❉ 10cc founder member in conversation with Eoghan Lyng.
“It’s a bit like our Heaven’s Gate, which was sold as this giant flop, but it’s a bloody good film. There was a period I loved the album and a period I hated it.”
“It was a total misconception about Rubber Bullets” Kevin Godley says. “We were inspired to write from black and white James Cagney films, and we wrote the story about that. It’s amazing how many songs are misconstrued, people still play Every Breath You Take at weddings. We were audio-visual and we wrote the title, which must have stuck. We wrote about it before rubber bullets were a thing in Northern Ireland, but it came out around the same time. But it was a visual story, or a sound picture”.
Godley, who lives in Ireland these days, is reflecting about his time as the drummer of 10cc, a band where he primarily collaborated with guitarist/keyboardist Lol Creme, who concocted some of 10cc’s worthier songs as Rubber Bullets, Donna, The Dean and I, Clockwork Creep and Une Nuit A Paris.
Godley and Creme shared a taste for the adventurous and the eclectic. “We were in art school together, we trained as graphic designers, and were interested in art, we thought visually, but that was put to one side when we ventured into the music industry, so we put our visual elements into the songs. When I listen to Consequences it sounds like two frustrated filmmakers. It was our chance to use the gizmo, a device Lol and I designed long before 10cc. We used it on one of the early albums, the Hot Legs one, I think, but it wasn’t until Old Wild Men on the Sheet Music album where we got to use the gizmotron on a 10cc song. Sheet Music is my personal favourite 10cc album”.
The gizmotron, or gizmo, is an effects device patented by Godley and Creme in the seventies. Attached to a guitar, it wields small, motor driven plastic/rubber wheels making the strings vibrate, yielding resonant, synthesizer-like sounds from each string, encompassing orchestral sounds. Jimmy Page used it on the viperous and exotic In The Evening (1979) and one of the Beatles was another fan.
“I think Paul McCartney used it” Godley explains. “Was he influenced by our music? You’d have to ask him. I know 10cc were big fans of The Beatles, as everybody was. He sang one of our songs, a song called Get Well Soon, which was on the Freeze Frame album I think. He came down to a small studio in Surrey Town, not very high tech, but sang a string of backing vocals. He came with Linda, very nice of him”.
Eager to put their device to good use, Godley and Creme (still half of 10cc) put their heads together to put an album together. “We initially recorded to practice the gizmo, see where it would go, and we thought it would be a single album. But then the band broke up and suddenly it was our lifeline. Five O’Clock, which we released as a single, I always thought was a bit bland, I don’t like a lot of the songs on Consequences, I like Lost Weekend a lot, but Five O’Clock could definitely have been recorded by 10cc Mark II!”
Unimpressed by Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart’s more conventional sounding The Things We Do For Love, Godley and Creme opted to leave the band, allowing Gouldman and Stewart the chance to write chart hits Dreadlock Holiday, Good Morning Judge and People In Love. This freed Godley and Creme to focus their energies on what inevitably became a triple album.
“The record company allowed us to do it, so we let our imaginations run wild, however pretentious that might sound. It was a gradual process putting it together, before we decided it should be a play”.
Consequences is a vast sounding album of symmetry and effects. The opening three tracks Seascape, Wind and Fireworks symbolised the sense of the supernatural and the natural intertwining to devastating effects.
“We designed the covers, Lol and I, before we had completed the process.” Godley reminisces. “There was a lot of rain effects and that influenced the stories, how the ever pouring rain was destroying the planet. This was years ago, before the environmental dilemmas, so it was sci fi. We would throw buckets of water for the sound effects of that and when we recorded the Burial Scene, we wanted it to sound real, like some sound picture, so we scraped real sand and recorded it all. We did the beginning recording in Strawberry Stockport, then a few months in The Manor, Oxforshire, then we finished it in Strawberry”.
Although much of the album sounded instrumental, Godley and Creme shared many of the vocal duties between themselves and two esteemed guests, jazz legend Sarah Vaughan and comedian Peter Cook. “It’s how I work with people to this day,” Godley says. “It’s very democratic, who can sing it, should I sing it or can you sing it better than me? So, it’s a process to get the sound for the song. It’s how we did things back in 10cc too, we took turns. It’s interesting how we got Peter, he was the suggestion of the record company, this is back in ‘76ish, when the album wasn’t taking shape, they thought they should get someone more grown up and bring kudos to the project. We learned a lot from each other, Peter wasn’t very musical, funnily enough, so he learned how to put an album together from us, and he helped to structure the characters, so we, who didn’t have experience of play writing, learned a lot from him. I know he was offered a part in a Sex Pistols film, so I don’t know if he made the right call or not”.
A triple concept album of ethereal soundscapes and visceral orchestral effects would prove a hard sell at any time, but released in 1977, concurrent with punk, the album struggled to find an audience. It proved a blow, but Godley and Creme managed to continue a partnership, first as musical artists, then as visual artists, directing some of the seminal videos for The Police, Visage, Duran Duran and Frankie Goes To Hollywood in the eighties.
“We learned from the backlash, I think”, Godley says. “We assimilated some of the stuff from Consequences from Peter, and Hugh Hudson used ninety seconds of our music for a brilliant cigarettes ad, which showed us how visuals and music could go together. These days, I’m in the middle of a solo album where I was sent music by people I hadn’t met. I put a vocal on the two or three songs, I enjoyed the process so much, I invited others to send me music, and we share the publishing. I’ve always had a solo album in me, I’ve felt, but not being able to play an instrument has made that difficult, but now I have about twelve tracks that I think I’m happy with. I was sent over two hundred, which I didn’t expect. Instead of a triple album, I’d be releasing quadruple albums once a year for the rest of my life!”
Consequences, while initially a flop, has found a steady audience over the years, including a fan website designed to detail the varying plot points. Godley is stoic. “It’s a bit like our Heaven’s Gate, which was sold as this giant flop, but it’s a bloody good film. There was a period I loved the album and a period I hated it. I think it might have worked better as a double, but even if it is a folly, it’s a grand folly and there’s some great stuff there”.
❉ Originally released in 1977, Godley & Creme – ‘Consequences’ has just been released on CD for the first time outside of Japan, as a five-CD box set (Caroline CAROLR085CD). This 2019 version – mastered by Andy Pearce and overseen by Godley and Creme – contains the original album as well as Musical Excerpts From Consequences and for the first time on CD the promotional edit album, with expanded artwork and sleeve notes by Mojo’s Daryl Easlea.
❉ Eoghan Lyng is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. His writing has also appeared in Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine, DMovies, Phacemag and other titles. Follow him on Twitter. Visit his homepage.