I didn’t know 10cc until their 1983 single Feel the Love (Oomachasaooma). It became the ultimate summerhit to me and it still takes me back to a long, hot, summer’s holiday on the island of Ameland.
Being a 13-year old, I didn’t have any money, so I got all the albums from the library, copied them on tape and sold the better half of my collection of Suske & Wiske comic albums to be able to buy their Sheet Music album. In a time when everybody loved either Michael Jackson (hip) or Prince (cool), I became the laughing stock at high school after drawing the 10cc logo on my leather schoolbag. I didn’t care. I knew I was the one with taste. I listened to Genesis too, you know.
Soon after I discovered 10cc, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman broke up. At the end of the eighties I lost interest for about twenty years. Only recently I started downloading some of the more obscure and not on collection-albums available album tracks and viewing live performances on YouTube. These days, apart from a handful of useless vinyl albums, all I own is a 10cc collection album and Birds of Prey, a magnificent album by Godley & Creme. Then, in april 2011, purple signs appeared in Leeuwarden, announcing 10cc in Concert, on april 21st.
So I went.
Obviously, the outfit doing the 10cc performances these days, only consists of three original members: Graham Gouldman, lead-guitarist Rick Fenn and drummer Paul Burgess, so I hoped they wouldn’t do songs that Eric Stewart sung, like Wall Street Shuffle or I’m Not In Love. I didn’t even expect Gouldman to play songs from the period with Godley & Creme, but I did hope he’d perform Bus Stop and No Milk Today, his pre-10cc hits.
Graham Gouldman walks on stage and I am genuinely thrilled. This concert wouldn’t have been the same if Godley, Creme or Stewart had stood there and not Gouldman. I’ve always liked his bass playing, his voice and his songwriting. He sounds proud of his songwriting himself as he starts off with an acoustic set playing the hits he wrote, that were performed by others.
I don’t know Pamela, Pamela, which may sound a bit outdated, but when he does Bus Stop (Hollies), No Milk Today (Hermans Hermits), For Your Love (Yardbirds)and Look Through Any Window (The Hollies) I’m excited. Every next song brings an extra member of his band on stage and their harmonies are the best I’ve ever heard coming from a rockband.
It’s hard to imagine that while Gouldman was writing these worldwide hits, he had no success at all with his own band, The Mockingbirds (already with Kevin Godley). They only use acoustic guitars for the first couple of songs and I fear the violence of the electric guitars, that so often fuck up a rock performance (yes, they do).
But when they start off with The Wall Street Shuffle I’m amazed at the crystal clear sound that comes terribly close to the album version. Although Mick Wilson’s voice doesn’t resemble Eric Stewarts’s, he turns out to be a fine choice as a replacement. So, now that The Wall Street Shuffle turns out all right, I hope they’ll do I’m Not In Love as well.
Which they probably will, because Gouldman seems to know what we’ve come here for: the hits. We’re moved along a display of 10cc’s crown-jewelry like Good Morning Judge, Silly Love, Art For Art’s Sake and I’m Mandy Fly Me. There’s even some Godley & Creme-work with Donna, The Dean And I and Old Wild Men, a song about old rockers who play guitars “on dead strings, and old drums (....) to pass the time”. Yeah, right.....
It’s obvious that the backing vocals are enhanced by a tape when I’m Not In Love sets in, but who cares? I’m especially looking at Gouldman as he’s playing the subtle bass part during the bridge of the song. It’s the thing that always attracts my attention. Not the piano, not the ooh’s and aah’s of the background vocals, not the soft voice of a woman whispering “be quiet, big boys don’t cry”, but these bass notes, I’ve been listening to for almost thirty years now. Here they are, played by the man who “originated” them.
Personally I liked an album track they played: Feel the Benefit, parts 1, 2 and 3 was an unexpected pleasure. It’s got bombast, length, lots of violins and heart-ripping guitar solos (I liked Genesis too, remember?) and is no easy task to perform live. I’m amazed by the way Gouldman replaces a guitar solo by playing a bass guitar solo.
Highlight of the evening is - obviously - Dreadlock Holiday. It’s still a powerful song that I still love, even after hearing it for the ???th time. “I don’t like Leeuwarden! I love you”, they sing, but I can hardly believe they mean it, because Leeuwarden hasn’t even sold out and although we politely applaud after every song, I’m astonished at the lack of enthusiasm at the beginning of songs and particularly after a fabulous guitar or drum solo. But that’s the way it always goes in Leeuwarden and it doesn’t just happen to 10cc. We Frisisans don’t just have a stiff upper lip, we’re stiff all the way!
I can’t help but feeling that off all people present, I’m the one who enjoys the show most.
So, what else can you do than invite people to dance to the very last song of the evening, a rousing Rubber Bullets. But before that, they perform the only song of the evening that isn’t related to 10cc or Graham Gouldman. It’s only fitting that he does an acoustic version of Across the Universe by The Beatles, because, without The Beatles, without John Lennon, there wouldn’t have been a 10cc, Gouldman explains. I couldn’t agree more. Not many people know this, but Across the Universe is one of the greatest Beatles-songs there is. Graham and I, we know this.
If there should be any criticism of the show, it’s that by playing a greatest hits show, Gouldman aims to - rather easily - please his audience. There is no new stuff, there are no songs from albums that were less successful like Look Hear, that he may consider to be among his better work. Well, he did do From Ocho Rios To Dorking, a funny, little gem on the Bloody Tourists album, but apart from that it’s hits and nothing more than hits, to make sure we’ll go home happy. Which I did and there are worse things than happily going home after a show.