A couple issues back, discussing the NAMM convention, I mentioned Kevin Godley and Lol Creme in the context of their invention: The Gizmo. I thought I might write a bit about them and their musical adventure.

    They came to attention as members of 10cc – which, if you know the derivation of that band’s name, will clue you into something about them and their records. They left the band in order to make the epic, the awesomely huge, 3-record set called Consequences.

    Consequences is a cross between a radio play, a 10cc record (minus the obvious pop hits), and a progressive album. The opening track sounds very much like an early Genesis album, with Gizmotron guitar substituting for Mellotron. I encourage looking around this site, which ought to tell you whether or not you’d find the album worth looking for.  It’s also a really terrific advertisement for my board: it was recorded on two Helios consoles, at Strawberry Sound (10CC’s studio) and the Manor (Richard Branson’s studio).

    An essay shows up on Roon when you bring up their 2nd record, L, that’s dismisses them and it as too clever by half, the English Zappa. It’s not a very wrong comparison, but I found Zappa to generally be too “prurient” for my taste, for want of a better term. For a man who was as nice as he was (he was one of the most genuine and decent people in Hollywood), and who was an intellectual giant, he seemed to get a kick out of snickering lyrics. Not these guys.

    There’s plenty of sarcasm in these lyrics, and quite a bit of sneering too. But sneering at different things: British things, in a way. It’s fair to say you won’t be brought to tears by their lyrics, but they might make you think (like “Hit Factory/Business is Business” from L). And of course:

    I’d like to know you better
    And maybe take you home
    I’d like to meet your father
    But really not tonight
    We’ll be stopping off at Dayvilles
    For pistachio and beer
    It’s the flavor of the month but
    You’re my flavor of the year
    I could eat
    Sandwiches of you
    You could eat
    Sandwiches of me
    Oh my papa
    He will not approve
    He won’t like your car
    Or the way that you conduct yourself
    In public
    Your move.
    Shame, shame on you
    I want to keep this friendship platonic
    I respect the fact that you’re waiting
    For Mister Right
    Am I wrong?
    Let’s pull over
    Please let’s pull over
    And discuss the ramifications
    Of a lasting and complex relationship
    Like mature and responsible people do
    Am I getting through?
    I could eat
    Sandwiches of you
    You could eat
    Sandwiches of me
    I could eat
    Sandwiches of you
    You could eat
    Sandwiches of me

    Tres romantic! OK, it’s not Lennon, Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen, but it’s still pretty cool. And pretty damn original. On the other hand, there’s “Punchbag”:

    If I brought a note to school
    That said my days were numbered
    They’d leave me
    Numb and bleeding
    Or strangle me with jump-leads
    Momma, momma, momma,
    In my world
    The birds don’t sing
    The bells don’t ring
    The bicycle bells, the bicycle bells
    Momma, momma, momma, Help me!
    I wish I could blend
    Into the background
    I’ve no excuses for my lack of guts
    Lack of guts
    What is it about me
    That draws attention?
    Fourth form atrocities
    Punchbag
    Come and get it Socrates
    Got to hit back
    Get down on your knees
    Ready for the polythene bag
    I’ve never been a natural
    At physical things
    I’ve never been good at cross-country running
    Since the first football hit me in the ear
    Like a frozen cannonball
    And the knees buckled
    And stayed bent
    And the laughs came
    And the nerve went
    And “Dirty Jew”
    Was written on the blackboard
    Fourth form atrocities
    Punchbag
    Come and get it Socrates
    Got to hit back
    Get down on your knees
    Ready for the polythene
    Ready for the polythene
    Ready for the polythene
    Bag treatment
    Running through the corridors
    Far too many obstacles
    Bursting, bursting
    Bursting for the crap I know
    They’ll never let me have
    Fourth form punchbag
    Oh God I wish that I was
    Thicker than I am
    And thinner than I am
    Oh God I wish that I had
    Normal ears
    And clearer skin
    I’m praying for the day
    When handsome’s out
    And ugly’s in
    Fourth form punchbag
    Fourth form punchbag
    To Jesus I pray
    For strength to survive
    Your Christian soldiers
    Smell blood
    I torture myself in private
    To prepare me for the pain
    I talk to myself in public
    On the buses and the train
    My father just ignores it
    ‘Cos it goes against the grain
    Momma, momma, momma, Help me!
    Fourth form punchbag
    Fourth form punchbag
    Booming round the corridors
    Like guadiamus igitur
    Fourth form punchbag
    Fourth form punchbag
    Can
    I
    Please
    Get
    Up
    Now
    No
    When?

    But I have to admit, I agree with the Roon essayist that they hit their stride on the next record: Freeze Frame. The way that “Random Brainwave” crescendos into “I Pity Inanimate Objects”, it always leaves me a little breathless. And the latter tune’s technique of generating the vocal melody from a keyboard-controlled Eventide Harmonizer — well, I never thought of that; it’s ingenious. In many respects, what used to be the first side of the LP, the first four tunes, are the most successful of all their work. “Get Well Soon”, which wrapped up the LP, besides featuring one of the Fabs on background vocals, sings about Radio Luxembourg — at the time, an English pirate radio station — in a fever dream. There are four additional songs on the Japanese SHM-CD, but they do seem like an afterthought.

    Their 4th album, Ismism (October ’81), actually has just about the only white rap I think is any good, on the song “Snack Attack”. The album as a whole anticipates the whole English dance funk thing, with rap-esque vocals all over it. “Ready for Ralph” brings to mind Blondie’s “Rapture”. It also shows them to be mining the same rich vein at the same time that Peter Gabriel did on his 3rd album, and Talking Heads did on Remain In Light.

     The last album I’ve heard of Godley & Creme’s is Bird of Prey from 1983. It’s quite a bit more ordinary — the vocals are still incredibly strong (particularly “Golden Boy”) but the compositions and arrangements are more conventional.

    By now you’ll know if you should investigate their music or not. There is a 6th album I haven’t heard, called “Goodbye Blue Sky” (’88), so I’ve got something to look forward to as well.

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