In the Seventies, they didn’t come any better than 10cc. Along with Electric Light Orchestra and Harry Nilsson, 10cc set the standard for ambitious studio pop in the post-Beatles landscape. From 1972 through 1978, 10cc was a top 10 hit machine: “Rubber Bullets,” “I’m Not In Love,” “The Things We Do For Love,” “Dreadlock Holiday.” The machine began to wind down in the Eighties, but that was a generally sucky decade for everyone.
The origins of 10cc date back to the songwriting partnership of Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, who were re-christened Frabjoy and Runcible Spoon by producer Giorgio Gomelsky and brought to Eric Stewart’s studio to record their songs. During the sessions, the trio happened upon a neat drum track that became the basis for a new song, “Neanderthal Man,” and the boys (now called Hotlegs) had their first international hit. An album followed but didn’t repeat the success of the single.
While Hotlegs’ career was over, 10cc was just getting started, as the trio had now teamed with songwriter Graham Gouldman to record as a quartet. In the fall of 1972, 10cc released the doowop send-up, “Donna,” which soared to #2 in the UK. The following summer, the band released their self-titled debut, featuring the #1 single “Rubber Bullets” and the #10 hit “The Dean And I.” The record was remarkably clever, immaculately produced and packed with more ideas per square inch than just about anything else in 1972. The followup, Sheet Music, was even smarter. Although their next album was too experimental for its own good (Godley and Creme approached music as art), it did contain one perfect song, “I’m Not In Love.” How Dare You was a return to the inspired form of Sheet Music, and featured “Art For Art’s Sake” and “I’m Mandy, Fly Me.”
Unfortunately, Godley and Creme left the band to pursue their own ideas, including an instrument of their own devising, the gismo (or gizmo, depending). Gouldman and Stewart continued to make chart-topping music on Deceptive Bends and Bloody Tourists, but signs that the pair was running out of creative steam were evident on Look Hear? Subsequent 10cc albums could be counted on for pleasant melodies, a liberal dose of light reggae and stellar production, but they’re more a case of professional musicians going through the motions. The further adventures of Godley and Creme were interesting, though their lack of commercial sense can be confounding at times. Gouldman and Andrew Gold (who joined 10cc for Ten Out of 10) also formed a splinter group, Wax, that recorded several albums in the Eighties, while Stewart joined Paul McCartney’s group in the Nineties.