Friday, April 28, 2017

Song of the Day: Billy Sedlmayr tackles 10cc's '70's Classic 'Rubber Bullets'

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 5:35 PM

10cc circa '74. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia commons
  • 10cc circa '74.

As a young kid with a burning drive to consume all things Rock 'n’ Roll, be it every last word written in Creem, Crawdaddy, or Rolling Stone, building my record collection at all cost, every image, lyric or liner note till they were secured by genre in my head (I don’t recommend this path, but I think, much like a mole or birthmark, dear reader, you may scoff at my faculties, but I know I am not alone). So, in summer of '73, I took note of a new of a new British band called 10cc. As it turns out, they were hardly naive or new or to the game. Between the four members, they’d penned hits for The Yardbirds, The Hollies, another charted in '66 with "A Groovy Kind of Love” and was in Wayne Fontana’s Mindbenders, minus Wayne, playing in the band in the film To Sir With Love. Another member built his own studio and one spent two nostalgic years with teen idol Neil Sedaka.

The four even sent a finished project to The Beatles’ Apple label, to no avail; just the misadventures of four skilled songwriter/producers who were tripping the same wire for better or worse. Yet, their self-titled debut album came out held the enigmatic homage to The King’s Presley’s "Jailhouse Rock," with a Beach Boys-influence, and a nod to the ongoing troubles in Northern Ireland. “Rubber Bullets” went to number one in the U.K. and scratched the surface of the U.S., where the Attica Prison rebellion and other big house catastrophes were still a-smolder.

So, I bought the record and was both engaged and confused by the album as a whole, which was clearly clever and skilled, but somehow missing a certain conviction and depth that I was drawn to. They were sardonic but self-conscious, perhaps too smart for their own good; but, this single, with its lead guitar part, tweaked to sound like mice, could not ruin this gem. The sweet bridge soars, it’s where the prison padre is called in to talk to his boys in falsetto on the act of faith to set them free. It then springs back to the rocking (and glamish) shuffle and reports to the coming glory, a sham, the same ol’ story—Well, we don’t understand why they called in the National Guard/When Uncle Sam is the one who belongs in the exercise yard/We all got balls and brains/But some got balls and chains/At the local dance/At the local county jail. This homoerotic thrust one-upped The King and, even though comical, done with a bridge this beautiful … well, you’ll listen again and again. A subject, now, in most every hip-hop commentary, “Rubber Bullets” leaves a stamp unlicked on a letter long since sent. 

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