Wednesday, May 21, 2014

40 year Itch : Musical Dada

We had tremendous fun. We couldn't go wrong. We had to keep ourselves entertained and being the people we were, you couldn't get away with anything. No cliche was allowed unless it was so obvious, we wanted it like that. 
-Graham Gouldman to Mojo Magazine

In May of 1974, 10cc followed up its debut with Sheet Music, an album that left both fans and critics breathless.

Rolling Stone's Charley Walters joined the chorus of besotted critics in this review:

   Sheet Music, a worthy successor to their debut 10cc, includes a McCartneyesque poke at Wall Street, a reggae barn-burner, frequent Beach Boys Harmony, and crisp Fuzz-toned guitar throughout. All are infused with outrageously humorous lyrics which lament burned-out flash guitarists, carry on a dialogue between a jet plane and a time bomb aboard it, and invent a new dance called "The Sacro-Illiac" --not your every day Top 40 fare. But all ten cuts here would sound fine on any DJ's playlist...

Sure, they were studio musicians ( who had just backed up Neil Sedaka on two previous albums). But Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley were not clock-watchers. They were part of this new, weird breed of ADD UK artists like David Bowie, Brian Eno , Sparks and Be Bop Deluxe. And they had their own studio to engage every one of their strange whims.

Already bored with pop conventionalites, 10cc could write hits as easily as play on them. Gouldman had written "For Your Love" for The Yardbirds, "Bus Stop" for the Hollies and "No Milk Today" for Herman's Hermits. Stewart had been a member of the Mindbenders. Sheet Music is the sound of a band bursting with ideas. 

   As NME raved
     The Beach Boys of Good Vibrations; the Beatles of Penny Lane, it defies you to label it mere eclecticism, something akin to musical Dada.

  Finally, 10cc were literally one of the most inventive bands of their day. Guitarist Creme and drummer Godley invented the Gizmo- or Gizmotron-a device that could make an electric guitar sounds like the string section of an orchestra ( used to delicious effect on Sheet Music's "Old Wild Men").

Even more so than Sparks's Kimono My Way, Sheet Music offers its listener surprise after delightful surprise. One of my Top 10 albums of 1974.

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