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My interview with 10cc founding member Graham Gouldman got off to a shaky start when we discover that the band’s press release was wrong. Ever the professionals we soldiered on to discuss the best pop song ever written, why one set of notes can become a hit and another set doesn’t, Graham’s favourite 10cc album and why we may have to redeem ourselves by organising a gig featuring Prince and Steely Dan on the same bill!
How does it feel being back on the road after two years?
Its not been two years! Ah… the press release is wrong! We did four gigs over last weekend, we played Hyde Park a few weeks ago. We have been very very busy because its festival season, it has been very healthy, we’ve been outdoors a lot and we’ve been lucky with the weather. And we’ve been in Holland and Switzerland and we’ve done some gigs in Scotland and South Shields.
You have managed to achieve commercial success and critical acclaim, a hard balancing act. Was there a deliberate plan behind this?
No, I don’t think you can plan those things, I think you just have to do what you do and hope that everyone likes it. And that’s what I’ve always done and 10cc has always done. We always made records for ourselves, if other people like them and are willing to buy them that’s even better. There are people who have managed to formulate what a hit is but it doesn’t last for very long I don’t think but we have never done it, and I don’t do it now. If I write a song I’m not thinking, I’m not mad about this but it sounds really commercial, I couldn’t do it.
You have had loads of top ten hits, are there any of our songs that you thought would be successful but weren’t?
Oh yes. I’m sure there are loads of them. Quite often when you are doing an album you’ll have songs that you think, oh this is going to be a single and it doesn’t turn out very well. And sometimes a song, I can give you an example, I worked with the late Andrew Gold, we had a band called Wax during the 80s we went to our producer with a list of songs and he picked one out in particular and he said there is something about this, this could be a hit. We both went, Really? It never occurred to us but he was right – that was a song called “Bridge to you Heart” which was quite a big hit for us. So, we are not always the best judges!
You wrote songs for others before 10cc, what do you think were the songs that got you noticed?
I guess, right at the beginning “For Your Love” that I wrote for The Yardbirds. It was a different sort of song and the Yardbirds were one of THE bands of the 60s that people loved. I think they came more to attention after that because they made a deliberate attempt to record something by another songwriter that wasn’t like standard blues, that’s what they did, they were a blues band. For them to record what I suppose they considered commercial was something quite different so that was probably the most important song I ever wrote.
What would your advice be to aspiring songwriters?
Well, be true to yourself, I guess. That is the only way to do it. And try, if possible, to do something different. It is very hard – you can say, this is different, but its still crap! But it has to have something; I don’t know what the thing is with certain songs… I know it when I’m writing that song, there is something that has its own beauty and charm, why a certain series of notes has it and another series of notes has absolutely nothing. This is the whole thing with the whole creative process, why should one thing be better than another?
You were recently inducted into the songwriters hall of fame, no small feat, where were you when you heard about that?
I was at home in London. I got a call from the guys at BMI who are our collecting agency in New York. I knew I’d been nominated, it was in the evening I remember I was very happy.
Do you ever get tired of playing 10cc’s hits?
No. Because I always think of the audience and I always think that there is someone out there who may never have seen us before and I want that person to go away going that was great and to tell all his or her mates about it. That’s one thing that goes through my head, the other thing is… the songs have a life of their own and when you are playing them you get into that zone with them and it is really lovely to do it, I cann’y honestly tell you that I get bored doing them and some I have been doing for decades, they still feel great to me. Some I wrote, or co-wrote others I didn’t but they are 10cc songs and they belong to all the members of the band.
Given the expansive history of 10cc is there any one song, or any one album that stands out for you as defining the band or the 10cc sound?
Yes, “Sheet Music” which was our second album. There was a kind of joy about that Sheet Music that I don’t think was on… but I also love our very first album which has songs like “The Dean and I” which to me is one of the greatest pop songs ever written.
From what you said earlier you are still writing songs, are there any new songs included in the new tour?
Not new songs in the 10cc tour, no. There will be some new “old” songs because 10cc exist as a band that play 10cc music that already exists so there will never be a new 10cc album. But I recently did a tour in May called “Heart Full of Songs”, myself and a couple of the other boys. We do acoustic versions of songs that I have written over the past fifty years. We will be doing that again next year – but that is a different sort of event because there is quite a few new songs I put out a new solo album called Love and Workout and it is a situation where I speak about the songs, a lot more about how they came about and give people backgrounds for thr songs.
You have played a wide variety of venues, big and small, have you got a favourite venue?
I think the Albert Hall. There was something about walking in there; I’ve been going to that place for years. You can feel the history in the walls. It is big but it is intimate at the same time, maybe because you are encircled.
Who would Graham Gouldman pay hard earned money to see play live?
I’m a big Prince fan and maybe Steely Dan as well. If you could arrange that I would be very grateful!
Ah, an interesting challenge for the Grapevine team! Graham it has been a pleasure talking to you, enjoy your day.
You can see 10cc in Ipswich on Monday 13th October at the Regent Theatre. Tickets cost £32 and £30 and are available from the Regent Theatre’s Box Office or click here.