Magazine article The Spectator

Quiet Craftsman

Magazine article The Spectator

Quiet Craftsman

Article excerpt

Pop music

I heard a rare thing the other day: a humorous 'hidden' track on a CD that might actually raise a smile. It cropped up on the first solo CD in more than 30 years by Graham Gouldman, once of 10cc and Wax. If you have never heard of him, it's not wholly surprising: he has been plying his songwriterly trade in the quietest possible way all these years, while actually writing an amazing number of hits, from The Yardbirds' `For Your Love' and Herman's Hermits' `Bus Stop' onwards. I became a fan during 10cc's heyday in the mid-1970s. Gouldman played bass, cowrote many of the hits (`I'm Not In Love' being his pension plan) and usually sang one track an album, which was often the best thing on it. He was the archetypal quiet craftsman, and true to his craft he has carried on writing and recording while his 10cc colleagues have drifted out of view. And yet, perhaps inevitably, it is 10cc for which he is best known. `What comes first, the music or the words?' he sings over a one-take acoustic guitar, `Do you still see Kev and Lol? Did you split amicably, you and the lads from lOcc?' There follows a list of stupid questions that he is presumably asked nearly every day of his life, mainly by German journalists with wispy beards, who are famous for this. It's 17 years since the band split, 22 years since they had a hit worthy of the name, and yet it's all anyone wants to know about. It must drive him up the wall.

10cc, of course, couldn't be less fashionable these days, which may be why I still feel perversely fond of them. Their clever, funny, adventurous and viciously tuneful pop was, at its best, the missing link between Roxy Music and The Beatles. In 1976, after four increasingly sophisticated albums, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left to record a three-record set based around some ridiculous guitar-synthesiser gizmo they had invented, called the 'Gizmo'. In response Gouldman and Eric Stewart recorded the wonderful and virtually ignored Deceptive Bends, then hired a new backing band, toured to death and lost the plot, releasing some dreadfully dull albums before giving up in 1983. (It's a story well told in Giles Smith's superb pop memoir Lost In Music, recently reissued by Picador. Smith was equally entranced by 10cc in his youth, and seems equally embarrassed by it now. But those later albums do take some forgiving. …

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