Friday, July 5, 2013

Golden Gouldman

Graham Gouldman is best known as a longtime member of the British band 10cc (1972 - 1976, with less interesting incarnations following to present), known primarily for their 1975 hit I'm Not in Love (and maybe Dreadlock Holiday and The Things We Do for Love if you were really paying attention) and not much else stateside. The band generally split between two songwriting factions, one side being the more poppy (Gouldman's side) and the other the more experimental. (Wiki explains.) Now mostly forgotten in the U.S., both sides of this muscled Janus collective were capable of high craft, sharp hooks, humor, and satire. (Go see for yourself: That's what Spotify is for.)

Before 10cc, Gouldman had already established an astonishingly impressive legacy as a songwriter for hire ('69 - '72, he wrote For Your Love at age 19). During this period I'd put Gouldman in an orbit with the best pop songwriters of the era—even early Lennon-McCartney. Unlike the jauntier, major key bounce of his American counterparts, Gouldman's songs had a more melancholic minor key Anglo style and an old school respect for construction. Like most of his peers that grew up in the 50s, he clearly did some time visiting Tin Pan Alley.

As Gouldman says in one video, 1965 was a particularly successful year for him. Though there'd be more good work to follow, the magic of this brief period was something he'd never quite be able to capture again.

Gouldman would record versions of some of these songs himself as The Graham Gouldman Thing. These, of course, would pale against the better known versions by The Yardbirds, Hollies, etc. (He also did some time in the bubblegum factory with Ohio Express, much to his later regret.) More recently, Gouldman has trotted out these nuggets for an airing in a more naked form without the layers of vocal harmonies and accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. Time has shown them no worse for wear—the songs remain supple and smooth with nary a sag or varicose vein in sight.

In some of the videos he adds a short introduction of how the tune came to be:

As done by Herman's Hermits:

From the Yardbirds in the Clapton era:

In 10cc, Gouldman usually partnered up with bandmates for songwriting, most often Eric Stewart as he did on these three (I'm Not in Love, the same chords as Hall and Oates's She's Gone). Here's a very Beatle-y thing he did 2000 where it might be argued he found some of that early magic again:

Here's an exhaustive and passionate overview of Gouldman's career created by a much more generous blogger than I.

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