|WRITERS:||Eric Stewart & Graham Gouldman|
If there was a Top 10 of “Well, I Didn’t See That One Coming” then 10CC’s I’m Not In Love would be somewhere near the top of it. It’s not that the band’s four members – Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley, and Lol Creme – hadn’t all got band form. Gouldman had cut his teeth in line-ups such as The Mockingbirds (plenty of singles but no biggies) before writing hits for the likes of The Hollies, The Yardbirds and, erm, Herman’s Hermits whilst Stewart had already topped the charts in The Mindbenders, the band originally fronted by Wayne Fontana. Apart from solo ventures and long forgotten early bands The Whirlwinds and The Sabres, Godley and Creme had almost been marketed as a British Simon & Garfunkel – and (with Stewart but minus Gouldman) had reached number two as Hotlegs with the bog simple Neanderthal Man. But even as 10CC – a name given them by then record label owner Jonathan King – hits like Donna (which sounded like it had fallen off the end of a Frank Zappa spoof doo wop tape) and the almost controversial boogie paced Rubber Bullets, a song like I’m Not In Love seemed a long way off being likely. But what was in their favour was that their pop histories had criss-crossed so much over the years it seemed inevitable they would eventually team up. For starters each member of 10cc was a multi-instrumentalist, singer, writer and producer, and the writing teams frequently switched partners, so that Godley/Gouldman or Creme/Stewart compositions were not uncommon right from the start.. Mainly though 10cc featured two songwriting teams, one “commercial” and one “artistic.” Stewart and Gouldman were predominantly pop-songwriters, who created most of the band’s accessible songs. Godley and Creme were the more experimental half of 10cc, featuring an Art School approach and cinematically inspired writing. I’m Not In Love belonged on the writing front to Gouldman and Stewart. But inspiration was shared. Could it fail? Years later Alanis Morrisette crooned long and loud about the “irony” of “a black fly in your chardonnay” so how could we resist the insistence of someone pleading: “I’m not in love so don’t forget it, it’s just a silly phase I’m going through. And just because I call you up don’t get me wrong, don’t think you’ve got it made.” Even the coldest of hearts must realize yes, he is actually in love, very much so in fact so “don’t forget it.” And just in case the message alone is too subtle try removing any instruments for most of the longish running time and spending three weeks in the recording studio multi tracking vocals until more than 600 are aahing away. We’ve actually got Stewart’s wife to thank for the song. He came up with the idea after she, to whom he had been married for eight years, asked him why he didn’t say “I love you” more often to her. His (typically male) response?: “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.” He and Gouldman worked up a bossa nova version of the song which Godley and Creme disliked so much they erased the master tapes only going back to the song after hearing staff at their recording studio singing it. Godley was still sceptical, but came up with a radical idea of using voices rather than instruments, slowing everything down and creating a “wall of sound” of vocals as the focal point of the record. Stewart spent three weeks recording Gouldman, Godley and Creme singing “ahhh” 16 times for each note, building up a “choir” of 48 voices for each one of the scale. The main problem was how to keep the vocal notes going for an infinite length of time, but Creme suggested tape loops. Stewart created them 12 feet in length by feeding the loop at one end though the tape heads of the stereo recorder in the studio, and at the other end through a capstan roller fixed to the top of a microphone stand, and tensioned the tape. By creating long loops the ‘blip’ caused by the splice in each tape loop could be drowned out by the rest of the backing track, providing that the blips in each loop did not coincide with each other. Still awake? Well, having created twelve tape loops for each of the 12 notes of the chromatic scale, Stewart played each loop through a separate channel of the mixing desk. This effectively turned the mixing desk into a musical instrument complete with all the notes of the chromatic scale, which the four members together then “played”, fading up three or four channels at a time to create “chords” for the song’s melody. It gets really technical after that but something was still missing. Stewart said: “Lol remembered he’d 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 Redfern 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!’.”] The group agreed that she was the ideal person and eventually coaxed her into recording her vocal contribution (“say it or you’re sacked” probably worked?), using the same whispered voice that she had used when entering the control room. Released in the UK in May 1975 as the second single from the band’s third album The Original Soundtrack, it became the second of the group’s three number-one singles in the UK between 1973 and 1978, topping the UK singles chart for two weeks. It was also the band’s breakthrough hit worldwide, reaching number one in Ireland and Canada and number two in the US, as well as reaching the top 10 in Australia, New Zealand and several European countries.