David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 70: 10cc (I'm Not In Love)

July 5, 2020

Let me say up front that if you expect to see a lot of discussion about how "I'm Not In Love," the entry for 10cc in my 365 artists in 365 songs series, was recorded, look it up on other sites more informative than this one. The song's genesis and eventual creation is a fascinating story of band disagreement, artistic obsession, studio mastery, and persistence. I will only touch upon a part of that.

10cc could only craft this song in a studio, utilizing every recording trick possible, which, interestingly, was at about the same time Queen was similarly crafting "Bohemian Rhapsody" in a different studio in the U.K.  In both cases, the bands were trying to do things with vocals that stretched the capabilities of recording (and, frankly, bands when they went to do these songs live, but I am getting ahead of myself).

Before I even get into the multi-track recording tendencies of 1975, I ask myself, what was it about 1975 for me?  A few days ago I wrote about "Nights On Broadway," and the way the voices somehow seemed to reach some kind of pubertal place in me (yes, "pubertal" is a word, not that you wanted to know). "I'm Not In Love" did that, as did "Bohemian Rhapsody," and The Eagles' "One Of These Nights."  I guess for me thirteen was going to be a harbinger for a new look on life.

In the case of "I'm Not In Love," the background vocals may be more important than the lead vocals in creating a sense of drama. The song is built upon those multi-layered seductive vocals murmuring "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhs," fading in and out like ocean waves hitting the shore. When the background vocals hold the "it's because" that completes every verse and ultimately connects it to the next part of the song, it's as if a little flirtation is drawn out. Given that lead singer Eric Stewart is trying everything in his calm voice to show that the million little things that could be love, aren't love, the hushed nature of angelic background vocals casts him in the role of innocent saint. His emotion, or lack thereof, though, is betrayed by the bizarre bridge of "be quiet, big boys don't cry/big boys don't cry," apparently the voice of the studio secretary who had whispered an interruption in the proceedings.

The heavenly choir even consumes the last minute plus of the song, dominating over the electric piano and synthesizer that provide most of the instrumentation, with a little bit of strummed guitar thrown in there (still hard to believe this song was originally conceived to be entirely supported by only guitars). The electric piano emerges triumphantly for the "oh, you wait a long time for me" section, elevating that bridge to a new level of loveliness, but otherwise one could be forgiven for mistaking this as an a cappella song.

However, here's what you will find out if you look up the song. The band spent 3 weeks just recording the various voices that make up that heavenly choir, 16 versions of each "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah" by the other three band members. Throw in some studio improvisation that I will never understand and you have the finished product. Queen always stepped off the stage when "Bohemian Rhapsody" kicked into the opera section to let the recording play; what the heck does 10cc do when performing "I'm Not In Love?" They can't go offstage through this whole song.  Do they bring in 45 more background singers to get to this magical 48 "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhs?"

It's no wonder that while Queen and 10cc are creating these studio masterpieces in fancy studios around England, emerging punks are attacking all of this studio technology and getting set to re-claim rock and roll as 3 minutes, 3 chords, and at best 3 takes.  These 1975 songs were all truly beautiful, but not necessarily organic or reproducible live. To the punks, these artistic tricks might have been hiding "a nasty stain that's lying there."

"I'm Not In Love." The Original Soundtrack. 10cc. Mercury. 1975. Link here.

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Day 71: Iggy Pop "Lust For Life." ->

See full unfinished list here.