Sheet Music (1974)

1974 proved one of the more eclectic years in pop music. Sparks were fronted by an effeminate bohemian and a keyboard player with a Hitler moustache. Roxy Music had an album graced by two naked German beauties. Queen released their finest work, an amalgamation of white and black theatrics. ´On The Beach´ showed Neil Young baring his soul, following Bob Dylan´s footsteps a year prior. Among all that, Northern English rockers 10cc threw in their sophomore record, an astute combination of pop invention and recommendation.

Hailed as the Beatles of the seventies, 10cc had something not even The Beatles had (my apologies to Mr. Starr): four accomplished songwriters and singers, each brimming with ideas, each capable of turning an odd idea into a great hit. No George Martin was needed, each a competent producer, Stewart´s technical know-how served him well as resident engineer at Strawberry Recording Studios.

Furthering The Beatles analogy, 10cc had one McCartney songwriting partnership brimming with pop melodies and wonderful tunes, guitarist Eric Stewart and bassist Graham Gouldman, giving the album it´s most obvious hit, ´The Wall Street Shuffle´ (prior to joining 10cc, Gouldman had written beloved sixties hits for The Yardbirds and The Hollies as a songwriter for hire). Their John Lennon counterparts, second guitarist Lol Creme and drummer Kevin Godley, threw esoteric lyrics and avant garde sensibilities into their songs, though perhaps going further left of that direction than Lennon ever did – ´Clockwork Creep´ gave a perspective of a bomb, from the mindset of the bomb itself – even Gainsbourg didn´t do that! Nor where they afraid to swap writing partners, ´SiIlly Love´ a fine piece combining Stewart´s ear for guitar melodies and Creme´s accomplished use of wordplay – “you take the beauty out of beautiful/You play the strings of my heart/Oh babe, you take the wonder out of wonderful/Oh my, oh my, and my, if you were mine”, making for one of the more idiosyncratic pieces of the seventies.

Understandably, such differing factions led to a break-up two years later, Godley and Creme turning their cinematic artistic sensibilities into filming music videos for Sting, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Duran Duran, while the other two bravely ventured on as ´10cc, earning a worthwhile no.1 in 1978 with inspired reggae track ´Dreadlock Holiday´.

But never where they better than as a four piece, ´The Sacro Lilliac´ one of the finer examples of a ska- beat by English musicians, Gouldman and Godley bouncing and harmonising well off each other, ´Oh Effendi´ as perfect to Caribbean brilliance as any are likely to hear; sung by Godley, he had the strongest voice of the four, something which Creme and Gouldman have re-iterated throughout the years. ´The Worst Band in The World´ is one of the finest pieces of tongue in cheek art, ersatz to the extreme, incorporating a melange of styles, pop, rock, even baroque – a song of the worst band in the world played by one of the best bands in the world.

´Sheet Music´ proved a worthwhile addition to the ever growing palette of musical styles thrown at the time. The album´s greatest service was in its songwriting prowess. A band with no distinctive frontman (Creme had the closest personality to the wild men of the seventies with his long, lucid hair and Stewart was certainly the best looking, though neither nominated themselves as anything more than artists and musicians), the band´s legacy depended on its songwriting ability. And ´Sheet Music´ managed the fine line between ingenuity and modesty that their succeeding records failed to manage. “Our best album” wrote Gouldman (the only original member who still plays live with 10cc to this day), “epitomising what 10cc was all about. Unique songwriting and production.”