Graham Gouldman’s songs provide the soundtrack to so many teenage memories. From his first songwriting hit ‘For Your Love’ recorded by The Yardbirds in 1965, through memorable tunes and lyrics for The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits in the ’60s, a decade of hits with 10cc in the ’70s and early ’80s, songwriting partnerships with Kirsty MacColl, Suggs from Madness, Andrew Gold, Gary Burr, Tim Rice and – still contributing to those teenage soundtracks – co-writing with McFly on their Number One album Wonderland.
Graham released a solo album in August 2012, Love and Work; his first in 12 years. That’s in addition to touring with the third incarnation of 10cc, with Rick Fenn and Paul Burgess from the mid-’70s line-up. Graham has taken the music of 10cc around the world. A UK tour in the early part of 2012 included a date at The Royal Albert Hall. There was a break for the launch of the solo album before a more extensive tour with 10cc in autumn 2012.
Graham’s earliest ambition, aged 8, was to be a drummer. After a few tentative lessons he realized that wielding a pair of drumsticks was not quite what he had in mind. Then, when he was 11, a cousin returned from Spain with a cheap acoustic guitar. ‘As soon as I held it,’ he remembers, ‘I was gone’.
Graham left school in his hometown of Manchester as soon as was legally possible, and before long was playing lead guitar with The Whirlwinds. This was the ’60s, the most exciting time in the history of Western music when the Beatles were happening. Liverpool was the new capital of the world, Elvis was king, Motown was the coolest, and Britain was spawning bands by the ton: The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Yardbirds, Georgie Fame, The Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, The Springfields and the Mockingbirds.
The Mockingbirds were formed after Graham tired of the Whirlwinds. Working by day in a Gentlemen’s outfitters and writing songs and playing by night didn’t pan out, and Graham was soon fired from his day job. It was a blessing in disguise. He’d already caught the attention of Harvey Lisberg, the energetic manager of one of the biggest acts to break out of Manchester, Herman’s Hermits. Harvey offered Graham a small retainer to sit in his office and write songs all day – a dream come true.
Within months The Mockingbirds signed to the Columbia (UK) division of EMI and were booked as the warm-up band at the taping of the Manchester-based BBC TV show, Top of the Pops. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Graham had his first Top 10 hit at the age of 19, with the haunting ‘For Your Love’, recorded by The Yardbirds. Graham’s songwriting career was off with a flourish.
He penned two more big hits for The Yardbirds, ‘Heartful of Soul’ and ‘Evil Hearted You’ and had his next Top 10 hit with ‘Look Through Any Window’, which he wrote for The Hollies. ‘Bus Stop’ followed – another Hollies’ hit – and, although Graham was still recording with and without The Mockingbirds, the songwriting hits continued. ‘Pamela Pamela’ was ex-Mindbenders’ Wayne Fontana’s biggest solo hit. Herman’s Hermits hit the Top 10 with ‘No Milk Today’, which featured the unforgettable suburban comment, ‘the bottle stands forlorn, a symbol of the dawn’, and ‘East West’, which was covered in 1991 by fellow Mancunian Morrissey.
In the late ’60s, in between writing more hot songs for the likes of Jeff Beck, The Mindbenders, The Hollies et al, Graham spent time in New York writing and recording for Kasenetz-Katz hit factory and invested, with Eric Stewart, in Strawberry Studios, Stockport.
Back in the UK, after his spell in New York, Graham decided to get Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme together to complete the Kasenetz-Katz recordings. The four of them went on to produce and play on two Neil Sedaka albums: The Tra La Days Are Over and Solitaire (both of which were recorded and produced at Strawberry Studios).
Then, in 1972, 10cc was born, keeping Graham occupied for the next decade.
Songwriting partnerships followed with Tim Rice, Kirsty MacColl, and Suggs from Madness, to name but a few. Graham also went to Nashville and wrote with, among others, Country Songwriter of the Year Gary Burr.
Graham Gouldman is the complete musician; it’s what he’s always done, it’s what he’ll always do. And he loves it, ‘I just can’t imagine doing anything else,’ he says. ‘I love working with new, sometimes unsigned artistes. I know I benefit from their fresh perspective, I can only hope they then benefit from my experience.’
Graham Gouldman’s catchy tunes and lyrical messages have been entertaining music-lovers around the world for decades, and there’s much more to come. For now, enjoy his new album, Love and Work, out now on Rosala Records.