426. ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, by 10cc

For the final act in their chart-topping trilogy, 10cc take on a sound that has grown in popularity throughout the seventies: reggae.

Dreadlock Holiday, by 10cc (their 3rd and final #1)

1 week, from 17th – 24th September 1978

Except, this isn’t the 10cc of ‘Rubber Bullets’ or ‘I’m Not in Love’. And I don’t mean that in the sense of it not being as good as those earlier chart-toppers (though that’s partly true…) I mean it in the sense that the band had split in two a year or so earlier. Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left due to creative differences; Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart remained.

It’s a song about a summer holiday… Or is it a song about a robbery? Or a song about small moments of cultural exchange and understanding? I don’t like cricket… I love it! says the Jamaican who may be about to nick a necklace. (Except, cricket is pretty darn popular in the West Indies. Even I know that!) I don’t like reggae… I love it! replies the Brit.

It’s a song based on a holiday Stewart had had in Barbados, where he’d seen tourists trying to be cool around the locals. Think ‘Pretty Fly For a White Guy’ twenty years ahead of time. Don’t you walk through my words… sings the Jamaican… You got to show me some respect… Of course, to my 21st century snowflake ears, white people putting on Jamaican accents and singing about a ‘brother from the gutter’ jars, as it did during Typically Tropical’s ‘Barbados’. But… what’s the point of moaning about it, really? It is what it is, and it clearly comes from a place of affection.

The affection only increases in the final verse, when the singer makes it back to his hotel pool unscathed. Once there, a beautiful woman offers him her ‘harvest’ – and I’m genuinely undecided as to whether this means sex or a big bag of weed. Either way he’s thrilled. Don’t like Jamaica… I love her!

Stepping back and viewing 10cc’s three chart-toppers from afar, you’d be hard pushed to tell they were from the same band. ‘Rubber Bullets’ is the one I enjoyed most: a zany, glam-rock allegory for the unrest in Northern Ireland. ‘I’m Not in Love’ is objectively their masterpiece: a ghostly, six-minute opus of overdubs and experimentation. ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ isn’t as good as those two, for my money, as it sags in the middle and starts to drag towards the end. But it’s still got that hook – possibly the band’s most remembered line – and is another welcome interlude of clever, well-crafted arty pop.

This was 10cc’s final #1, and their final Top 10. The hits dried up pretty swiftly after this record dropped out the charts. But the manner in which their chart-toppers span the seventies is impressive. ‘Rubber Bullets’ was rubbing shoulders with Slade and Gary Glitter, and they were long gone from the Top 10 by 1978. Impressive longevity, in a fast-changing pop scene. We bid them farewell here, then. Here’s to a cool band, never dull, always trying something new, and by far the best pop group to be named after the average amount of semen in a single male ejaculation…

11 thoughts on “426. ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, by 10cc

  1. My introduction to this song was through Todd in the Shadows’ review of “Rude” when he played it as an example of cod reggae so that kind of dwarfs my view of this. Also I never realized that about the origins of 10cc lol.

    Also I think you’ll like this video. A music review guy I watch celebrated the 4th of July by looking at all the weird UK #1s that us Americans have never heard about.

  2. Wait, you mean the USA has never known the pleasures of ‘Japanese Boy’, or ‘Ebeneezer Goode’… Or ‘Mr Blobby’? What a cultural desert…

    As for ‘Rude’, I can see that as a good, modern comparison for ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, but while it was just a stop off for 10cc on their journey through pop, cod-reggae is pretty much Magic’s sole schtick, right?

    • Ha ha yep I’ve never heard those pleasures though the story of Ebeneezer Goode was a funny one. It’s also funny to think of how a song like Nut Rocker was once banned because the BBC wanted to preserve classical music though being 1962 I wasn’t expecting some down and dirty rock number that you would’ve expected for a song with that title. I’ll say your site among others things have gotten me exploring a lot of the UK charts and music scenes and I’m still amazed at all the weird shit that gets big there getting all crazy about stuff like charity songs, novelty songs, and songs from singing competition shows. Usually in America, these things typically get big for a certain period before we lose interest and now usually peak in the lower rungs of the chart. I’ll say from the video we’re lucky that will.I.am wasn’t that big over here as a solo artist and how Simon Cowell wasn’t able to monopolize the charts every Christmas with the same sappy schlock every year. I can see why that guy started a campaign to get Rage Against The Machine to #1 after dealing with all that mediocrity.

      From what I’ve heard, the album MAGIC! released in 2014 is essentially more of that style of reggae but I’ll be writing about “Rude” soon so I’ll be finding out myself.

  3. As I’ve mentioned before, I love 10CC, I love reggae, and I love Dreadlock Holiday, it’s a great record. 10CC are happy to play with any musical genre and I respect artists that can do that, of any colour. I’m very happy for people to be enthusiastic about their chosen genre and specialise in it but there’s no rule that says anybody can’t do any particular type of music because it was invented by people from such and such an ethnic group therefore it’s theirs and theirs alone. If it inspires others, that’s great, the modern world is a melting pot of all music from history and anyone is welcome to do what they like with it. Most pop music is based around a mix of African rhythms and western song formats, and technological advances in instrumentation. The variations on the theme are what keeps it fresh and exciting and ever-evolving.

    Anecdote time? I was on a coach journey with fellow students getting bored (to Yorkshire, I think) so we did a guessing game around the title of pop songs. I picked current hit Dreadlock Holiday and got as far as “Holiday” being guessed. At which point everyone shouted out “Summer Holiday”. When I said “Dreadlock Holiday” most people said they’d never heard of the Number One record and moaned about it. It was then that I realised a lot of teenagers start to stop paying attention to the music charts at around age 18 or 19 (these were around 19 or 20 years old) and just play the old faves they already know….

    I remain speechless at the concept that great music is specifically that which was around during the 10th to 16th years of your life, and not beyond that 🙂

    • Yeah, I don’t think any genre should be off limits to people due to their ethnicity… I think 10cc do reggae well, even if this isn’t 100% to my tastes… But I do think you need to be careful when you, for example, put on a Jamaican accent while doing reggae. Affectionate or not, there’s a lot of cultural, colonial, racial baggage there…

      Anyhoo… That’s interesting about the teenagers not knowing what was #1. I’d believe that nowadays, as the charts become more divorced from the public tastes, but not as far back as the late 70s. I thought the whole country crowded round TOTP every week to see who was top of the hit parade. My nostalgic view of the era has just been ruined…!

      • I can see why accents are sensitive these days and it’s a no-no (Barbados springs back to mind!) though British singers on the whole sing with an American accent for pop and rock, and I know when I sing along I sing along in the accent of the singer – be it The Proclaimers (I’m not Scottish, my accent is Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire mostly but tempered with a bit of southern/scouse/west country dependant on where I live) or Bob Marley. We do live in more aware times now though, happily 🙂

        Oops didn’t mean to burst your bubble, you are right, people were more universally aware of the music scene back in the 70’s than our very fragmented media world now. There was only one national youth radio station and precious few others outside cities, and there were only 3 TV channels, so TOTP got big viewing numbers. My Uni was a teacher-training College for Primary School teachers, largely female and middle class, and many of them were not what you would call pop obsessives or niche music fans. So prob not typical of the average punter! I’m meeting up with one of them this afternoon for the first time in a few years, so will see how aware she is of modern pop, but she was generally cool in pop music terms back in the day 🙂

      • It’s very hard to sing along with the Proclaimers in anything other than broad Fife… As long as you don’t wear a Tam O’Shanter while you do so…

      • That sent me rushing to google….! 🙂 Tam O Shanter. Well my close friend is from Edinburgh, so it’s well worth me singing along to Letter From America in his company. Loudly. “wen you gooo well you sen baack…” and so on. I’ve never done karaoke in a public venue (cos I can’t sing) but I might make an exception one drunken holiday night for that one just to enjoy his expression 🙂

  4. They got their name the same way that I’ve read where The Lovin’ Spoonful got theirs…
    I know more of their later pop hits like I’m Not In Love and Things We Do For Love… I like this one though.

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