Where do you start with an album like Sheet Music?
Come to think of it, where do you start with a band like 10cc?
Because this is a masterpiece by the alternative Fab Four, the Fab Four from Stockport, not Merseyside, whose artistry and musicianship don’t seem to enjoy the recognition they merit nearly five decades on.
Kevin Godley was not only the drummer, but a fine vocalist and a creative thinker. A tinkerer in all things, he was well-matched by bandmates Lol Creme, Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart.
For them 10cc was less about being a hit machine than pushing the boundaries of what could be regarded as pop and of recording techniques.
The Wall Street Shuffle, the opening track on this 1973 offering, was one of three singles to be culled from it. And the most successful, peaking at 10 in the UK charts, compared to the raucous Silly Love (24) and The Worst Band In The World, which failed to dent the Top 40.
Sheet Music is packed to the gunnels with puns, often at the band’s expense, including the title. It was anything but, and Godley’s percussive output is undoubtedly a strong point.
He plays the rock drummer par excellence, grooving with the best of them. Just put The Wall Street Shuffle on, turn the volume up and listen to his drumming. Solid, dependable – there’s a lot going on and he has to keep going with a change in feel at almost every turn.
And that’s the measure of his drumming – a constant change of tempo, time signature, style and feel. All delivered effortlessly. It’s a similar template on The Worst Band In The World, while Hotel allows him to settle into a tom-heavy bossa nova.
It shakers and hi-hat on Old Wild Men, the song imagining Clapton et al still playing on in their twilight years, on ‘old drums and dead strings, to pass the time’. Whatever did happen to the likes of Clapton?
It’s worth mentioning here that Godley has perhaps one of the best voices of the ‘singing drummers’, although live 10cc used the talents of Paul Burgess, allowing Godley to really belt out a tune. The live version of this doing the rounds on Youtube is a killer.
Clockwork Creep, a song about a bomb on a plane, a refrain from which resurfaced in the intro on 1976s I’m Mandy, Fly Me, is a build up of tension, starting with bass drum, adding hi-hat before the whole ensemble kicks in. Cleverly done. The frantic nature of drumming continues apace in Silly Love, before we arrive at the stand-out track for me – Somewhere In Hollywood.
A nod to the Golden Era of Hollywood, it’s quips galore, jam-packed with musical twists and turns and the drumming is simply glorious. A precursor to Une Nuit In Paris off 10cc’s next masterpiece, The Original Soundtrack. Godley delivers a virtuoso performance, with deft touch and speed of thought. His hi-hat and bass drum work is a class apart. It’s a song I could listen to over and over, mainly for his drumming.
Back to outrageous whimsy, Baron Samedi is bongo, conga and tom-driven, while the Sacro Iliac, a song for awkward dancers, finally gives Godley a rest, with its simple, straight forward beat.
Oh Effendi, the final track on the original vinyl, is another joy for a busy drummer to let loose.
While there are other albums in this series where groove and pocket take the credits rather than drumming that’s literally all over the place, on Sheet Music, Godley’s work boosts and bolsters every song. I love it.