Stockport Museum’s Strawberry Studios: I Am In Love exhibition tells the story of 10cc

A blue plaque reminds us of Strawberry Studios' place in pop history

A blue plaque reminds us of Strawberry Studios' place in pop history - Credit: not Archant

It is 60 years since Graham Gouldman of 10cc fame got his first guitar, and now Stockport pays homage to their success. Graham tells Paul Taylor he’s just as enthusiastic now about getting on stage to play.

A gold record presented to Eric Stewart in 1977 for sales of the album 100cc - Greatest Hits of 10cc

A gold record presented to Eric Stewart in 1977 for sales of the album 100cc - Greatest Hits of 10cc - Credit: not Archant

A huge part of Graham Gouldman’s life has just become a museum exhibit. Running for the next year at Stockport Museum is the new exhibition ‘Strawberry Studios: I Am In Love’, reminding us how, in the 1970s, 10cc made some of the artiest music in British pop history, right here in Stockport.

Though the story now belongs in a museum, the songs of 10cc remain very much alive, even if Graham, who will be 71 in May, is the only one of their four creators willing to perform them. He is about to set out on a 10cc greatest hits tour. Does gigging hold the same appeal now as it did when he started out during the 1960s Manchester beat boom?

‘It does actually,’ says Graham. ‘It’s much more relaxed in a funny sort of way. We stay in nicer places and we also try to get home as often as possible. But the same mechanics are at work in my brain, even though my brain is a bit older. ‘

One of the highlights of the show, he says, will be Somewhere in Hollywood, during which the band will accompany a video of 10cc original member Kevin Godley singing the song. Kevin could not be persuaded to actually join the tour, and anyone betting on a full reunion of 10cc - Gouldman, Godley, Eric Stewart and Lol Creme - should save their money. Even the excellent 2015 BBC4 documentary I’m Not In Love: The Story of 10cc did not get all four in the same room at the same time.

Original artwork relating to Strawberry Studios

Original artwork relating to Strawberry Studios - Credit: n ot Archant

The timelessly inventive songs 10cc created were very much a north west story, the product of musicians from Salford, Prestwich and,in Stewart’s case, Droylsden, schooled in the Manchester beat boom, then closeted in a Stockport studio, allowing their imaginations to run wild.

Graham grew up in Broughton Park, Salford, and was bought his first guitar aged 11. From his mid-teens, he was playing in a succession of bands.

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‘Being a university city, it always had lots of venues, bars and clubs, and the number of bands coming through Manchester was astounding,’ says Graham. ‘You’d get the Beatles one weekend, the Stones, the next, then the Animals, the Kinks. It was fantastic. I used to go into town every Saturday night with my mates and stand at the front and see the band play.’

This Gibson ES-335 guitar was bought second hand in the early 1970s by Eric Stewart and used on all

This Gibson ES-335 guitar was bought second hand in the early 1970s by Eric Stewart and used on all four 10cc albums. Graham Gouldman played it on I'm Not In Love. - Credit: not Archant

Graham worked in a gents’ outfitters in Salford for two years, but got the sack after one too many late arrivals for work after gigging. Fortunately, parents Hymie and Betty allowed him to follow his musical destiny. ‘Dad was in the clothing business, but that was just for him to earn a living. Really, he was a writer and poet, and he helped me with my lyrics tremendously. Dad wrote plays, and mum would act in them. He and my mum were very encouraging. They knew I had a gift. I was lucky that they were artistic as well.’ That gift meant Graham penning hit songs such as For Your Love for the Yardbirds, Bus Stop for the Hollies and No Milk Today for Herman’s Hermits.

All four members of 10cc had cut their teeth with other bands before they came together, unusually, as two songwriting partnerships - Gouldman/Stewart and Godley/Creme. Even more unusually, they had their own recording studio in Stockport at a time when virtually the entire recording industry was based in London.

‘We were completely self-contained,’ says Graham. ‘We could go in the studio with nobody else at all because we all had a basic knowledge of working the board.’

That freedom yielded songs such as I’m Not In Love, in which the band recorded their voices over and over again to produce a ‘choir’ whose different tones could be conjured using the faders of the studio mixing desk.

The 1976 split came when Godley and Creme left to perfect a guitar device called the Gizmotron. Gouldman and Stewart soldiered on with 10cc. A 1992 album titled ...Meanwhile briefly reunited all four members of 10cc, but the creative magic of the Strawberry Studios era had long gone. Since 1999, Graham alone has kept the 10cc songbook alive, helped by a stellar group of musicians. ‘I love what we do and I’ll do it as long as we enjoy it,’ he says.

Home for 30 years has been London, but Graham retains a deep affection for the north west. He was the last of the band to leave. Until the mid-’80s he lived in Mottram St Andrew.

‘There’s not a lot there - my house and the Mottram Hall Hotel. I live in West Hampstead now, which is the opposite - very busy.’

As for Strawberry, it ceased to be a recording studio 20 years ago, a blue plaque being erected in 2007 to mark the fact that not just 10cc but artists like Paul McCartney, the Syd Lawrence Orchestra and Stone Roses had recorded there.

‘I’ve not been back there for many years,’ says Graham. ‘But I have fond memories of it. Without it, there would have been no band.’

10cc bring their ‘Greatest Hits and More’ tour to the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, on April 1 and the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, on April 2.

Strawberry Studios: I Am In Love runs at Stockport Museum until January 28 2018, admission free.

10cc’s Graham Gouldman on recording in Stockport and life in Mottram St Andrew