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.