TRANSCRIPT, EPISODE 1: I’m Not in Love by 10cc
First released 8/18/2017
NOTE: THIS IS A PRE-RECORDING SCRIPT AND MAY NOT REFLECT THE SCRIPT FOR THE FINAL PRODUCT.
Hello, and welcome to the first episode of How Good It Is, a weekly podcast that takes a look at popular songs of the past and dives into their history, their meaning, or any other things that might be of interest surrounding those songs.
My name is Claude Call and, as I’m sure you’ll understand, we’ll probably goof around with the format and other details until we manage to find our groove. If you have any suggestions or questions of your own, or it there’s a song you’d like me to look into, please feel free to email me at HowGoodPodcast@gmail.com. You can also find me on Twitter @HowGoodItIsPod, and you can check out the website How Good It Is Dot Com for some additional tidbits about this show.
I’ve found that, as useful as the Internet is, it tends to spread a lot of misinformation, or speculation dressed up as facts when it comes to, well, almost anything. What I strive to do here is run down some of those bits of information and see whether I can nail down the facts. If something is clearly speculation, or it can’t be sourced, or if it’s just a guess on someone’s part, I’ll spell that out for you. And if something is clearly wrong, I’ll call that out as well.
In today’s episode we’re going to look at the song “I’m Not in Love” by the band 10CC.
[Music: “I’m Not in Love”]
If you’re an older guy like me, you remember this as a huge hit from 1975. If you’re a little younger, you probably remember it as the song that opens up the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, as one of the songs that Chris Pratt’s character is listening to as part of the Awesome Mix Volume 1 tape.
10CC originally consisted of four musicians – Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley, and Lol Creme. Gouldman and Stewart were mostly pop-style songwriters, while Godley and Creme were a little more artistic and experimental in their writing style. That said, they did manage to mix it up from time to time so that if you look at the writing credits for their songs, you’ll see some Godley/Gouldman or Stewart/Creme compositions as well.
Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman were members of the Mindbenders, Wayne Fontana’s old group. And as that band started to move into its ending days, Stewart began recording some demos in a studio called Inner City Studios, which was owned by Peter Tattersall. In 1968 they became business partners and moved to a bigger location, which they named Strawberry Studios, a name that comes from the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.“
A year later, Gouldman used the Strawberry studio to record some demos for the band Marmalade. By the end of the year, he was a financial partner in Strawberry Studios as well. Over the next three years, these musicians and a few others worked in various combinations for other musicians, occasionally putting together some tracks that didn’t do a whole lot commercially. At least, not until the future members of 10cc got together to work on a couple of comeback albums for Neil Sedaka. Shortly after that, they pooled their talents to put together a track called “Waterfall”, which they sent to Apple Records.
Several months later, they received a note telling them that it wasn’t commercial enough. This rejection didn’t stop them, and they recorded another song called “Donna”, which managed to crack the Top 30 in England.
By now the band was known to the world as 10cc. Now, where that name came from has been the subject of some controversy. The official story is that Jonathan King, who owned the label, chose the name based on a dream he had in which he was standing in front of the Hammersmith Odeon Theater, where the marquee read “10cc The Best Band in the World”. However, there’s another story, which King and Godley dispute, but which is affirmed by Creme and Gouldman, and that says that 10cc represents a volume of semen that is more than the average amount ejaculated by men, thereby emphasizing their sexual potency. Given that the average ejaculation is just under 4 milliliters, 10cc seems like a LOT of semen.
But, I digress. Let’s get to the song.
[Music: I’m Not In Love]
It was another few years before the band came up with the song that became their worldwide breakout hit.
Eric Stewart came up with the initial idea for the song when his wife of eight years asked him why he didn’t say he loved her more often. His explanation was that, in his head, saying it too often would degrade its meaning. Stewart said that he wanted to experiment with trying to figure out another way of saying it, and he came up with saying “I’m not in love with you” while subtly giving reasons throughout the song that hinted at why he couldn’t let go of the relationship. He played around with it for awhile before taking it to Gouldman, who suggested some changes and they cut a demo. What’s interesting here is that the demo was recorded with a bossa nova rhythm: BUMP bump bump, bump BUMP, bump, bump, bump BUMP, bump bump, and so on. They took this to Godley and Creme, who just plain hated it, especially Godley, who had nothing positive to say. They disliked it so much, in fact, that they destroyed that demo, so there’s no recording of the bossa nova version around anymore.
But Stewart noticed that people were still singing the melody of the song around the studio, so he picked it up again with a twist: instead of using a lot of instruments, use all voices.
They spent three weeks recording Gouldman, Godley and Creme singing “ahhhh” 16 times for each note of the chromatic scale. That gave them 48 different voices for each note to work with. But that’s not the crazy part: here’s the crazy part.
Their biggest technical problem was how to keep these vocal notes going on for an infinite length of time. Nowadays you sample something digitally and you can just loop it around, no big deal. But these were the days of physical tape. So that they had to do was create 12-foot loops of tape that would run through the tape heads at one end, and through a contraption they’d devised that was mounted to the top of a microphone stand at the other end, thus putting a little tension on the tape so it would run through the player correctly. Then each tape loop got its own channel in the mixing board, which basically turned the board into a musical instrument of its own, which you played by fading each track up or down. The last step Stewart took was to put a piece of tape across the mixing board to prevent anyone to completely fade down the tracks for each note. So you hear lots of human voices throughout the song, even when you think you don’t.
The entire song was recorded using these background voices plus the vocals, but it wasn’t until all that was done that they added any instruments. And I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that the instrumentation is pretty sparse: electric piano, a guitar for the rhythm melody, and a synthesized bass drum sound. The middle eight bars and the bridge has some piano, and the middle eight also has a little bit of bass.
And they’re done! Right? No, not quite. They considered it finished, but Lol Creme thought there was still something missing. Stewart said that Lol remembered he’d said something into the grand piano microphone when he was doing the solos. He’d said “Be quiet, big boys don’t cry”, and nobody really remembers why. They liked it but they also needed to find the right voice to speak the words. According to Stewart, it was at that moment that the secretary from Strawberry Studios, Kathy Redfern, walked in and whispered to him that he had a phone call. Godley said “That’s the voice, her voice is perfect!”. While the rest of the group agreed, Ms. Redfern had to be talked into it.
10cc was looking to leave Jonathan King’s label, and it was on the strength of this track that they were able to secure a contract with Mercury Records. They got a five-year deal, a huge amount of money, and left a serious imprint on the rock music scene. “I’m Not In Love” peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, and in each of those weeks there was a different Number 1 record.
The song has been covered many times, but probably the most successful cover was by the band Will to Power, which brought it to Number 7 in 1990, and that was the last big hit for that band.
After “I’m Not In Love”, the band went through some lineup changes but still managed to put together a few big hits over the next several years.
And that’s it for this edition of How Good It Is. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me at HowGoodPodcast@gmail.com, and you can follow me on Twitter at HowGoodItIsPod. Next time, we’re going to take a trip to Japan and discover just how good it is to have some Sukiyaki. See you then.