Formed by a quartet of individually proven hit writers, multi-instrumentalists, singers and producers, 10CC boasted an enviable pedigree and with an opening salvo of top ten hits that included “Donna”, “Rubber Bullets”, “The Dean and I” and a miss in the overlooked “Johnny Don’t Do It”. Everything pointed to the band’s debut album being a big hit. That it spluttered in the lower reaches of the top 40 almost defies belief, especially as it’s actually pretty good.
The album itself displays the band’s mastery of what were then cutting-edge studio techniques, but the songs still possessed a pure pop heart, especially on the Gouldman and Stewart penned numbers, to the point where the production genius was so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable. Compare this approach to the likes of Roxy Music, contemporaries of 10CC that tried to give the impression of performing music that was as futuristic as possible, yet they often sounded like they were trying too hard to overcome their limitations. 10CC’s approach was more one of writing a catchy single and apply their production knowledge to make it sound as good as possible. Yes, they could goof around and have fun with their doo-wop parodies, but it’s obvious that they took a great amount of pride in how polished their music could sound without it sounding bland and characterless.
Song wise, this debut is a strong showcase for the band’s talents, but given their previous hit-making experience you would expect it to be. The none-hits aren’t overshadowed by the singles, indeed “Donna”, one of the band’s earliest big hits, is probably the weakest track on the album with it’s vaguely annoying falsetto trilling and the band seemingly throwing every doo-wop cliché possible at the wall. Elsewhere the album is a buzz with double-tracked guitars, catchy riffs, brilliant moments of tunage and a whole host smart and economical arrangements. While Godley and Creme were the brainy art-rockers of the group, it was evident their collaboration with the pure pop writers Gouldman and Stewart was mutually beneficial. If any of the four members of the band hadn’t been there, the album would have been a much weaker affair, as the band’s post Godley and Creme releases would prove. As it stands this debut is a heady blend of intelligent pop-rock, with a generous serving of humour and a determination not to over-complicate things while still being smarter than their hit-writing contemporaries.
In the nostalgia hungry, retro-obsessed last two decades, certain acts are notable by their absence when contemporary acts have listed their influences. It’s hard to point to any contemporary acts that have been obviously influenced by 10CC, but on the strength of this album, maybe it’s time there was. The campaign to re-establish 10CC as a pop act with equal importance to ABBA starts here!