Monday, 25 November 2013

September 1978
10cc in a Jam

10cc are shrewd hippies who used to be a good band, verging on greatness. Loved ‘Rubber Bullets’, ‘The Dean and I’, and, of course, ‘I’m Not In Love’, but when Kevin Godley and Lol Creme split to pursue the bizarre and make ingenious pop videos, the writing seemed to be on the wall for 10cc. Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman continued the good name but their first few releases – The Things We Do For Love and Good Morning Judge – were running alive with mediocrity, even though both were hits. And now they’ve hit the big time again with Dreadlock Holiday for cricket lovers everywhere − and it’s number one with a rubber bullet.

I’m in Bristol with the band, near the end of their mammoth UK tour. The show is slick and safe and the dreamers in the audience light-up the twisty lanes of I’m Not In Love with flaming lighters held aloft in the darkness.

After, we head off to a night club where we drink champagne like cherry cola.

‘We’ve found that certain chords can make you laugh while others make you cry,’ says sleepy-eyed Eric Stewart. ‘In one tune we can make you feel down, then up, then back down again just by altering the structure very slightly.’

No wonder they’ve been dubbed the Professors of Rock.

That don’t worry Eric none. ‘That nickname is meant to be derogatory − but I consider it a great compliment. We do analyse, we do create in a very technical way. Our aim is to achieve perfection,’

Some may argue they’ve already attained such dizzy heights with the classic I’m Not In Love − recently voted the best song ever written.

‘It’s a total love song. Look, you can only say the words, "I love you", once in your whole life and really mean them. If you happen to say them again it’s nothing more than an aside. Wives are continually asking, "Do you love me?" They shouldn’t have to be told over and over again. I’ve only said those words once and I don’t intend repeating them. That is what the song is all about. When I first heard the completed version, I broke down and cried. It meant so much.’

Yet it wasn’t so very long ago when 10cc looked like a washed-up 5cc. When Lol Creme and Kevin Godley quit the band everyone assumed that was the end.

‘When they went, there were many hoped Graham and I would decide to scrap the whole thing, go home and bloody die,’ says Eric.

‘We were criticised for perpetuating the name,’ adds Graham, who has just torn himself away from an army of autograph hunters in the club. ‘But what people tend to forget is that Eric and I were responsible for 80 per cent of the singles hits the band had. We parted with them on very friendly terms and they were only too pleased that we carried on with the name.’

‘Right from the start, we knew we could survive without them,’ says Eric.

Eric and Graham are the antithesis of your average rock stars. For starters, both are happily married.

‘Neither of us has ever gone out with Britt Ekland,’ laughs Eric. ‘And we always telephone in advance when we’re planning to wreck a hotel room.’

Eric lives in Dorking in a house he designed himself. Graham has decided to stay in his native Rochdale. ‘I’d hate to live down south. Up there, I can be anonymous. I can relax with my family away from all this. See, if you’re truly dedicated you’ll find yourself married to your band and your wife but the two just don’t go together.’

‘Working ridiculous hours has kept my marriage strong,’ says Eric, as he opens another bottle of champagne.

‘If I did a nine-to-five job, I reckon I would’ve only been married for two years. I’d have gone stark raving mad. I need to work all the time. It keeps me alive.’
Y’know what keeps me alive? Seeing The Jam from time to time. Listening to Paul Weller whistle while he works…

Paul thinks there’s one in every classroom − he's teacher's pet, team captain, top scholar and goes out with all the best-looking girls. David Watts is his name, the title of the Jam’s new single.

‘I had a kid like that in my class,’ recalls Paul, twenty with a bullet. ‘He really used to fucking infuriate me, y’know. While I was smoking in the toilets, playing truant and generally being one of the lads, he swept the boards both academically and on the sports field. The last I heard he was a copper.’

The single, written back in the sixties by the Kinks, is the Jam's first big hit for almost a year. ‘Everyone was saying we were all washed up. But it doesn't worry me if I never have a number one single. But a number one album ... that's a different story.’

We’re sitting backstage at Top of the Pops. Neat. I’ve never been here before. The dressing room ain’t up to much but, shit, I’m on TOTP. And it’s just as you imagine it would be − kids, clumsiness and catchy chaos.

The boys are casually slipping into suits sharper than samurai swords. It’s just another day.

‘I was really depressed earlier this year,’ says Paul. ‘Nothing seemed to be going right. I kept looking at myself and thinking I’d sold out. I always thought it’d be great to get everyone together, audiences and bands. Just one united force with a common dream. I now realise that was idealistic dream shit. Okay, I miss coming off the stage after a gig and walking straight to the bar for a drink and a laugh. But you’ve got to progress. To keep the same lifestyle is ridiculous and it’s only human nature to try and better yourself.’

Meanwhile, Rick Buckler is trying to butter (sic) himself. He’s left home. ‘I got sick and tired of my mum giving me brown bread. I fucking hate the stuff,’ the twenty-one-year-old blue-eyed blond − though his hair is dyed jet black at the moment – told me as he slipped into his strides. ‘I only ever eat white bread yet for some reason, when I came back home after a tour, my mum insisted on serving up brown. She even started toasting and frying it to disguise the colour − but she couldn’t fool me.’

So Rick cleared off and now shares a flat in Croydon with a friend. He says that living on the breadline was only half the problem. ‘When you play in a band you tend to keep strange hours and it begins to affect the lives of everyone where you live, in my case my parents and twin brother Pete, especially when they have to work regular hours themselves. After setting up home on my own, I’ve never looked back.’

But Bruce Foxton is a happy home boy. He’s flicking his neat barnet and nervously clapping his hands. ‘I prefer it. The only time I’ve ever had any hassles was when I brought a bird back once. My mum and dad weren’t too keen on that. But that’s the only grouch. Why should I move out when all my friends still live in the area? Besides, I’m away half the year touring so it doesn’t matter much anyway.’
Next: Debbie Harry

Adapted from the book Tell Me When by Barry Cain
© Barry Cain 2013 

Check out Barry's debut novel Wet Dreams Dry Lives www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00H0IM2CY

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