"a 'wall of sound' made from voice alone"
December 31, 2017 12:46 AM   Subscribe

The Making of 10cc's "I'm Not in Love"

The vocals alone took three weeks to record...
"They had to record these 'endless loops of a chromatic scale' themselves by singing: for three solid weeks. Creme, Godley and Gouldman recorded enough 'aahs' for there to be 48 different recordings, or voices, for each of the 13 notes of the chromatic scale: 624 in total."

Disagreement can be destructive, but it can also drive a band on to new heights. So it was when 10cc's Kevin Godley turned up his nose at a love song penned by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, insisting that it would have to be completely reinvented in the studio...
"We sat there, I tell you seriously, for about three days, just listening to this thing. I was looking at Kevin and the other two guys saying 'What the fuck have we created?'"

(previously)
posted by fairmettle (55 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
All the more gorgeous that it was recorded in Stockport, not always at the top of the world's most glamourous destinations. It's a song that always proves to me that greatness flows from the provinces.
posted by specialbrew at 3:22 AM on December 31 [2 favorites]


It's very interesting to read this! I can listen to it now, but when this song first came out on the radio when I was little it actually upset me and nauseated me a little bit. I would have to leave the room or beg my mom to shut it off, it was just too saturated with emotions for my young brain to take. The human wall of voices might explain it (I always wondered what it was about this song!).
posted by marimeko at 5:02 AM on December 31 [9 favorites]


"nauseated me a little bit"

Listening to "I'm Not in Love", I'm reminded of Samuel Johnson's comment on Milton's "Paradise Lost": For all the book was admired, "None ever wished it longer than it is."
posted by Modest House at 6:01 AM on December 31 [9 favorites]


One of my favorite songs of all time. Thanks for posting!
posted by analogue at 6:34 AM on December 31 [1 favorite]


I love this song so much. Almost as much as I love that Sound On Sound article.
""I think they'd been at the wacky baccy at this time, and it took me a couple of hours to get my head around the idea..."
It's such a magnificent example of what can happen at the intersection between art and engineering.

I got a decent pair of studio monitors recently, and put I'm Not In Love as the second song on my 'Showing Off The Speakers' playlist. I love sitting a friend down in front of them, hitting Play, and saying, "You know this song."

The look of bafflement on their face as they listen to the intro is, of course, why I do it. It's delicious. They know they've heard it, but it's so weird, so otherworldly when you really hear it that they just can't place it. Then the vocals hit, and they're completely taken aback. This song they've heard in the background in countless malls and grocery stores, that they've taken for granted in cars and diners, is this magnificent confection of determined weirdness, this gem-like structure of voices and sparse sounds and bass solos and whispered vocals that's like nothing they've ever heard before.

And now I'm off to put together a 'Rediscovering Elevator Music' playlist.

Great post.
posted by MrVisible at 7:28 AM on December 31 [35 favorites]


I spent a day in a Dayton, Ohio recording studio with an Indiana band making a (failed) single a couple of months after this song came out. I remember how impressed the head engineer was with “I’m Not in Love.” (I also remember this little trick that was common at the time when hits would make it or not on the basis of car radio listeners: they would play the finished tune back on a crappy little speaker—rather than the gorgeous studio speakers—to see how it would sound to the average Joe.)

The song is pretty good. The recording, especially with its massive lush wash of voices at the end, is magnificent! Too bad about that corny “Big boys don’t cry” whispered refrain in the middle: that’s really cringe-worthy.
posted by kozad at 7:50 AM on December 31 [4 favorites]


The Things We Do for Love isn't too shabby either, but nothing else they recorded ever seem to stick in the US. In America, they were pretty much a 2 hit band, but both hits were pop perfection.
posted by Beholder at 8:04 AM on December 31 [4 favorites]


no, no
posted by stevil at 8:05 AM on December 31 [1 favorite]


I had a crush on a guy in high school when this song came out. He could have written those lyrics. “I’d like to see you, but then again, it doesn’t mean you mean that much to me.” The whole thing, every line. It was amazing to me every time that song came on the radio (which it did about five times a day for months and months.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:05 AM on December 31 [3 favorites]


I love what amazing stuff artists and technicians managed to create in the late analog period.
posted by octothorpe at 8:34 AM on December 31 [5 favorites]


I was already a fan of 10cc when this song came out. I heard "Rubber Bullets" once and bought the album "Sheet Music"(which is the most under-appreciated album of ALL TIME) when it came out. "I'm Not In Love" seemed, at the time, like the perfect vindication of my infatuation.
posted by DaddyNewt at 8:34 AM on December 31 [7 favorites]


A unique, magnificent pop song that would quickly disappear into the ether if released today.
posted by davebush at 8:41 AM on December 31 [5 favorites]


Sheet Music is an amazing album! I discovered it among my uncle's vinyl collection 15 years ago as a teenager and immediately fell in love with it. Agree that it benefits from being listened to loudly on good speakers!
posted by drunkonthemoon at 9:10 AM on December 31 [1 favorite]


Too bad about that corny “Big boys don’t cry” whispered refrain in the middle

As a kid, I always heard that somehow as the puzzling phrase “requesting quiet.” Mondegreens were much richer in the days of AM radio and crappy speakers.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:27 AM on December 31 [16 favorites]


I used to do a similar trick to MrVisible with the multitrack of Bohemian Rhapsody in the studio. I turn the monitors up full, turn the lights down and get my "victim" to stand in the sweet spot with their eyes closed. I wouldn't tell then what I was going to play them.

Because it's just a safety copy of the raw multitrack there's a load of hiss and noise at the start and then this whisper of "one, two, three, four" and the voices just erupt like they're in front of you and you're just inside this cultural object that you've heard a million times and hearing it for the very first time again. Truly one of the most special experiences that music has ever given me.... Incredibly emotional.

(The files can be found on bit torrent if you're so inclined and it pretty much mixes itself . Just turn all 24 channels down about 10db so you don't clip the 2 buss and after 5 mins panning and some little tweaking it'll sound just like the record but more raw and real)
posted by Mr Ed at 9:38 AM on December 31 [9 favorites]


One other thing I learned as a result of this post: prog rockers have truly epic Wikipedia pages.
posted by cardboard at 9:44 AM on December 31 [5 favorites]


I used to have that Sheet Music album. Forgot how much I loved the Wall Street Shuffle...
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:52 AM on December 31 [3 favorites]


Listening to "I'm Not in Love", I'm reminded of Samuel Johnson's comment on Milton's "Paradise Lost": For all the book was admired, "None ever wished it longer than it is."

I'll be the exception that proves the rule, then. I would listen to one of those 24-hour-long YouTube videos of the middle breakdown, corny receptionist voice and all. The way that lonely bass solo plays against the giant wash of voices is probably one of the most influential juxtapositions in my lifelong head canon. Ravishing.
posted by mykescipark at 9:57 AM on December 31 [6 favorites]


“requesting quiet”

I'm glad to learn I wasn't the only one who consistently heard this.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:05 AM on December 31 [6 favorites]


I always heard it as "Be Puesston quiet," where "Puesston" was some fancy type of quiet and simply a vocabulary word I had not yet learned.
posted by lazuli at 10:21 AM on December 31 [6 favorites]


I had no idea what was meant by "big boys don't cry", and then scrolled further until I saw "requesting quiet". Oh, THAT line!
posted by yhbc at 10:22 AM on December 31


Ooooo, that console.
posted by bongo_x at 10:34 AM on December 31 [1 favorite]


See also: Une Nuit A Paris
posted by Splunge at 11:39 AM on December 31


Somebody mention creme and godleys cry, please.
posted by valkane at 11:41 AM on December 31 [5 favorites]


I also remember this little trick that was common at the time when hits would make it or not on the basis of car radio listeners: they would play the finished tune back on a crappy little speaker—rather than the gorgeous studio speakers—to see how it would sound to the average Joe

Now it's a phone speaker.
posted by atoxyl at 11:45 AM on December 31 [5 favorites]


It's a great song. I've read the story of it a bunch of times, including that 2005 SoundOnSound one but never hadn't seen the video. I wish there was footage of the tape-loop setup!
This song is part of the history of my LOVE for recording aaahs. Love it a little too much.
posted by chococat at 11:46 AM on December 31 [3 favorites]


All the more gorgeous that it was recorded in Stockport

Huh. I just changed trains in Stockport a couple of months ago, and I had no idea. Life is really one big game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:06 PM on December 31 [4 favorites]


The Things We Do for Love isn't too shabby either, but nothing else they recorded ever seem to stick in the US.

"Dreadlock Holiday" just missed the Hot 100 at #44, but I recall that it was rather popular on FM radio.
posted by ogooglebar at 12:44 PM on December 31 [3 favorites]


I recall reading a Rolling Stone review of something by 10cc in the late 70's or early 80's in which the writer opined that there was more going in a single by 10cc than an entire album by Yes.
posted by hwestiii at 12:44 PM on December 31 [9 favorites]


Today I learned that Lol Creme is someone's name.
posted by deadwax at 2:47 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]


I have no idea why people find Lolagon’s name so entertaining.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:37 PM on December 31


Huh. I had formed, when I was a teenager, I guess, the opinion that 10cc was a second rate blues-rock band cashing in on the coattails of Page, Clapton, etc. Maybe because of the connection to "Spoonful"? Turns out I just made all of that up!
posted by thelonius at 4:02 PM on December 31


With all the artists that rely heavily on sampling, loops, and live looping these days (Imogen Heap, Tash Sultana, Tune-Yards, e.g.) it's always amazing to hear what is nothing more than a board and a pedal nowadays used to take so much planning and work. Three weeks to record the voice "choir."
posted by dw at 4:39 PM on December 31 [1 favorite]


"Requesting quiet"? "Big boys don't cry"!? Nah, it's "Be poised and quiet".
posted by otherchaz at 5:08 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]


It's "Be quiet, stay quiet" obviously, and always has been.
posted by bongo_x at 5:10 PM on December 31


I think some of you have been listening to this song on a jukebox in Scarfolk.
posted by mykescipark at 5:17 PM on December 31 [1 favorite]


Fans of Never Not Funny know that the real line is "Stay moist and quiet."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:18 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]


Somebody mention creme and godleys cry, please.

It's really interesting the things that are remembered, or stick to the culture. For a minute in the mid 80's Godley and Creme were pretty famous as video directors, recording artists, and "oh yeah, they used to be in 10cc, remember them? Uh, kind of."
posted by bongo_x at 5:20 PM on December 31 [3 favorites]


Now I am wondering: how long is the list "hit songs with bass solos", which this may not even qualify for, since it says they edited that section out for the single. "My Generation" is in, I suppose. Was YYZ a "hit"? Does either the melody of the intro, or the four beat fill on "Birdland" count as a bass solo? The breakdown verse of "Le Freak"? How about Fender VI solos, like on"Wichita Lineman"?
posted by thelonius at 5:52 PM on December 31 [3 favorites]


You Can Call Me Al would definitely have a spot on that list.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 5:58 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]


Be poised and quiet.
posted by matildaben at 6:17 PM on December 31 [1 favorite]


Hahahaha, I never realized this was the title of this song, nor what they were singing. I thought it was maybe, "I modernoff".
posted by unknowncommand at 6:18 PM on December 31


Oh, or maybe, "I'm not enough"?
posted by unknowncommand at 6:19 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]


"Be Puesston quiet,"

Yes this approximates what I heard... but my brain insisted on "translating" it to "People are listening, quiet" even though it doesn't scan. Once that was in my mind, I couldn't unhear it.

Amazing to hear this now through ear buds, instead of the old FM in the car!
posted by jaruwaan at 6:23 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]


I was actually introduced to this song via that cringe-worthy big boys don't cry interlude, in a roundabout fashion. First time I heard that was in Mr. Jaws, a novelty tune that was tearing up the AM dial when I was a kid.
posted by davelog at 8:13 PM on December 31


Now I am wondering: how long is the list "hit songs with bass solos", which this may not even qualify for, since it says they edited that section out for the single. "My Generation" is in, I suppose. Was YYZ a "hit"? Does either the melody of the intro, or the four beat fill on "Birdland" count as a bass solo? The breakdown verse of "Le Freak"? How about Fender VI solos, like on"Wichita Lineman"?

"Hit songs with bass solos," and no mention of John McVie's featured turn in "The Chain"?


And my mondegreen here--and one of my favorite bits in a great song--was "Be quiet, stay quiet."
posted by the sobsister at 8:59 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]


Be cwispy quiet. I was six months old when it was released. This and "Baker Street" and "Eye in the Sky" is like nails on a chalkboard for me, I think for the same reason as marimeko. The pathos is saturated to an uncanny valley level.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 1:24 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]


"Hit songs with bass solos," and no mention of John McVie's featured turn in "The Chain "?

You just mentioned it! It was not my job to list everything
posted by thelonius at 1:47 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Be cwispy quiet. I was six months old when it was released. This and "Baker Street" and "Eye in the Sky" is like nails on a chalkboard for me, I think for the same reason as marimeko. The pathos is saturated to an uncanny valley level.

Heck, throw in Michael Martin Murphey's "Wildfire" and you have the Pathos Quadfecta.
posted by Chitownfats at 7:24 AM on January 1 [4 favorites]


The similarity in those songs has never occurred to me in all these decades, but I can see how it makes sense. It's odd when people point things like that out. I have always loved "I'm Not In Love", been ambivalent about "Baker Street" and despised the other two.
posted by bongo_x at 8:31 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


It was always "Requesting Quiet" to me...
posted by lhauser at 12:44 PM on January 1


This is so great, I was reading about this a couple of months ago, didn't think to go looking on YouTube. I was trying to find out more about the vocal sound because I wanted to do a (very) rough approximation of it in a recording. "Take It Away" by Paul McCartney has a similar sound to the background vocals and I'm still wondering if he did a less intensive version of this process to get that or there's a synth mixed in or something like that.
posted by trbojanglesm at 8:37 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


I had a listen to "Take It Away", and that just sounds like your bog-standard backing vocal overdubbing to me. I do love the sound of those tight harmonies, though. I use 'em a lot in my own music. (Fun bonus fact: The guitarist on "Take It Away" is Eric Stewart from 10cc!)
posted by mykescipark at 10:34 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I noticed not too long ago that Daft Punk's Nightvision is basically their homage to this song. Fascinating to hear the vocal recording technique, I think I assumed it was an early sampler/ fairlight or something.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:13 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


It's more like a DIY Mellotron.
posted by bongo_x at 4:58 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


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