10cc: "I love all our albums, but that one has the edge"

On February 5, 10cc begin the UK leg of a world tour, which will see the art-rock pioneers celebrate the 40th anniversary of their second album, Sheet Music, by performing it in its entirety. Sheet Music contains the hits The Wall Street Shuffle and Silly Love, but was a marked leap on from their 1973 self-titled debut, with progressive and hard rock, satire and humour feeding into the songs such as Clockwork Creep, Baron Samedi and The Worst Band In The World. As far as frontman Graham Gouldman is concerned it’s still the best album 10cc ever made.

You’ve always said that Sheet Music is your favourite 10cc album. What’s its appeal?

I love the others but this one has the edge. The band was in a very good place, and we felt good about ourselves - as Americans would say. We were coming off the back of two hit singles, Donna and Rubber Bullets [in 1972 and ‘73], but we’d had to rush to get that first album [10cc] out. With Sheet Music we could take our time, and that came across in the end result.

What do you remember about the recording?

We worked during the day [at the band’s own Strawberry Recording Studios in Stockport] and Paul McCartney and his brother, Mike McGear, would come in at night to do Mike’s first solo album. That added a certain frisson. I think we played Paul a few songs. He was very positive about them, but then he is a very positive bloke.

Why did you decide to perform the album now?

I’ve been thinking about it for over a year. The time seemed right now for some reason, with the anniversary coming up. But also because it’s time for us to do something different – not just for the audience, but for us as well.

Listening to Sheet Music again, was there anything you’d change?

No, I just think, ‘This is it’. 10cc never did anything willy nilly, it was all thought out, even down to the time between the tracks. There’s a standard three seconds now, but we changed that, either when we wanted people to recover from what they’d just heard or wanted to shock them and go straight into the next one. I still think it’s a sonically fantastic sounding album.

You’ve never played some of these songs live before. Will that be challenge?

I don’t think we ever did Clockwork Creep or Oh Effendi live. I am nervous and excited. We’re not a R&B band and these songs are complex: the vocals are complex, the instrumentation is complex, so singing //and //playing them at the same time…

Apparently [ex-10cc drummer/vocalist] Kevin Godley will be making an appearance on video?

He wouldn’t appear in person but he said he would on video. He will be singing one of the songs and making his presence felt digitally. I don’t want to give the surprise away, but he’s going to be with us in his own way.

So there’s no chance of a reunion of the Sheet Music line-up?

I would say no. Kevin is the only one I’m in regular contact with. Lol [Crème] I saw a few years ago when we were rehearsing next door in the same studio. We had a really nice chat. Eric [Stewart] I never see and have no contact with at all.

Would you consider performing another 10cc album, if this tour works out?

It’s possible. The other one that comes to mind would be The Original Soundtrack. I’d put that before How Dare You. We could well do one of the Mark II albums, though, like Bloody Tourists. But I am immersed in Sheet Music I can’t think about anything else.

For more on 10cc, not least the story behind the enigmatic I’m Mandy Fly Me, then click on the link below.

The Story Behind The Song: I'm Mandy Fly Me by 10cc

Mark Blake

Mark Blake is a music journalist and author. His work has appeared in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, and the magazines Q, Mojo, Classic Rock, Music Week and Prog. He is the author of Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, Is This the Real Life: The Untold Story of Queen, Magnifico! The A–Z Of Queen, Peter Grant, The Story Of Rock's Greatest Manager and Pretend You're in a War: The Who & The Sixties.