Theatre Thursday: Two bands for the price of one

How my grandfather inadvertently introduced me to two very different bands that started out as one — 10cc and Godley & Creme.

Once upon a time, when I was a kid, I had a grandfather (my dad’s step-father) who collected records avidly. He had a habit of going to local yard and barn sales (he was in a rural area) or raiding antique and thrift shops, and then buying vinyl in bulk, by the crateload.

Now, his interests were limited. Anything that came out after around 1950 that wasn’t jazz was trash in his mind. So were any spoken-word records. And everything from 1950 through the early 1980s that vaguely seemed to be rock or pop likewise went into the reject bin.

He focused on jazz and big band music, as well as 78 rpm LPs in both vinyl and shellac, as well as the original wax cylinders.

So… he bought a lot but he tossed a lot more, and in the best way possible. He’d put the crates of rejects down in the basement, where he had all of his ridiculously amazing audiophile equipment, and then tell all of us cousins — his wife’s grandkids, basically — to go take what we wanted.

Challenge accepted, sir!

Fortunately, my cousins and I had very different tastes. They were all about snarfing up the 60s through 80s heavy metal and hard rock. As for me, I went for a combination of anything classical, any comedian, pop music, and more experimental bands.

And this is how I discovered two bands for the price of one. The former had released most of their oeuvre before I was even aware enough of pop culture to grok it. The latter was born from that band, and was much, much better. And I probably got into their stuff when I was a wee bit too young to actually get it all.

As an adult — damn. Amazing artists all around.

The first band was called 10cc, which comprised Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. The quartet had actually been recording together since 1968 — and the Beatles influence is evident — but 10cc itself didn’t start yeeting out studio albums until 1973.

These were 10cc, Sheet Music, The Original Soundtrack, How Dare You!, and Deceptive Bends.

After Deceptive Bends, Godley and Crème split off to form their own group, appropriately called Godley & Creme, and their oeuvre began with an epic three-record concept musical called Consequences, released in 1977, although I first found them because of their album Freeze Frame, which had a discretely nude couple on the cover.

Godley & Creme were active from 1977 to 1988. Their other half sort of held out until the early 1980s, but quickly became a parody of the original band by flogging the hell out of one of their biggest hits.

But, anyway, by the time I dragged them out of grandpa’s rejects, both groups had released most of their major works, and what I quickly learned as I listened to them was that it was entirely possible to incorporate all kinds of styles into rock music — opera, Broadway musical, classical, experimental jazz, and (before its time because Godley & Creme were just like that) rap and hip-hop.

In other words, they had an anything goes approach, and some really dense and amazing lyrics and stories going on. It took me years after my initial fascination to unpack all the adult stuff going on, but both groups provided a master class in how to do music and do it different.

Of course, after Godley & Creme split from 10cc, it became pretty obvious which half of the quartet had been doing the major lifting in the creativity. Another thing to keep in mind about the groups — their politics were always progressive, even from the beginning, and just as they embraced the “anything goes” theory of musical styles and the like, this extended into the people they wrote about and the stories they told.

They were also not afraid to write about unhealthy obsession with a critical eye. Hell, the big hit that 10cc continued to flog when they were way too old for it to be cute anymore, I’m Not in Love, pretty much delineated teen angst and obsession, and why it was not at all healthy.

Listen closely to their entire works, and you’ll find validation of every member of the alphabet Mafia, LGBTQA+, along with endorsement of sex-workers, and a general celebration of Freud’s polymorphous perverse — except that Freud was a totally repressed asshole who never really got the idea that it should have been polymorphous average instead.

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