372. ‘I’m Not in Love’, by 10cc

You’re listening to Smooth FM, The smoothest hits, All day long… No, come come. That’s not fair. Just because this next #1 is an easy-listening classic, it doesn’t mean it’s not great.

I’m Not In Love, by 10cc (their 2nd of three #1s)

2 weeks, from 22nd June – 6th July 1975

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the song itself, the first thing of note is just how far this is from 10cc’s first chart-topper, the rollicking ‘Rubber Bullets’. They were a band that kept things interesting. That record was keeping it pretty glam; ‘I’m Not In Love’ is giving us lush, mid-seventies soft-rock.

And I mean lush. There are layers upon layers, vocals and synths that melt together, that ebb and flow. At one point, in between the verses, we are in full ‘Sounds of the Rainforest’ mode, and you can imagine yourself face down on a massage table, covered in lavender oil. I knew that a lot of production went into this disc – that’s pretty well known – but the actual facts and figures are amazing. It took three weeks of Eric Stewart recording the other band members going ‘ahhh-ahhh’, until he had forty-eight tracks to lay on top of one another.

It’s a wall of sound, though not of the Phil Spector variety, that makes this record utterly distinctive. You can literally hear the amount of work that went into it, but it hangs together in a very nonchalant way. Helping with this a great deal are the lyrics: I’m not in love… The singer tries to convince himself… It’s just a silly phase I’m going through… He then tries to shrug off the things that might make him seem like he’s actually in love. If he calls: Don’t make a fuss… Don’t tell your friends about the two of us…. He might have her picture on the wall: It hides a nasty stain, That’s lying there…

Let’s be honest, he sounds a bit of a dick. Oooh, you’ll wait a long time for me… (Let’s hope she didn’t.) And then, in the middle, there’s a whispered: Be quiet, Big boys don’t cry… that I take to be the voice of a mother figure from the past, explaining the difficulty the singer has in admitting he’s in love. It was recorded by the studio’s receptionist, who had been chatting while the band recorded. They loved her voice, and she all of a sudden found herself front and centre on a worldwide hit single!

I think the reason that this song works is that underneath all the dressing it’s a perfectly simple pop song. It would work just as well in a higher tempo (see the Fun Lovin’ Criminals swinging version, for example). Plus it’s got a hook that everyone remembers. I’m not in love… No, no… While most other pop songs, especially those in the same soft-rock ballpark, are about being very much in love.

It is, if I had to nit-pick, a bit too long. With a runtime of 6:04 it is the second longest #1 single yet – still way behind ‘Hey Jude’ – and towards the end it begins to drag. (In the US it was edited down to under four minutes.) But hey, Stewart had forty-eight vocal tracks and dammit he was going to use them all! In the final thirty seconds it builds to a slightly terrifying crescendo, then tinkles a dreamy close.

So there it is: Pt II of 10cc’s chart-topping trio, straddling the mid-seventies. Completely different from their first, and from their last. By the time that one comes along, the band will have split in two and be nearing the end of their chart careers. But that’s for the future. With this #1, 10cc were at the peak of their powers. Enjoy.


14 thoughts on “372. ‘I’m Not in Love’, by 10cc

  1. As I’ve mentioned before I adore 10CC and their oh-so-clever and varied records. In between Rubber Bullets and this masterpiece we had a pastiche 50’s USA highschool hit The Dean And I, the flop, quirky, witty self-deprecating The Worst Band In The World, the powerhouse riffs of the savage & brilliant Wall Street Shuffle, (if you didn’t already think investors and bankers were unprincipled, you will after hearing it!) the frantic rocking Silly Love minor hit, and the odd upbeat top 10 Life Is A Minestrone, tongue firmly in cheek.

    With this song, my reading was that he was a man with the very British cross-class stiff-upper-lip culture and the male problem with expressing emotion, it’s ingrained in you that men don’t cry, don’t talk about feelings, as it’s a sign of weakness and being girlie – and yet here he is, protesting too much in a very romantic-sounding lush ballad that makes it very clear he is in love. There’s been a bit of a culture change since 1975, but back then the prevailing attitude was still “big boys don’t cry”. I know it screwed me up…

    Best chart-topper of 1975! Yes, I KNOW there’s THAT one still to come, and there’s not that much competition beyond that one, a couple of goodies, and a classic from 1969 🙂

    • I’ve been listening to more 10cc since that first post, and enjoying ‘The Dean and I’ and ‘Donna’, among others. With ‘I’m Not in Love’, there are probably 1975 #1s I’d listen to before this, but it’s still a work of art. (As great as it is, you don’t watch ‘The Godfather’ every weekend…)

      But yeah, this and THAT one are probably the two best chart-toppers of 1975 (which is such a weird year for #1s in general – so many re-releases and oddities, and lame cover versions…) Both really push the boundaries…

  2. For me, I liken this song to a vocal massage. Really cool yet relaxing song to listen to. The vocal layering in the song helped to inspire a major hit in Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” a few years after. In the US, “I’m Not In Love” had the misfortune of getting stuck at #2 behind three #1 songs in three weeks during the summer of ’75 including “The Hustle,” “One of These Nights,” and “Jive Talkin'” In terms of stateside success, the only other notable hit they had with a couple years later with the #5 peaking “The Things We Do For Love” which is a perfectly fine ’70s pop song on its own. After that, they fell off aside from some lower charting singles. Though I found out that member Eric Stewart was a member of the Mindbenders in the ’60s including on their 1965 #1 “The Game of Love” and after 10cc worked with Paul McCartney on several of his ’80s albums including on the #1 hits “Ebony and Ivory” and “Say Say Say.”

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  7. Rating: 5/5

    Guardians of the Galaxy introduced me to the song, when Peter Quill was listening to it at the beginning while in the hospital where his mom was about to die. The song sounds immaculate and represented an advancement in studio recording. It’s not a song I’d play 24/7, but late at night, driving down the road when there’s very little traffic and I don’t have to concentrate on the road, it’s perfect. It’s very much a night-time song for me, like “Eyes Without a Face” by Billy Idol

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