CLASSIC TRACKS: 10cc 'I'm Not In Love'

Producers: 10cc; Engineeer: Eric Stewart

Published in SOS June 2005
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Technique : Classic Tracks

Disagreement can be destructive, but it can also drive a band on to new heights. So it was when 10cc's Kevin Godley turned up his nose at a love song penned by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, insisting that it would have to be completely reinvented in the studio...

Richard Buskin

classic tracks 0605 10cc.s

With the recording of their third album, 1975's Original Soundtrack, 10cc truly hit their stride. The Mancunian quartet had formed five years earlier as a session outfit named Hotlegs, comprising singer/guitarist Eric Stewart, a former member of the Mindbenders, both with and without Wayne Fontana; singer and guitar/bass player Graham Gouldman, ex-Mockingbird and composer of songs for the Yardbirds, the Hollies, Jeff Beck and Herman's Hermits; and former art students and multi-instrumental sessioneers/singers Kevin Godley and Lol Creme.

It was in 1968, after the Mindbenders had disbanded, that Eric Stewart bought into a little demo studio in downtown Stockport. This he did by generously purchasing the facility a Neumann valve U67 as his part of the deal, and thereafter, always fascinated with the control room when he'd recorded as part of a group, he learned the ropes of engineering by way of numerous demos tracked to a pair of TEAC stereo machines.

"I loved the early Presley stuff, the Sun records," he says. "There's a distortion that's really human and very, very nice and warm; like a good valve mic with a vocalist. It has this gorgeous edge on it which, if you stuck it through an oscilloscope, you'd say 'No, no, that looks bad. It's ripping at the edges.' However, it sounds really great to me, and I wanted that sound.

"During the early to mid-'60s, the studio was where the musicians were and the control room was always hallowed ground. You were never allowed in there. 'No, no, no, boys. We'll let you come and hear the mix when it's finished.' I'd go in and thrill to the sound — and I thought to myself 'I've got to get my hands on one of these.' It was a dream, but I knew I'd get a place eventually."

Neanderthal Man

Now in that place, located above a hi-fi shop, the new studio owner soon learned his establishment was being given the boot to make way for a works canteen, so he had to find new premises. Next stop: an ex-armaments factory, also in Stockport, housing a crude custom-built control desk and brand-new four-track Ampex recorder.

classic 1 Band studio (grainy.s
Photos: Eric Stewart
10cc in Strawberry Studios, 1975. From left: Lol Creme, Kevin Godley (at rear), Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman.
10cc in Strawberry Studios, 1975. From left: Lol Creme, Kevin Godley (at rear), Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman.
10cc in Strawberry Studios, 1975. From left: Lol Creme, Kevin Godley (at rear), Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman.

"We got the local bank to loan us some money to rent the premises and buy the gear," Stewart recalls. "The Ampex was installed and the first thing we recorded will be on my bloody gravestone. It was an instrumental called 'Neanderthal Man'. Basically, I was experimenting to see how many drum tracks we could squeeze onto the Ampex's four tracks, and I was in there doing it with Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. Not a group really, nothing at that point in time; just a bunch of musicians messing around. Well, to keep Kevin in time on the drums, Lol just sat near him on a stool, off mic, and sang 'I'm a Neanderthal man, you're a Neanderthal girl, let's make Neanderthal love in this Neanderthal world.'

"When we got four tracks of this thing down, Lol's little vocal in the background of each drum track began to sound like a distant chant, and there was something very hypnotic about it. Dick Leahy came into our studio just after our experiment to do a demo with Mary Hopkin. He used to be one of the A&R guys at Phonogram when I was with the Mindbenders and I knew him quite well, so when he asked 'What have you guys been doing recently?' I said 'No songs yet, but have a listen to this. It's an instrumental.' And I played him 'Neanderthal Man'. Well, he nearly fell off his chair and said 'Jesus Christ, that is a smash! I'll buy it now. I will do you a deal right this minute.' So, he offered us a very good deal and we got a number two record out of it. We added a Moog solo and a few more percussive things, but it was still just a studio experiment that ended up giving us some more, much-needed money with which we could buy our first 'professional' piano-styled Helios desk, designed by Dick Swettenham, as well as upgrading to an eight-track, one-inch Scully tape machine."

It wasn't long before pop impresario Jonathan King spotted the commercial potential. After Graham 'GiGi' Gouldman joined the trio on bass, King signed Hotlegs to his own UK label and rechristened the group 10cc (purportedly the metric amount of semen ejaculated by the average male). A hit UK single followed in 1972 with '50s doo-wop satire 'Donna', featuring Lol Creme's piercing lead falsetto, and further domestic success ensued with the singles 'Rubber Bullets', 'Wall Street Shuffle', 'Silly Love' and 'Life Is A Minestrone', as well as a pair of long-players, 1973's 10cc and 1974's Sheet Music. However, it wasn't until the aforementioned third album and the release of 'I'm Not In Love' that the band at last achieved their American breakthrough. In light of this, it's interesting to learn that this landmark track, with its ethereal feel, lush production, multi-layered vocals and slyly affectionate lyrics, started life as a Brasil '66-style bossa nova number. Talk about what might — or might not — have been...

Bouncing Around

"At that time my wife and I had been married about eight years," Eric Stewart recalls, "and she asked me 'Why don't you say "I love you" more often?' I had this crazy idea in my mind that repeating those words would somehow degrade the meaning, so I told her 'Well, if I say every day "I love you, darling, I love you, blah, blah, blah," it's not gonna mean anything eventually.' That statement led me to try to figure out another way of saying it, and the result was that I chose to say 'I'm not in love with you,' while subtly giving all the reasons throughout the song why I could never let go of this relationship."

Evidently, the reverse psychology worked, because the Stewarts recently celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary.

classic 2 Helios desk.s
The Helios desk installed in Strawberry Studios for the recording of 10cc's third album was a custom wraparound design featuring 24 input channels (centre and right) plus monitoring and processing on the left-hand side.
The Helios desk installed in Strawberry Studios for the recording of 10cc's third album was a custom wraparound design featuring 24 input channels (centre and right) plus monitoring and processing on the left-hand side.

"I had the guitar hook first —a little arpeggio on an open 'A' chord — and the melody kept going through my head, so when I got the idea to write the words 'I'm not in love' it just sort of slotted together," he continues. "Once I'd clicked on the idea to approach it that way, it was actually very easy to write the rest. I made things fit phonetically, and it just sort of rolled out very smoothly in a bossa nova shuffle. You know, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto.

"So I had the first six chords or so of the verse figured and I had the melody already figured in my head, as well as the first verse lyrics 'I'm not in love, so don't forget it, it's just a silly phase I'm going through...' so I took this to the studio, played it to the other guys and asked 'Would anyone like to finish it with me?' GiGi, the bass guitarist, said he would. We usually wrote in pairs, and while the major hits came out of Godley and Creme or myself and Graham Gouldman, we were a very incestuous bunch — we used to swap partners all the time. I wrote 'Life Is A Minestrone' and 'Silly Love' with Lol, and we did swap around a lot just to keep the writing freshness going. It worked beautifully for us. Anyway, at that time Godley and Creme were writing the mini musical 'Une Nuit à Paris' [which would open the album], so they went into one room to finish that, and GiGi and I went into another to work on the 'I'm Not In Love' idea with two guitars. We developed the song pretty quickly.

"We started with the chords that I already had and we began bouncing ideas off each other. We were both very good at steering something away from the norm, looking for another way to make the chords move so that it didn't become a 'regular' pop song... or a regular bossa nova, for that matter. We would say 'What about this?' 'Nah, I don't like that.' 'What about this?' 'Nah.' 'What about...' 'Ah! Now that's got something.' It's just tangential thinking, bouncing off each other — it's very productive if you've got two competent musicians working in this way. I usually wrote on the keyboard, but 'I'm Not In Love' was written on two guitars, and the ironic thing is that there is no featured guitar on the finished product, just a little DI'd Gibson 335 playing a light rhythm pattern. In the end, we must have spent about two or three days writing before completing it.

classic 10cc Album sleeve.s

"There's no middle eight or chorus in 'I'm Not In Love'. GiGi came up with this lovely little fill in between verses: an open 'E' string with the chords moving from 'E' to 'A' to 'G', with this 'E' bass string ringing through it — very, very tasty. I eventually played that on the recording with a Fender Rhodes. A beautiful progression with a beautiful sound. He also came up with the opening chords of the song, an 'A' chord with a 'B' bass, moving to a full 'B' chord, all very 'expectant' of what is to follow. Then we wrote a second verse and, because we thought this was going to be something different, we also wrote what could be termed as a middle eight quite early on in the song. We got the melody for that very, very quickly, but the words just sounded naff: 'Don't feel let down, don't get hung up, we do what we can, we do what we must.' We looked at each other and went 'Oh Christ, that sounds crap, doesn't it?'"

Crap or not, those words remained 'in' for now. Otherwise, since Stewart had a lot to say to his wife, he was responsible for about 90 percent of the lyrics, and these included those for the third verse which he and Gouldman composed before coming up with a bridge: 'Ooh, you'll wait a long time for me...' This refrain was repeated four times, before leading back into the last verse, a repeat of the first.

"GiGi contributed quite a lot on some of the chord changes to take them away from what I'd originally figured," Stewart remarks. "He'd take them in a different direction. There were, as I said, these little fills in between the verses, and he also pulled that chord progression for the 'Ooh, you'll wait a long time' bridge out of the bag; a nice arpeggio run-down. When you've been writing with somebody for quite a long time these things just sort of happen naturally, and you instinctively know whether or not someone's getting off on it. They don't necessarily have to come up with something new, just that look that says 'Hmmmm... no!' and you find yourselves searching for something that will turn you both on. That's the chemistry. Godley and Creme, however, wrote in a very different way."

And they could also think differently. For, when Stewart and Gouldman first played them their sub-four-minute bossa nova classic, Kev and Lol were a little coy: "Yeah, yeah, it sounds nice, it sounds a bit cute. But hey, let's try it!"

Maximum Isolation
10cc's second album, Sheet Music, had been recorded with the eight-track Scully tape machine and Dick Swettenham-designed Helios desk that had been financed by the success of 'Neanderthal Man'. For the recording of Original Soundtrack, a 16-track 3M machine replaced the Scully, and Stewart had his sights set on a wraparound desk, so he designed one in conjunction with Dick Swettenham. This featured 16 channels in the centre, eight more on the right-hand side, and monitoring and outboard gear on the left.
"The outboard gear wasn't all 19-inch rack stuff," Stewart explains. "There were these little compression and EQ units made by Audio & Design and API, just useful 'extra' bits from everywhere; graphic equalisers, you name it. Even a couple of Neve compressor modules eventually! Still, there were things about the first Dick Swettenham desk that I preferred. Sure, in retrospect it was a bit rough and ready, but while the mic amps were a little crude, they were also a bit tasty if you messed around with them. I used to use the line-amp side of them for all our guitar solos. You pushed them into distortion and that desk had the most beautiful, fine distortion that you couldn't get on an overdriven Marshall or with a fuzzbox. It was gorgeous, fabulous, unique.
"When I ordered the new wraparound desk, Dick Swettenham said 'I've improved the mic amps, Eric, I think you'll be pleased with them.' Well, I plugged my guitar in, pulled down the fader, wound up the line amp, and the thing sounded so brittle. It just cracked and ripped and it was bad, unusable. We'd sold the original black desk to somebody local and I desperately tried to get at least one or two of the mic/line modules back, but the bastards wouldn't sell them to me. That meant we had to develop other ways of creating this lovely, smooth 10cc sustained guitar sound."
Strawberry's 18 x 18-foot control room, housing JBL monitors, had a seating area at the back and three Studer stereo machines in front of the desk, below a window that looked out towards the spacious 60 x 30-foot live area. Having been converted from an armaments factory, the place boasted iron pillars supported by iron posts, creating the effect of what Stewart describes as "a giant Meccano set... We had to clad all the pillars in carpet. The room itself hadn't been acoustically designed by anybody. We just insulated it and did what we thought was right, and it seemed to sound OK. The recordings translated quite well when we took them away to cut.
"The drum booth was mostly created with portable screens on wheels, which we made ourselves. Heavily influenced by Steely Dan's 'dry studio sound' at the time, we were very much into close-miking and very, very tight, close drum sounds. In fact, there was very little room on any of our sounds. I remember Glyn Johns walking in and saying 'Fuckin' hell! What is this? I'm not hearing anything. I want to get some air around my sound. This is terrible. It's too dead.' We were going in totally the opposite direction. We were also using Dbx noise reduction instead of Dolby, again because I read that the Steely Dan team were using it. I loved it, it added a nice little frisson of compression that enhanced the overall sound as well."
So it was that Kevin Godley's oyster-shell Ludwig kit was miked with Neumann U87s overhead, a D12 in the bass drum, a Shure SM57 under the snare, a Neumann KM84 on the hi-hat also picking up some brightness off the snare to complement the thud of the 57, and all five tom-toms very closely miked with Beyer M88s to achieve maximum isolation and dryness of sound.
"I'd previously used a five-mic setup on the drums, but never close on the toms like that," Stewart says. "It was all about the Steely Dan sound. I adored it. I adored that close miking. It sounded like everything was right next to you. There was no 'room' around it. You were almost inside the kit itself, and there was a phenomenal sound on the vocals, too. It was so precise, although I think they eventually became a little too obsessive with timing via oscilloscopes and so on. It became almost clinical. But I did like that close-miked sound on the earlier stuff."
Blunt Instruments

All four began recording the song immediately, with Eric Stewart behind Strawberry's new Helios desk (see box, left). While Stewart engineered, the other three recorded as a band, with Gouldman's Rickenbacker bass DI'd and Creme's Les Paul going through a Marshall 50, played at a low level and miked with a valve U67.

"We were always very blunt with each other," says Stewart. "We recorded everything we came up with, but we were very brutal at the end of it, saying things like 'Is this working?' or 'Do we like this? Is this gonna fit? Yes or no?' Out of four people we needed a majority of three votes to say 'Yeah, we carry on,' or 'Yeah, it's going on the album' or 'No, it's out.' Well, we recorded 'I'm Not In Love' as a bossa nova and Godley and Creme didn't really like it! Kevin was especially blunt. He said 'It's crap,' and I said 'Oh right, OK, have you got anything constructive to add to that? Can you suggest anything?' He said 'No. It's not working, man. It's just crap, right? Chuck it.' And we did. We threw it away and we even erased it, so there's no tape of that bossa nova version. It pissed me off no end at the time, but it was also very democratic, as I've said, and so we turned our attention to the recording of 'One Night In Paris'.

classic 3 Lol at piano (poor).s
Lol Creme at the grand piano, 1975.
Lol Creme at the grand piano, 1975.

"At the studio we had various staff, including a secretary, Kathy Redfern, and another engineer, Pete Tattersall, who used to spell for me when I was singing or playing in the studio itself. He was my partner when we built the first four-track studio, and the poor bugger used to have to do all the Granada TV sessions — you know, Coronation Street and Muriel Young's Five O'Clock Club; all these weird things that used to come in with proper MU orchestra musicians. I didn't get along with all that, so Peter got lumbered with it while I got to do the interesting tasty bits. Anyway, walking around Strawberry each day, I kept hearing people singing the melody: 'I'm not in love...' And I kept going back to the band and saying 'There's something more with this song. We've not got it yet, but I don't want to lose this song, because it's got people hooked.'

"Then the secretary Kathy said 'Why didn't you finish that song? I really love it. It's the nicest thing you've ever done.' This didn't really impress Kevin, of course, but we discussed it again, and believe me, it was Kevin who suddenly came up with the brainwave. He said 'I tell you what, the only way that song is gonna work is if we totally fuck it up and we do it like nobody has ever recorded a thing before. Let's not use instruments. Let's try to do it all with voices.' I said, 'Yeah. OK. That sounds... different.' A cappella, vocal instrumentation is what he was talking about.

"I said 'Well, we're gonna need something instrumental in there to sing the whole backing track to,' and he said 'Yeah, we'll keep a rhythm going with something simple; a bass drum, whatever. We can have a guitar just giving us chords, but otherwise it could be all voices.' I said 'Right, there's just four of us to do the whole thing with voices. How are we going to do it?' And it was Lol who then said 'What about loops? Tape loops. Endless voice loops. We can make endless loops of a chromatic scale.' I said 'Right. OK, Jesus, this is really off the wall.'

classic 7 Kathy Redfern.s
Strawberry Studios secretary Kathy Redfern, whose enthusiasm for 'I'm Not In Love' helped to persuade the band not to scrap it, and who eventually supplied the whispered female vocal.
Strawberry Studios secretary Kathy Redfern, whose enthusiasm for 'I'm Not In Love' helped to persuade the band not to scrap it, and who eventually supplied the whispered female vocal.

"I think they'd been at the wacky baccy at this time, and it took me a couple of hours to get my head around the idea. But then I figured how we could physically make the loops and set up the studio to do that. I rigged up a rotary capstan on a mic stand, and the tape loop had to be quite long because the splice edit point on the loop would go through the heads and there'd be a little blip each time it did. So, I had to make the loop as long as I could for it to take a long, long time to get around to the splice again. That way you wouldn't really hear the splice/blip. We're talking about a loop of about 12 feet in length going around the tape heads, around the tape-machine capstans, coming out away from the Studer stereo recorder to a little capstan on a mic stand that had to be dead in line vertically with the heads of the Studer. It was like one of those continuous belts that you see in old factories, running loads of machines, and we had to keep it rigid by putting some blocks on the mic stand legs to keep it dead, dead steady.

"It worked, but the loop itself — and this is where it gets interesting — had to be made up from multiple voices we'd done on the 16-track machine. Each note of a chromatic scale was sung 16 times, so we got 16 tracks of three people singing for each note. That was Kevin, Lol and GiGi standing around a valve Neumann U67 in the studio, singing 'Aahhh' for around three weeks. I'm telling you; three bloody weeks. We eventually had 48 voices for each note of the chromatic scale, and since there are 13 notes in the chromatic scale, this made a total of 624 voices. My next problem was how to get all that into the track.

"I mixed down 48 voices of each note of the chromatic scale from the 16-track to the Studer stereo machine to make a loop of each separate note, and then I bounced back these loops one at a time to a new piece of 16-track tape, and just kept them running for about seven minutes. Because we had people singing 'Aahhh' for a long time, there were slight tuning discrepancies that added a lovely flavour, like you get with a whole string section, with a lot of people playing. Some are not quite in time, some have slightly different tuning, but musically a lovely thing happens to that. It's a gorgeous sound. A very human sound, very warm and moving all the time. Anyway, after putting the 13 chromatic scale notes back onto the 16-track, it meant there were only three open tracks left!

classic 4 Tape loops.s
For the a cappella backing of 'I'm Not In Love', the group multitracked themselves singing each note of the chromatic scale to a 12-foot tape loop. These were then recorded onto 13 tracks of a 16-track reel, and the band then pushed faders to 'play' chords.
For the a cappella backing of 'I'm Not In Love', the group multitracked themselves singing each note of the chromatic scale to a 12-foot tape loop. These were then recorded onto 13 tracks of a 16-track reel, and the band then pushed faders to 'play' chords.

"On one mono track we put a bass drum and me playing the Fender Rhodes piano as well as bumbling a guide vocal very, very crudely, just to keep the song's timing. Kevin actually did the bass drum using a Moog bass note; a funky sound with a little edge on it, a little click almost. The timing had to be perfect, with no metronome! Then, all four of us manned the control desk, and each of us had three or four faders to work with. We moved the faders up and down and changed the chords of the 13 chromatic scale notes as the chords of the song changed — 13 tracks on a 16-track tape, fed through the control desk faders, back out of the master fader and onto that stereo pair of open tracks that was left free on the 16-track machine. It took a long time before we thought we'd got something really interesting, but blow me down, if we hadn't got it right we would have been buggered, because at the point in time when we had that stereo pair of the whole backing track mixed down, I would have to erase those 13 continuous voice notes in order to give me 'clean' tracks to start doing the real vocal, the answer backing vocals, the bass solo, the grand piano solo and the rhythm guitar, which was just a DI'd Gibson 335.

"Luckily we got it. We got it just right. We very, very quickly got the lead vocal down and then we sat there, I tell you seriously, for about three days, just listening to this thing. I was looking at Kevin and the other two guys saying 'What the fuck have we created? This is brilliant.' We knew we had something very, very special, very different. I'd never heard anything like it in my life. I mean, the Beach Boys were seriously good at harmonies, but they hadn't, as far as I knew, done anything this way. It was a very, very unusual sound. And sound degradation caused by all the bouncing didn't matter at all because, when each of us were using control desk faders to mix the voices, there was a piece of gaffer tape across the bottom of the fader paths to stop them ever going to the bottom. That meant we had a chromatic scale sizzling underneath the track all the time, a hiss just like the hum you sometimes hear at a football match when nobody's shouting. If you listen to the opening of the song, where the bass drum beats us in, you will hear a sizzling hum there that continues all the way through the track. We actually created 'hiss' on the track, when we would normally have been fighting to get rid of hiss!

"Some of the low voices on there sound like 'cellos. If you slow the loop down to 7.5ips, a human voice sounds amazingly just like a 'cello. It's got the rasp from the throat that sounds like the rosin on a bow swiping across the strings. Unbelievable. We used the sound on that album quite a lot. There's a track called 'Blackmail' where you hear 'cellos chugging very, very fast in rhythm all the way through, and that's the voice loops slowed down to 7.5 fed through two faders, which were pushed up and down rhythmically. It was wonderful the way it worked."

Share And Share Alike
"An interesting 'deal' we had with 10cc, until Godley and Creme left us in 1977, is that we agreed that we would share the record royalties four ways, no matter who wrote the songs," says Eric Stewart. "This was a great way of only using the best songs, and everybody in the band would benefit. I had seen and heard many albums where, for instance, 'the drummer', bless him, had to have as many songs on the albums as the 'real writers' — and my God, they were usually crap, and pulled the album down."
The Icing On The Cake

Not surprisingly, the song would only take half a day to mix. In the meantime, however, Eric Stewart had to track his lead vocal, and this he did with his usual valve U67, recorded dry with no reverb or EQ, and certainly with no comping.

"There's a very different vibe to somebody singing from start to finish," he says. "You get the whole feeling of the song together. I can spot comping a mile off. So we didn't comp it. It's not a difficult song to sing. I got it down in one and then dropped in to correct a few mistakes. The little high answers at the end of the verses where it goes 'It's because...' — Lol and Kevin could do that. They had great high voices, those two, so I multitracked them about four times on those lines.

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The original master tape of 'I'm Not In Love'.
The original master tape of 'I'm Not In Love'.

"At this point there was no bass on the track whatsoever. The left-hand side of my Fender Rhodes was providing the bass notes — I played them in octaves with my left hand, which is how I normally play keyboards, and that was enough. It didn't need a bass guitar. But again, there was another unusual idea suggested: why don't we try a bass solo? A bass solo in a ballad? Bloody stupid you'd think. However, it did fit beautifully. It's all about searching for something that hasn't been done before, and believe me, we sometimes spent days, sometimes weeks searching for sounds that we thought were different.

"Kevin and Lol were pretty much the ones who would always say 'I want to do something different here!' They would, for instance, look for a bass drum sound and we'd go around the studio, banging everything from the floor to the wall, and even if we later returned to a straightforward bass drum, at least we'd tried. And more often than not we'd get something that was quite unusual. Now, if you've got the luck to convince the public that it's unusual and good as well, you've cracked it, and 'I'm Not In Love' did just that.

"For the bass solo, GiGi came into the control room, I DI'd his Rickenbacker through one of those lovely Dbx 160 compressors to keep its gorgeous, round, thumping sound tight and smooth, and he played the solo. We sat there and he played bits, and we said 'Like that,' 'Don't like that,' 'Do that again,' and it developed. When we got that down, the song was, to all intents and purposes, finished, but again we sat there listening to it, wondering what else we could do to 'screw' this song up. That's the way it was beginning to look to me.

"I'd been reading a book about the philosophy of getting your point across in an argument. So, we each had a sign that we crayoned on a piece of cardboard, and if we didn't like something happening in the studio we'd hold the sign up to the window, saying 'Stop' or 'Next'. Then, when the person came back in, he'd hold up the sign that said 'How dare you!'"

This would be the title of the band's next album.

"The theory was 'How dare you put me down before you've even spoken to me about why I'm doing this. You've got to let me try my thing before dismissing it,'" Stewart continues. "We cracked up employing this idea, it lasted on the one album. Kevin kept doing that, though. He was off on a tangent somewhere, but he had some great ideas because of it, so you couldn't stop him. He might just come up with that little bit of gold dust that you sometimes needed on a track if it wasn't going anywhere. Well, when we listened to 'I'm Not In Love', he kept saying 'It's not finished, it's not finished,' and I remember saying 'What do you want to try next? A fucking tambourine solo in the middle of it? What do you want?' We kept thinking and kept thinking, and Lol remembered he had said something into the grand piano mics when he was laying down the solos. He'd said 'Be quiet, big boys don't cry' — heaven knows why, but I soloed it and we all agreed that the idea sounded very interesting if we could just find the right voice to speak the words. Just at that point the door to the control room opened and our secretary Kathy looked in and whispered 'Eric, sorry to bother you. There's a telephone call for you.' Lol jumped up and said 'That's the voice, her voice is perfect!'

classic 6 Godley drums (poor).s
Kevin Godley at the drum kit during the recording of the Original Soundtrack album, where close miking and portable screens were used to create a very dead sound.
Kevin Godley at the drum kit during the recording of the Original Soundtrack album, where close miking and portable screens were used to create a very dead sound.

"We got Kathy in the studio just to whisper those words, and there it was, slotted in just before that bass guitar solo. And it fitted beautifully. Again, another little twist of fate, an accident that wasn't on anybody else's songs. We'd never heard that before. It just clinched it and made the song even more original. Poor Kathy was bemused. She didn't want to go in the studio, we had to drag her in, but she was very, very sweet and we eventually persuaded her: 'You've just got to whisper. Just whisper, don't worry. You're not singing, just talking. Use your best telephone voice.' She had a gorgeous voice, and there it is; it's on the record... and she got a gold record for it, too."

There was one further addition. "The last thing recorded on 'I'm Not In Love' was a child's music box over the fade out. We sent the secretary out to buy a simple plastic one, attached it to a piece of string, and Lol sat at the drum kit and whirled it slowly over his head while I recorded it on the overhead drum mics."

Given Kevin Godley's initial reaction to 'I'm Not In Love', it may seem a little surprising that he was subsequently willing to not only give it another chance, but also to give it sufficient consideration to come up with such innovative ideas. However, it wasn't the song that he hated as much as its initial sugary samba arrangement, and despite having been turned off it, he was eventually swayed by its popularity among the studio staff.

As Eric Stewart surmises, "He must have just sat there thinking 'How can we do it and make it different? How can I not make it schmaltzy?' And he figured it with the a cappella idea. It was great. A lovely piece of chemistry coming from his head."

Persistence Rewarded

Regardless, when the record company execs first heard 'I'm Not In Love', they gushed over its sound but balked at any suggestion that it might be a single. To their way of thinking, it was a ballad and, at just over six minutes in length, it was too long for radio airplay. A case of "Yeah, bloody hell, fantastic track. Let's go with 'Life Is A Minestrone'..." Which they did. And 'Minestrone' was indeed a UK hit. However, Eric Stewart then received many telegrams, including one from that king of overkill, Roy Wood, singing the praises of 'I'm Not In Love' and urging him to get it released. Others joined the chorus, even employees of other record companies, but Mercury still demurred until changes were made.

classic 8 Graham Lol (poor).s
Graham Gouldman and Lol Creme, Strawberry Studios, 1975.
Graham Gouldman and Lol Creme, Strawberry Studios, 1975.

"The BBC asked me to edit it," Stewart recalls, "and I said 'No, I can't. What am I going to take out?' As far as I was concerned, it was like taking half of a masterpiece portrait painting out. What bit do you want to cut off? The head? Eventually, however, they persuaded us to take the piano and bass guitar solo out of the middle and cut the song down from 6:06 to 4:10. The solo must have been about one and a half minutes, and then we cut the fade-out, which is quite long as well, by 30 seconds or more. Well, the record charted, and by the time it got to number 28 and after pressure from the public and the media, the Beeb started to play the whole thing. And then it went to number one. Justice. It's a good song. I'm very proud of it, as well as the way we all got it together."

It was, in effect, the song that wouldn't die: the survivor of Godley's disapproval, record company indifference and radio station pickiness. While the Original Soundtrack album spent 25 weeks on the Billboard charts after its release in the spring of 1975, 'I'm Not In Love' became a worldwide smash, not only topping the UK charts but also reaching number two in the US. Nevertheless, following 1976's How Dare You!, Godley and Creme departed 10cc to focus on video production and their development of the Gizmo guitar-sustain device. Stewart and Gouldman kept the band alive with the assistance of other musicians and enjoyed further success until calling it a day in 1983. Eric Stewart now markets his music, including new album Do Not Bend, via the www.ericstewart.uk.com and www.strawberrysoundtracks.com web sites. Following the demise of 10cc he also produced Sad Café and ABBA's Agnetha, and worked with Paul McCartney for several years, before helming and participating in two new 10cc albums during the early '90s: ...Meanwhile and Mirror Mirror. The first of these reunited all four original members.

"But it was like trying to reheat a soufflé," says Stewart, who has recently been working in France's Dordogne region, producing Spanish-born Belgian artist Pascal Escoyez in a stunning subterranean studio that is partly built into a hillside. "And to be honest with you, ...Meanwhile was more of a contractual thing. It was the deal to get Godley and Creme out of their contract with Polygram. They said 'If you work with Eric and Graham again we'll let you go.' So, that's what we did and, sadly, it was all a bit of a compromise, in spite of having Jeff Porcaro on drums throughout, and Dr John's piano and vocals on one track.

"Years ago I remember Kevin being asked 'Why did you split? Why did you leave 10cc?' and he said 'Because I didn't want to do any more crap like "I'm Not In Love".' Blow me down. I was stunned. However, I heard recently — because we were awarded all these lovely Ivor Novello Awards last year for the block success of our work in the '70s — somebody asked him again and he said 'Yeah, yeah, I didn't like the song at the time, but I wished I'd written the fucking thing.' Because, you know, it's been the most successful track we've ever had released."

Indeed.


Classic Tracks: Billy Swan 'I Can Help'

Producers: Chip Young, Billy Swan; Engineer: Chip Young

Thumbnail for article: Classic Tracks: Billy Swan 'I Can Help'

In 1974 Billy Swan walked into Chip Young's Young'un Sound studio and, in two takes, recorded a million-selling single that had taken him 20 minutes to write. This is how it was done...

CLASSIC TRACKS: Ian Dury & The Blockheads

Track: 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick'

The story of how a characteristically chaotic and unorthodox 1978 recording session took Ian Dury & The Blockheads to the top of the UK charts.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Madonna 'Like A Virgin'

Producers: Nile Rodgers, Madonna, Stephen Bray • Engineer: Jason Corsaro

In mid-1984 Madonna arrived at New York City's Power Station studios with Nile Rodgers to record the album that would make her an international superstar - using cutting-edge 12-bit technology.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Fleetwood Mac 'Go Your Own Way'

Producers: Richard Dashut, Ken Caillat, Fleetwood Mac

In 1976, in the face of deteriorating personal relationships and massive record company pressure, Fleetwood Mac managed to create a record that would go on to sell 30 million copies.

CLASSIC TRACKS: The Only Ones: 'Another Girl, Another Planet'

Producer: Alan Mair • Engineers: John Burns, Robert Ash

Although never a commercial success, the Only One's 'Another Girl, Another Planet' has proved to be massively influential; and nearly 30 years after its original release, it's finally getting the recognition it deserves.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Tricky 'Black Steel'

Producers: Tricky • Mark Saunders

Thumbnail for article: CLASSIC TRACKS: Tricky 'Black Steel'Tricky's highly unorthodox approach to recording and making music led to the creation of one of the most unique and critically lauded records of the '90s.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Charlie Rich 'The Most Beautiful Girl In The World'

Producer: Billy Sherrill • Engineer: Lou Bradley

1973's 'The Most Beautiful Girl In The World' was one of the defining moments of the Nashville sound, and was the product of a finely-honed studio recording process.

CLASSIC TRACKS: The Ronettes 'Be My Baby'

Producer: Phil Spector • Engineer: Larry Levine

Phil Spector was one of the first producers to realise that a recording studio could be an instrument in itself - and the sound he created over 40 years ago has influenced popular music ever since.

CLASSIC TRACKS: The Jam 'The Eton Rifles'

Producers: The Jam, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven • Engineers: Alan Douglas, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven

'The Eton Rifles' captured both Paul Weller's growing talent as a songwriter and the raw power of his band the Jam, and gave the group their first top 10 hit.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Depeche Mode's 'People Are People'

Producers: Depeche Mode, Daniel Miller, Gareth Jones • Engineer: Gareth Jones

Released in 1984, 'People Are People' perfectly combined Depeche Mode's love of pop music and experimentalism, and gave them their first US hit single.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Les Paul & Mary Ford 'How High The Moon'

Producer & Engineer: Les Paul

Les Paul made some of the most innovative records of the 20th Century, but he had to invent multitrack tape recording first...

CLASSIC TRACKS: The Cure 'A Forest'

Producers: Robert Smith, Mike Hedges

Mike Hedges made his 1980 debut as a producer with one of The Cure's most enduring singles. 'A Forest' and the accompanying Seventeen Seconds album used his and the band's creativity in the studio to the full.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Sade's 'The Sweetest Taboo'

Producers: Robin Millar, Sade Adu, Mike Pela, Ben Rogan

Sade's ice-cool vocals and sophisticated, jazz-tinged instrumentation defined a new kind of soul music for the '80s. Engineer and producer Mike Pela describes the organic recording process that produced one of the singer's most memorable hits from 1985.

CLASSIC TRACKS: Heroes

Artist: David Bowie; Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti; Studio: Hansa Ton, Berlin

With 'Heroes', David Bowie pulled off the rare feat of having a major hit with a highly experimental piece of art-rock, which featured among other highlights live synth treatments from Brian Eno, pitched feedback from guitarist Robert Fripp, and a lead vocal with level-triggered ambience.

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Anarchy In The UK'

Artist: The Sex Pistols; Producer: Chris Thomas; Engineer: Bill Price

When punk rock broke in 1976, the Sex Pistols caused panic in establishment Britain — and more than a few raised eyebrows in Wessex Studios, where Chris Thomas and Bill Price recorded the band's milestone EMI debut album.

MICHAEL JACKSON 'Black Or White' | Classic Tracks

Producers: Michael Jackson, Bill Bottrell • Engineer: Bill Bottrell

The 18-month gestation period behind Michael Jackson's Dangerous album and its lead single 'Black Or White' saw '80s studio perfectionism taken to extremes — and despite their success, the experience helped to convince co-writer, engineer and co-producer Bill Bottrell that there had to be another way to make records!

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'The Reflex'

Producers: Duran Duran, Alex Sadkin, Ian Little; Engineers: Phil Thornalley, Pete Schwier

When Duran Duran began work on their third album in 1983, they were already one of the biggest bands in the world — and with eight months of studio time and half a million pounds spent, huge expectations surrounded Seven And The Ragged Tiger...

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Wuthering Heights'

Artist: Kate Bush; Producer: Andrew Powell; Engineer: Jon Kelly

Kate Bush's 1978 smash hit debut single was also the first major project Jon Kelly had recorded. It proved to be a dream start for both artist and engineer, and a perfect illustration of the benefits of working with talented session musicians.

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'What's Love Got To Do With It?'

Artist: Tina Turner; Producer: Terry Britten; Engineer: John Hudson

In 1984, a dose of British soul resurrected Tina Turner's flagging career in spectacular style. For engineer John Hudson, the recording of 'What's Love Got To Do With It?' also provided a memorable example of the 'less is more' principle in action...

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Start Me Up'

Artist: The Rolling Stones; Engineer: Chris Kimsey

In 1981, 'Start Me Up' became one of the Rolling Stones' biggest hit singles. Yet it was actually a reject from a previous session, and only saw the light of day because its infamous co-writers had fallen out...

Classic Tracks: The Police's 'Every Breath You Take'

Producers: The Police, Hugh Padgham • Engineer: Hugh Padgham.

The Police's final studio album was both a technical and artistic tour de force, and yielded one of their most memorable hit singles. Yet the three members were unable to play in the same room without a fight breaking out, so the recording sessions proved tough going for engineer and co-producer Hugh Padgham...

CLASSIC TRACKS: 'Unforgettable'

Artists: Natalie Cole & Nat 'King' Cole; Producer: David Foster; Engineer: Al Schmitt

Half a century in the business has seen recording engineer Al Schmitt reach the very top of his profession, but even a man of his experience can find himself faced with new challenges. So it was in 1991, when he was called upon to turn a classic Nat 'King' Cole recording into a duet with Cole's daughter Natalie...

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