SEVENTIES house extensions in Rochdale, Greater Manchester is not a topic you expect to discuss with the founder of one of rock and roll’s most commercially successful bands.
But everybody has to start somewhere. And for Graham Gouldman, a big detached house in an affluent Rochdale suburb was the first mark of his songwriting success.
(I know this, because it was my granddad who built the extension.)
Gouldman’s foray into seventies domestic architecture took place just as his songwriting was taking off. Little did he know then that his group would become one of the best-selling British bands in pop and rock history –10cc.
Among 10cc’s hits were I Don’t Like Cricket, I’m Not in Love and the Wall Street Shuffle – songs that would contribute to the band’s 30 million record sales worldwide. I’m Not In Love alone has been played more than five million times on US radio. Indeed, 10cc need no introductions.
But Gouldman – the pivot of the art-rock group – was writing songs even before founding 10cc. He famously wrote the Yardbirds hit For Your Love, which would be performed by Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. His brief stint as temporary bassist in the Mindbenders resulted in writing two of the psych-pop band’s singles, Schoolgirl and Ice Cream Man.
And the key to his songwriting success, he believes, is the fact that 10cc never really sounded like anyone else.
They didn’t possess the muscular riffage of Led Zeppelin, more the ethereal prog of Pink Floyd. 10cc weren’t rock, pop or folky. They were out on a musical limb, with songs influenced by reggae, pop, soul and funk.
“We didn’t really fit in anywhere, musically,” says Gouldman. “We weren’t like any other bands at that time. We were completely self-contained and were writing songs that fused all our influences, which ranged from reggae to ballads.
“Nothing we did was instantly recognisable as ours because it was all so different.”
And although Gouldman carved a career out of songwriting and lyricism, it the was the drums that got him into music.
“I started having drum lessons and discovered Radio Luxembourg. I then got into all the skiffle bands and they were so important in that lots of bands grew from skiffle bands.”
But the moment Gouldman realised his group was on to something special – after the extension – was recording at Strawberry Studios, Stockport at the same time as Paul McCartney.
“That was when we were recording Sheet Music, the second album. We had a peak during that album – it was the whole vibe. We were recording at Strawberry Studios and Paul MacCartney was recording with his brother at the same time, that added something extra to the album and I think we certainly felt that something special was happening.
“But I don’t know whether we had ‘arrived’ at that point, I like to think that we are always ‘arriving’ – I don’t want to have ‘arrived’ at a certain point because then all you can do is depart.”
And now, at 64, Gouldman’s still loving playing and touring with 10cc. It’s a good job because next Thursday (February 24) they hit the Sheffield City Hall stage as part of a UK tour.
“I feel like a young pup! I’m still enjoying myself and as long as I am enjoying myself I’ll keep on doing it.”
But despite his upbeat temperament, 10cc haven’t been without their troubles: “We’ve had good times and bad times. Two of our boys left after three years but these things happen.”
Live, the band will not be throwing in any unrecognisable versions of 10cc classics: “We play songs as near as damn it to the records,” he says.