He's one of the great legends of British pop, of course: the man who wrote 'For Your Love' for The Yardbirds, the former member of The Mindbenders, and - best of all - one quarter of the original 10cc.
10cc were the consummate British pop group of the 70s, fantastically successful in commercial, artistic and even critical terms. The fact that their name isn't mentioned as often as it should be nowadays is partly because their brand of flawless perfection in pop is unfashionable in an age of under-achievement and partly because they were too damn good to be an influence on anyone - you just couldn't compete.
The first two albums 10cc (1973) and Sheet Music (1974) were released on Jonathan King's UK label, spawned some of the best singles of the era and impressed the hell out of everyone with their combination of wit and pure pop. The critical consensus was that the cleveness came from Kevin Godley and Lol Creme and the pop sensibilities from Gouldman and his fellow-Mindbender Eric Stewart. Actually this simplifies the situation. Check out the writing credits on those two albums and you see an ever-changing series of writing combinations: Godley & Creme wrote the most cynical song of the lot with 'The Worst Band In The World', but Gouldman & Stewart wrote the equally witty 'Wall Street Shuffle', a tongue-in-cheek celebration of capitalism. And the great 'Rubber Bullets' itself was written by Gouldman, Godley & Creme.
What you had here was a collection of four equally brilliant writers and musicians who could work in almost any permutation and draw vast amounts of inspiration from each other. What you also had, very unusually in such an ego-driven industry, was a sense of absolute trust in other's abilites; as Gouldman says: 'We would always record what was written, there was nothing ever rejected - it was "If you think it's good enough to record, then we'll do it and we'll do our damnest to make the best of it." That was the attitude.'
However good those records were, however, there was a sense in 1974 that the group was running out of commercial steam. 'Silly Love' failed to make the top twenty, whilst 'The Worst Band In The World' had flopped entirely. Part of the joy of 10cc was their refusal to play the industry's game: every single was different to the one before it, no chance was left untaken and, in Gouldman's words, 'We never wrote for the charts.' Even so, we expected them to be successful in spite of themselves, so when they left UK to sign for Mercury Records, a move back from cleverness towards hit-making was clearly needed.
So they came back with 'I'm Not In Love', about which nothing can be said really; it's simply the most perfectly constructed white pop single this side of 'Golden Years'. Well, it might be worth mentioning that, as always seems the way of these things, the band themselves seemed unaware of what they'd done and chose 'Life Is A Minestrone' as the first single off The Original Soundtrack instead of 'I'm Not In Love': 'None of us realized its commercial potential at all. We wanted to do something more upbeat and quite accessible as the first single.'
The album is also superb though its follow-up, How Dare You, is less endearing. And then, four albums into a truly spectacular career, the band split. Godley & Creme wandered off into an artistic and commercial backwater of their own creation, whilst Stewart & Gouldman kept the name of 10cc and scored three more big hits.
Amongst these was a third #1 in 'Dreadlock Holiday' and the excellent 'Things We Do For Love', but to be honest the group weren't really regarded as fondly anymore. Up to 'Dreadlock Holiday' the band continued to take a new direction on every single, and yet there was less experimentation and - as a fan - it seemed like the sparkle had been lost. However good the records were, however well-written, played and produced, they seemed more radio-friendly and more tame somehow. And this at a time when punk and new wave was asking for a tougher approach.
The surviving group finally disbanded in the early 80s, with Gouldman subsequently forming Wax with Andrew Gold. He's still playing and if you go to see him, you'll still get some 10cc numbers scattered through the set. What we'll probably never get again is a group as inventive and carefree as 10cc.
1972 Donna (#2)
1973 Rubber Bullets (#1)
1973 The Dean And I (#10)
1974 The Wall Street Shuffle (#10)
1974 Silly Love (#24)
1975 Life Is A Minestrone (#7)
1975 I'm Not In Love (#1)
1975 Art For Art's Sake (#5)
1976 I'm Mandy Fly Me (#6)
1976 The Things We Do For Love (#6)
1977 Good Morning Judge (#5)
1978 Dreadlock Holiday (#1)
1975 I'm Not In Love (#2)
1977 The Things We Do For Love (#5)
1977 People In Love (#40)