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Mar 08

10cc – “I’m Not In Love”

FT + Popular81 comments • 5,786 views

#372, 28th June 1975

“I’m Not In Love” is 10cc’s most famous song, and surely deservedly – it’s the one where their smarts crash and fragment on some vicious emotional reefs, which is also what the song’s about. So it’s a neat (conceptual) package even before you factor in the extraordinary production.

But isn’t it all a bit heavy handed? He’s not in love (but really he is) – cast your mind back a couple of number ones and wouldn’t Tammy or her husband have wrapped that old theme up in two minutes? The greatness of 10cc’s song, though, isn’t in the theme, its in the exploration of the implicate consequences of repression, of turning your back on love: the saddest moment in a sad song is the satisfaction in the singer’s voice when he lays down his stupid law: “Oh, you’ll wait a long time for me.” This isn’t a song about irony, it’s a song about crippling emotional phobia. (And the “big boys don’t cry” bit, hinting where that phobia comes from, is kind of unsubtle, but no less moving for that.)

The band wrap this song in suffocating gauze: a cold, cossetting synthesised vocal fog with the bare semblance of a beat padding underneath, often puttering out or being smothered completely. No other No.1 sounds quite like it: a brave, thoroughly apt production for a chilling record.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Erithian on 1 Apr 2008 #

    The somewhat underrated Mari Wilson did a fine version of CMAR as well.

  2. 52
    crag on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Julie London’s CMAR certainly is a total classic- if asked which song i prefered (JL’s or JT’s) i think it would be to close to call- they’re both magnificent in different ways. In fact a good halfway point both historically and musically between London’s smooth chilly performance and and the psychedelic futurepop of Timberlake’s track would be…oh yes, I’m Not In Love by 10cc!
    (do u see what i did there?)

  3. 53
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Apr 2008 #

    I had a look at that ’57 chart and to be fair there was quite a lot of competition but also there was the bizarre factor of several artists having two entries in the Top 20, including Lonnie Donegan, Pat Boone, Little Richard, Frankie Lymon, Guy Mitchell, Johnnie Ray and even Tab Hunter. Whereas poor Julie only had the one.

  4. 54
    Matthew H on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Not much to add, except this is also a heavy presence on Daft Punk’s ‘Nightvision’.

    I had a cassette of the Johnny Logan album – no idea why, and no idea where it is now – that his cover appeared on. It was the rush-release to accompany his second Eurovision winner ‘Hold Me Now’ and my vague recollections suggest it was fairly faithful. It was hardly going to be radical.

  5. 55
    rosie on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Poor Julie indeed! With the exception of Little Richard, who never had a number one but appears in the list anyway all those others named only feature in my Big Random Playlist because they figure in this exercise. Whereas Julie is there because I want her to be, and I’d choose to listen to her other than randomly.

  6. 56
    Waldo on 1 Apr 2008 #

    # 44 – “but then imagine it being sung softly by a stranger onto your answer machine.”

    In some circumstances, this would be rather nice. Gwen Cooper from “Torchwood”, for example. Trouble is, I’d probably end up with Captain Jack Harkness “belling” me.

    Down, Mike!!!!

  7. 57
    tim davidge on 1 Apr 2008 #

    This has obviously provoked a lot of thought, but then, it’s a thought-provoking record, one of the more cerebral of the year, and especially so by singles standards. To the extent that the song has a meaning for me apart from being part of the soundtrack to what turned out to be a pleasant summer, I suppose it’s a song about withholding feelings, or alternatively the rather tragic case of someone who really hasn’t got any feelings to withhold because they’re incapable of having them in the first place. I don’t, however, see the ‘stalking’ connection. As for the production, Joe Meek would have been proud of these guys. If the backing sounds like voices recorded over and over again, it’s probably because that’s what it consists of. Something in there sound like a kazoo? It’s because…… And there was that faint, puttering beat in the background, a touch so subtle that if you only ever head the song on a car radio or on a pocket transistor, you probably wouldn’t even have been aware that it was there. A heavy handed record? I don’t think so. It was a lot of things, but not that.

  8. 58
    Tom on 1 Apr 2008 #

    Just in case it wasn’t clear from the entry, I don’t think it’s heavy-handed either: I’m posing the question rhetorically in order to refute it.

  9. 59
    Alan on 2 Apr 2008 #

    i recall a telly show (about musical plagiarism i think) with some musicologist using this track, specifically the intro, as an example of how little of a song you needed to ID it – i think to make the point that credit is not about length of sample, but some abstract ‘distinctiveness’

  10. 60

    Yes this is an argument Eno has been makin for years: that song identity in pop is less melody or words than “instant architecture” (<– not his phrase)

  11. 61
    henry s on 2 Apr 2008 #

    but how can this be a good example when the intro is almost exactly the same as another, equally popular song (“She’s Gone”)?

  12. 62
    Cupcake on 2 Apr 2008 #

    I haven’t read all the comments, but the diversity of interpretations of this song is confusing.

    For me, the song is clearly about a person who’s heart has been broken by someone, who is in love with someone who doesn’t love him (anymore). So he tries to convince himself – in vain – that he hasn’t really been in love and truly committed anyway. While he is enumerating the things he does which reflect being in love: “I call you up”, “I like to see you”, “I keep your picture”, Maybe also because his pride is hurt, and he desperately tries to keep his head above the water emotionally.

    He even tries to swap “sides” and feel superior by swearing that he would never love the other person (again), even if the feeling was mutual (“You’ll wait a long time for me”).

  13. 63
    Cupcake on 3 Apr 2008 #

    Now that I’ve finally read all the comments (;-)), I totally agree with Rosie (#10) who has put it in much better words. (Sorry for my English…).

  14. 64
    vinylscot on 4 Apr 2008 #

    Comments on this seem to be mainly very positive, which is to be expected – it is a very good song.

    However, and one or two people have alluded to this already, to me its cleverness has always slightly spoiled the overall effect. It’s as if they have tried to do too much here, the song challenges you to think about it… and when you do you come up with some things you don’t quite like, the messy stain, big boys don’t cry etc..

    I can acknowledge that, at 14 at the time, I maybe didn’t really understand it all but even now it sounds hackneyed and clumsy to me – not just the emotions of the person singing, but the SONG itself.

    Much like other “clever” English writers such as Elvis Costello, and Difford/Tilbrook, 10CC’s cleverness often got in the way and diminished from what could have been fantastic songs.

    As someone stated earlier, this is a song I can admire and appreciate, rather than a song I like.

  15. 65
    rosie on 4 Apr 2008 #

    But I think Elvis Costello, and Squeeze for that matter, are/were wonderful! And Sting too. I’m sure you meant to mention him.

    For me, clever = sexy. Which is probably why I’ll be right out on a limb when we come to discuss punk.

  16. 66
    Tom on 4 Apr 2008 #

    With 10cc I don’t think it’s their cleverness per se which is offputting to me, more that I don’t share their sense of humour or wit. One of the things with “cleverness” is the way it’s often expressed through puns, wordplay, allusions, jokes, but this is a more dangerous territory than just being smart bcz jokes (however clever they are) won’t work unless they make you smile (this is the issue a lot of people have with Zappa). What makes Costello work more than 10cc, for me, is the way he manages often to be clever without necessarily being witty or wry or ironic.

    The other potential problem with “cleverness” is that it can be paradoxically undemanding of its audience: it can create a sense of “well done, you’re in the club that can appreciate this, now put your feet up” (I get this from a lot of indie with ostensibly smart lyrics, but maybe I’m being chippy and looking for it).

  17. 67
    Tom on 4 Apr 2008 #

    (But on INIL I think the cleverness works absolutely in favour of the song.)

  18. 68
    Martin Skidmore on 16 Apr 2008 #

    Responding very late to that comment about Tammy and hubby that Tom made, the song you’re looking for is She Thinks I Still Care, as recorded by George Jones (Mr Tammy Wynette) for a country #1 in 1962. It’s very, very similar in its conceit.

  19. 69
    Billy Smart on 25 Aug 2008 #

    Cover version alert! I’ve just heard Tony Christie’s interpretation for the first time. It isn’t an ornate song in his hands. Nor is it a creepy one. Nor a profound one.

  20. 70
    Mark G on 26 Aug 2008 #

    I remember Petula Clark’s Reggae-lite version.

  21. 71
    Erithian on 31 Oct 2008 #

    Take a look at post #28 upthread. It struck me the other day that while we’re all following the Brand/Ross Phonegate saga, it’s only the likes of us Populistas who’ll be thinking of a certain Noosha Fox song whenever we hear the name of the woman involved. Waldo, if you’re reading this, we salute you!

  22. 72
    swanstep on 6 Jan 2010 #

    One of the quintessential, fantastic singles of the ’70s for me. It’s up there with Benny and the Jets, I feel love, (F’wood Mac’s) Dreams, Wuthering Heights, Trans-Europe Express as a pure sonic achievement. I absolutely adore the almost underwater sound and organic feel of the beat. At any rate, I think that you do hear that in Martin Hannett. And adding to the pile of ’80s stuff that draws on the record more broadly: half of ‘Leave it’ that Trevor Horn did with/for Yes surely is just Fairlight-ed INIL backing tracks. And, let’s face it, if there isn’t a good ‘Lexicon of I’m not in Love’ mash-up out there, there really should be!

    The standard reading of the song (rosie’s above) – he’s in love alright though he doesn’t want to say it, admit it etc. – gets at something that was in the air at lot in the years after INIL came out. There’s a great double-edged scene in Annie Hall (1977) where Annie’s ticked off that Alvy (Woody Allen) never says he loves her. Alvy wittily defends his approach to the L-world by saying that it’s too puny etc. for him, and that in general all real words would only falsify and diminish his feelings for her etc.. He then launches into saying that he lurrrffs her, loaves her, etc.. It’s all quite winning, *but* there’s no getting around that it also registers as an evasion… We *do* effectively know at that point that Annie and Alvy won’t make it/will eventually split up. ‘New sensitive males’, Alan Alda’-ish guys, and their downsides became a big ongoing topic of cultural discussion from the late ’70s on. INIL feels to me like an early entry in those stakes – ‘whiny INIL guys and the women who love them too much’ perhaps.

    Anyhow, it’s thrilling that INIL got to #1: 10.

  23. 73
    Diane Forth-Eglon on 10 May 2010 #

    I am sure “I’m Not In Love” by 10cc was used on a Cadbury’s Chocolate advert in the ’80′s. There was swirling chocolate and the song in the background. Am I right?

  24. 74
    thefatgit on 12 May 2010 #

    INIL is a wonderful piece of pop isn’t it? It’s a lush production, with the choral backing provided by kazoos. Thank you Marcello for confirming this. I’m reminded of an argument with a friend years ago about whether there was a synth-choir on this song. I said synths hadn’t managed an adequate “vocal” effect by the mid-70′s, so any solution would have been a more lo-fi means of achieving the desired effect. What I hadn’t bargained on was something as lo-fi as a kazoo!

  25. 75
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Sep 2010 #

    – It’s a classic, isn’t it?

  26. 76
    bounder on 15 Sep 2010 #

    Have been reading this much too late, but from the start in an effort to catch up.

    And this is where I come in

  27. 77
    Billy Smart on 18 Jan 2011 #

    Cover version alert! Dee Dee Sharp of ‘Mashed Potato’ fame was quick of the mark in 1975 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hy4h1wx8a3E – I think that the first minute of this is absolutely fantastic, but after the chorus comes in – and you can tell where its going to go from thereon – it settles down into just being a very good reading.

  28. 78
    wichita lineman on 19 Jan 2011 #

    Petula Clark’s discoid version, on the other hand, is intriguingly different, but not very good:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOZ36Co2M7Y

    Her voice seems almost entirely disconnected from the lyric. It sounds like she genuinely isn’t in love, which kinda misses the point.

  29. 79
    Lena on 30 Apr 2012 #

    As I was recently reminded that I didn’t give kudos to the bass player when I should have in my blog (Andy Fraser, “All Right Now” – wry bass playing, if I may say so) may I say that I think that Gouldman’s work here is equally good, and that effectively this song separates the first and second parts of the 70s, in that there doesn’t seem to be any going backwards from it…

  30. 80
    Auntie Beryl on 22 Mar 2013 #

    Marcello at #13 refers to the bossa nova roots of INIL, and whilst I make no case for the quality of the Fun Lovin Criminals cover, it does restore that original intended feel to the song.

    It is not by any means a typical FLC wisecracking Tarantino-by-numbers affair from Huey and chums.

    As for the original, no one on the board dislikes this, do they? Nor me.

  31. 81
    hectorthebat on 12 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Blender (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Songs to Download Right Now! (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1970s (2001) 101
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 623
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Q (UK) – Top 20 Singles from 1970-1979 (2004) 6
    Nerikes Allehanda (Sweden) – The 50 Best Rock Songs of All Time (1992) 41
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 5
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 2

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