences while reading the book… and a thought crossed my mind.  Were there any out-takes and what were they like?

KG: “No out-takes I’m afraid, but having done the same as you and listened from soup to nuts, a few times, another thought occurred to me as to why it failed to hit the spot. The end was inconclusive!

“Once you set up the premise of a piano concerto saving the world, you need to find out if it actually does. [But] we were so knackered by the time we reached the end of the project we couldn’t be arsed to think it through, so the album concludes with some rather limp birds tweeting and an elongated fade out. The words ‘Frankly my dear…I don’t give a damn!’ come to mind.

GM: Were there any stories you remembered after you’d finished the book,  that you wish had been included… and could you tell us one, please?

KG: “Loads – but I’m saving them for possible updates. That’s another cool thing about interactive books… you can add stuff.”

GM: And finally, back in 2006 you reunited with another 2.5cc, Graham Gouldman, for a new project called GG06?  A clutch of songs available through the website – and since then… nothing.  Is there maybe a GG16 in the pipeline?

KG: “I live in Ireland. Graham lives in London. The travel imposes problems. We’ll see.

“Meanwhile here’s a blatant plug. Hog Fever – the Ear Movie, starring Terence Stamp as a shrink in a sound-only six Parter about the lifestyle of a compromised forty-something urban biker. I write, I direct and I act. Out soon on downpour.com

“Oh, and this has a proper ending.”

And so does this.  Thank you.

Buy Spacecake here

GMHOF40Kevin Godley is inducted into the Goldmine Hall of Fame

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