by Margaret Chrystall
A LIFETIME of songwriting doesn’t seem to have wearied 10cc founder Graham Gouldman of the art.
And of his latest solo album, Love And Work, he says: “It’s something I’m very proud of, I loved making it.”
It’s as one of the founding members of 10cc that the world knows Graham best.
The current line-up - which just has Graham from the original four - has been together for about 12 years.
Graham said: "Paul Burgess joined in 1973 as our drummer to allow Kevin Godley to come up front and sings. And then in what I call the Mark II 10cc that Eric Stewart and I had after Kevin and Lol Creme left the band in 1976, we were joined by Rick Fenn who is still with me as well.”
With 11 Top 10 singles in the UK, the original band had three number ones – Rubber Bullets, I’m Not In Love and Dreadlock Holiday among other big songs including Donna, Wall Street Shuffle, The Dean And I, The Things We Do For Love, Art For Art’s Sake, Good Morning Judge, I’m Mandy Fly Me and Life Is A Minestrone.
Those who know 10cc in the 70s as a band of hit-makers, might not know Graham had already been an incredibly successful songwriter a decade earlier.
But a lot of special circumstances had to come together to make that happen, he revealed.
“You can’t just become a songwriter because you fancy the idea. It helps to have a bit of a gift – and be born at the time I was. I was also encouraged in what I did by my parents. And I met certain people around that time that I was very lucky to meet. All those things go towards it actually happening for you!
“But I think I was particularly lucky to be the age that I was at that time. When I was a young teenager, I was listening to music from America like The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochrane and we had our own skiffle era, Cliff Richard and the Beatles – who probably had the biggest influence on me.”
As a member of teen Southport band The Whirlwinds, Graham released a cover of Buddy Holly’s song Look At Me, before moving on to The Mockingbirds with 10cc drummer Kevin Godley also in the line-up.
Graham’s reputation as a songwriter grew as he wrote songs such as Heart Full Of Soul, Evil Hearted You and For Your Love for The Yardbirds. He also wrote songs including Look Through Any Window and Bus Stop for The Hollies. Herman’s Hermits had hits with No Milk Today, East West and Listen People.
By then, Graham was a partner in Strawberry Studios, a recording studio in Surrey and was also writing for Marmalade.
That’s when he was appraoched by American “bubblegum pop” team Jeff Katz and Jerry Kazenetz to go to America where a punishing workload saw him asked to churn out song after song.
“I was at one point, but in the end that turned out to be a very good experience," said Graham.
“I got a whole bunch of songs I’d written and I said I wanted to go back to Strawberry Studios and record them there. The other musicians I worked with on those worked out well because they wre Eric, Kevin and Lol!”
Hits, full-on times writing, recording and touring kept 10cc's momentum going, but when Lol Creme and Kevin Godley wanted time to work on technology and a set of songs that became their triple-album Consequences instead of taking a break from 10cc, the duo left.
After Kevin and Lol split from 10cc in 1976, Graham continued to work with the band name and Eric Stewart plus producing.
One of the most unexpected invitations possibly producing an album for the Ramones.
Graham laughed: “The reason they wanted to work with me was, I don't think, anything to do with 10cc, but with the work I’d done in the 60s with the Yardbirds songs of that era. The Ramones wanted to plug into that, I think.
“I enjoyed working with them, but it was an interesting year because I produced an album for the Ramones and Gilbert O’Sullivan in the same year. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!”
In his own solo work, Graham pays tribute to his dad’s part in his career.
“When people say ‘What did your dad do?’, I say he was a writer. I don’t say ‘He worked in the clothing business’. He contributed massively to everything I did.
"He should have bren a professional. I was really lucky to have another lyricist in the house when I was growing. If I wrote a lyric I’d take it to him and he’d make it better. Or sometimes he’d come up with song titles."
With a lifetime of songwriting behind him, what are Graham's own way of knowing as he writes that he's got a good song?
He's remarked in the past that when songwriting, you keep “one ear cocked for something that broke the mould”.
“I think all writers have this little radar where they pick up something that someone says – or you mishear something – that leads to an idea," he said.
“A lot of songs from 10cc have lines in them from other people, but they didn’t know they were giving us a line for a lyric. They were just saying what they wanted to say.
"A classic example of that is in Dreadlock Holiday.
“Eric and I were in Glasgow and we were talking to someone, a DJ, I think, and he was talking about being in Jamaica, walking in the sunshine between two people having a conversation on either side of the pavement. One of them yelled ‘Hey man, don’t walk through my words!’.
"That was a line we used in that song.”
“And ‘I don’t like cricket – I love it!’ was another thing he said. And that went BANG! in my head too.”
He doesn’t keep a notebook of ideas.
“I think the best things, you remember.”
10cc is at Eden Court on Sunday.