Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Bill's Signs and 10cc

     I got us chili-dogs and sodas and I climbed the ladder without asking.  He looked at me sheepishly.  He didn't say a word. 
     "I got you a chili-dog," I said.  We sat with our legs hanging off the gantry.
     "I haven't been there for you," he said.  He looked away.
     "Doesn't matter."  I kept thinking about a conversation we had when I was little: "What do you want me to be when I grow up?" I asked.
     "I want you to be happy."
     "No, I mean – do you want me to be a scientist?  A doctor?  A pilot?  That's what I’m asking you."
     "It doesn't matter what job you do.  I just want you to be happy."
     "You’re not answering me.  I don't want you to tell me you want me to be happy.  I want you to tell me: doctor, teacher, grave digger."
     "Where does that come from?"
     "I don’t know."
     "I just want you to be happy."
     "Just tell me what.  I want you to tell me which way to go."  He didn't. 
     I looked out over my city, but it was gone.  I said, "Hazy."
     He said, "Been that way."
     "What have you been doing?"
     "Working.  School all right?"
     "Got a girl?"
     "Kinda."  He had chili on his chin.  I reached over with a napkin and wiped it off.  "It's my birthday."  It wasn’t. He didn’t know.  "This is a nice one.  Lotta nice detail."
     "Lotta work," he said.  "Maybe on Wednesday…"
     I cut him off.  "Wednesday's not good."
     "I don’t know."
     He looked at me.  He said, "Happy birthday, pal."
     "I gotta go."
     "Thanks for coming by."  He looked at me.  I think I looked back with a furrowed brow, not anger, concern.  "So, I'll call you," he said and I climbed down the ladder. 
     When I got home my grandmother was watching The Big News with Gerry Dunphy.  It was just ending and Gerry Dunphy said, "From the desert to the sea to all of Southern California, a good evening."  I sat on the arm of the chair and put my arm around my grandmother's shoulder. The phone rang. It was Gaia. She said, "Listen to this." The song was "I'm Not in Love." "Do you love it?" she said

Love it, hate it, or simply hang it on the wall to cover up a nasty stain, "I'm Not in Love" is among the most influential songs of the 70s. Composed by Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, it is, at its heart, a sordid little exercise, an examination of love from the point of view of a victim who refuses to believe he's succumbed. As an edited single, and across the full length LP track, "I'm Not in Love" first earned admiration for its production techniques, with some 256 vocal dubs required to complete the lush harmonies behind Stewart's vocal. Add the whispered tones of a studio receptionist for the surrealistically nightmarish admonition "Big boys don't cry," and "I'm Not in Love" breached frontiers of creativity which even Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," later that same year (1975), could only nudge.

Tautology is a deployment of repetitive words or phrases. It can suggest a weakness of argument by the speaker. 10 cc’s words, “I’m Not In Love” are repeated to almost soporific effect. Repetition used in this context serves more as an attempt at emotional exorcism. Depeche Mode would utilize this same concept in "But Not Tonight" with the same emotional intent.

There is a celestial tone that suffuses the song. The choral voices are plaintive and convey a suffering experienced by all. We've all been moved to love and unlove. Can one's emotions be richer when you understand the agony felt by someone who loves you? If you can't reciprocate that love, do you feel sympathy? Pity? Can you silently revel by coming out ahead in this interplay of emotions. You've won, they've lost. Is the victory even grander when the vanquished is still consumed by you?

10cc were odd; weirdos by subterfuge, yet somehow, amidst the myriad weird of the 70s, 10cc were strangely accessible (or accessibly strange).   There was so much going on that kept snagging my attention – ordinarily in an article I take the less personal identity of "we," hoping to remain objective, as if I could speak for all of us, but with 10cc it was seemingly only me; no one else was listening.  From quirky little songs channeling Vera Lynn (look it up), to the AM10 single "I'm Not In Love" (my favorite single of all time), 10cc were noticed yet unnoticed, brilliant and unappreciated.

Comprised of art school students Lol Creme, Kevin Godley, Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, few were aware of the impact each had had on music in the 1960s, particularly Graham Gouldman who penned The Yardbirds' "Game of Love," The Hollies' "Bus Stop" (another AM10 single) and Herman’s Hermits' "No Milk Today."

The four released their first album, simply called 10cc, in 1973 and Sheet Music in '74 to huge European acclaim, but failed any notice in the American market.  That would change in 1975 with the release of "I'm Not In Love," though the album, The Original Soundtrack (AM7), was largely ignored, except by me – not because I was smarter than anyone else, or more musically savvy, but because I too was a weirdo.  The following year would see the foursome's last album together and finally a little American love (well, critical acclaim) on How Dare You!  Here the band was at its most cohesive and, despite the failure to chart in the US, How Dare You! not only received my applause, but a couple kids down the block had the album as well. The quirky "Don't Hang Up" was typical of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme and another of my fave [non] singles.

Godley and Creme would go their own way to produce Consequences, which passed right by without notice, and then L and Freeze Frame, both AM7s (each having little in the way of obvious influence or longeveity – they're both 9s in my book).  Meanwhile, back at the 10cc front, Gouldman, Stewart et al released Deceptive Bends and celebrated with a top ten single, "The Things We Do For Love."