[Playing on the radio… I'm, Mandy, Fly Me… song ends… cue the DJ]

BBC Radio Northampton. HE wrote that… HE was the good looking one in the band… still is…

[Voice on the phone…] Ooh, you flatterer, stop it!

Of course he HAS done other things since Mandy & Life Is A Minestrone and I'm Not In Love… he's performed with Paul McCartney, Alan Parsons, more 10cc work. But this here [taps CD case] is his first solo album in over 20 years. Why is this so? Let me ask him. It's, er, 'Do Not Bend', the CD from Eric Stewart. Good morning, Eric.

[The phone voice replies] Good morning Bernie, how are you?

I'm well, yeah. Um THAT stuff - I'm Mandy, Fly Me, and Life Is A Minestrone, and Art For Art's Sake…

Yeah?

It was so kind of interestingly weird. I'd no idea where those thoughts and where those words came from.

Well, we used good stories but 10cc were always trying to find a different way of writing a song. So we got very quirky with lyrics and with the backing, and that song Mandy, it switches rhythm three times as you, you’re aware there, the guitar solos and so on. Impossible to dance to or anything like that, like most of our songs but we always wanted to break boundaries with lyrics and things and having four very, very schizophrenic brains working on tracks - we managed to do it.

And was there much rivalry between the band, between all four members?

There were the two sorts of partners, two sets of writing partners. Godley & Creme

Yeah, yeah

…who went on to do their own thing, and Stewart & Gouldman. So we were always trying to outdo each other… "this is better than yours" and "this is gonna be the single" and "I don’t like your track, that's too complex" or "that’s too weird, we can't possibly let the public hear that one". Er, some of the lyrics got a bit odd from Kevin. We had to ban him from the studio. Um, but it was very friendly rivalry, of course.

But before then, it's 40 years in music this year!

Yeah

Are you on the Royal Jelly, Eric? What's going on?

No, it's not the Royal Jelly. I don't know what it is. Must be, must be this good fresh air we've got. I'm down here in Dorset at the moment.

Hey, is that where you live now?

do. I was up in Manchester originally, um, but colder and wetter up there but gorgeous down here. Nice clear air. I live a good life, Bernie, a very good life. That's what it is.

And that’s come across on 'Do Not Bend'. It's a very upbeat, very summery kind of feel to this CD.

Yeah, yeah. I purposely tried to do that, there's no sort of heavy duty lyric in there, it's, it's pretty positive thoughts, and my positive thought on many things that sort of disturb me around the world and so on. Big business conglomerates and people taking big chunks of money when they shouldn't. So I'm having a little dig at a few things but in a very funny way, which was quite a trademark of 10cc if you remember. Some of our subjects, like um, Life Is A Minestrone or Second Sitting For The Last Supper…

and Wall Street

are quite pointed lyrics but sort of sung in a fun way so that people got the message in a, without dooming them, you know.

I tell you what that style of yours reminded me of and you might think this is unusual. Maybe people have said this before. I don’t think you'll be insulted because he's a fantastic composer… Randy Newman

Oh I love Randy Newman, yeah, I adore him, yes. We were influenced by everyone around us, I think, probably Bernie, the Beatles more than anybody.

Really?

They really took things out on a limb, didn’t they.

So when then you came to work on 'Tug Of War', wasn’t it, and 'Pipes Of Peace' and 'Press'

and we co-wrote 'Press To Play', yes with Paul, yes.

So when you do that and sit opposite him, do you think "Ooh, my giddy Aunt! It's Paul McCartney" or were you just not fazed by it?

No I wasn't fazed by it. He'd been a good friend of mine right back to the Mindbenders. And the Mindbenders used to play 'The Cavern' in Liverpool and Paul would be playing with the Beatles at 'The Twisted Wheel' in Manchester and 'The Three Coins', I think it's called. So our paths crossed many times in the past there and I was getting hit records back then with Wayne Fontana and then on my own as the singer with the Mindbenders' songs like Groovy Kind Of Love. So we, we saw each other at the awards concerts and things like that, and became great mates.

What was it like back then, what was it… '65, '66. What was it like? The kind of traditional, romantic image of going up and down the motorway in the back of a van?

It was. I was doing a bit, I swear to you, I was doing last week with my son. I was taking him up to Mansfield to get a car. We'd found a car for him up there and I was driving up the M1 thinking 'God, I remember this. Watford Gap Services. Shall we stop to get breakfast or shall we carry on to London?' It was all crazy, but I mean, what an exciting time - British, British rock, British fashion.

And did you realise that you were in the eye of the storm because it was "England was the place to be" wasn't it?

At the time I must say I didn't but in retrospect I must say it was a very, very exciting time for British music and fashion.

Could you do anything that you wanted, as a young man from the North, having hit records?

You could. For the first time in, in that sort of age group you could control your own destiny., make your own way and make a fortune.

And when you became mega-successful again in 10cc…

Yes

…how had it changed in that 10 year period because that was just when it became a business really. It was that era of the suits moving in.

That’s very true Bernie. The accountants got involved and lawyers by then so contracts were always very well thought out and it was a, instead of just going out and just loving the music, you were also getting all your legal facts right because so many people were ripped off as you know.

Were you?

Oh yes. I was initially, in the Mindbenders. When Wayne was with us, we went to the bank once to see how much money we'd got in there. We had £19 between the four of us. This management, whose name I won't mention, he'd sue me, ripped us off. Well, they had invoices for everything, from sandwiches, and train journeys. So thank God, I learned my lesson then and not much later on, as seriously big names like Sting and people like that were ripped off for millions.

But with Sting, was it £7million went missing and he didn't know?

He didn't know.

You kind of feel sorry, yet at the same time you think hmmm people are more worthy of sympathy than that.

If you don’t miss £7million, yes, what are you worried about?

But when you see these young kids winning Pop Idol and the like, do you think that they're being exploited? Yeah, it's a manufacturing industry but I mean, I don’t blame them for wanting to be exploited - they do get some serious money out of it. But I think Boy George summed it up beautifully - he said "all you need today to be in a hit band is a flat stomach". It's so true, look good, dance well, you don’t even have to sing, but they will manufacture you into a saleable product. And that’s a bit sad, the songs are sort of disappearing…

But that was your strength in 10cc wasn’t it. It was much less, er, reliant on the image because you know, you did frankly at times in that career look like Open University lecturers, didn’t you?

We had no image whatsoever did we. We looked so boring. We went on Top Of The Pops, and Noel Edmonds said "What's this, a new gimmick? You guys look so boring". We were wearing Levi shirts or something doing I'm Not In Love and well, I don’t mind that, you know, when you get to the point like a couple of weeks ago, the Eurovision Song Contest, we got no points and they don’t understand why that song didn’t get any points. God, I feel very sorry for the people on that judging panel - they really don't know what music is.

Well, I think the time is now right, Eric, for an older man, maybe who'd cut his teeth in the Mindbenders, to come back in and get us back at the top of the pole again.

I, I could do that Bernie, but let me tell you, this will give you a giggle, and your listeners I hope… I get a letter every year saying "We're accepting songs for the Eurovision Song Contest, Eric. Would you like to submit a song and £25 with each song you submit?"

You've got to pay?

Yeah we have to pay. Can you imagine that? I've got a track record, I think, I hope, not being too blasť, I've got a track record. I could write a song that would be a hit but no, it doesn’t work that way!

And these songs here, and you've got a lot of them, there are 14 on this one and then there's a little bonus that goes with it if you get in quick and get early copies of this…

Yes.

Were they written on your own?

Yes.

So how did you do that now? Do you sit in a studio and do this because you've got Strawberry, haven't you? Yes we had Strawberry Studios, yes.

Do you sit on your own or do you sit in your bedroom and do it, what do you do?

Anywhere, you know, a song can be written anywhere, as long as I've got a keyboard or a guitar, it can be anywhere, the back side of the moon if I wished.

And can you tell instantly when you've got a good un?

Yeah, if a thing sticks in my brain, I pick up lines or even song titles from conversations with people, and if a thing is, is locked in my brain somehow, I know I've got something that I feel is good and I start to develop it and it just works along that way. It's a bit hit and miss but if you are working on your own, you've got to be a little bit schizoid and try to ask yourself 'Oh what do you think about that Eric, is that good enough? Hmmm, yeah that’s alright, no it's not good enough Eric, it's, it's…

So how long did it take you to get this lot good enough?

It's taken me a long time, this, this solo album, because I've been doing other bits and pieces in-between, it's taken me five years.

Is that right?

Yeah, not, not 5 years in the studio of course, but 5 years going backwards and forwards to it and away from it, and scrapping stuff too. I've scrapped about 5 tracks that weren't good enough. But that’s the, the combination I've got there, 14 songs and something for everybody I think.

Well, it's impossible to pigeonhole it, you do, er, a kind of reggae stuff, you've got rock and then you've got rock 'n' roll in there and you've got a steel band!

Yes, steel bands all over the place, yeah. As I was saying on the phone to you earlier, um, I get calls from America saying 'what are you using those bloody steel bands for?'. They don't like them there and I can't figure why. Must be something political, but I adore a steel band.

Is that right they've never travelled to America, is that right?

Never, never. Bob Marley got a couple of reggae hits there but no, American, um, Caribbean music, calypso, reggae, it just will not touch America.

Well, listen, when you, you make videos for this, I wouldn't go to Lol and Kevin to get them done because they'll stick you behind two thousand candles going up and down on stair lifts.

It would take them two years to make it…

…wouldn't it, it really would! The CD's a real cracker and if the weather comes back good again, there's no better CD you're gonna need for your soundtrack for the summer than Eric Stewart's Do Not Bend. It's out now, is it, Eric?

It's out now but it can only be accessed on my website…

okay

…ericstewart.com or 10cc.com. if you look on there, there's a lot of, a lovely history of the band as well, if the people want to have a giggle at some of the earlythe photographs of Strawberry Studios when we started. It's a nice site to have a look at.

And you still look back on those days as 10cc very fondly, there's no rancour, no animosity, is there?

I loved it, I loved it and as I said, I saw Lol two days ago and we're still great mates, um, and we had a great laugh and it was a good period for us. Don't , we don't want to recreate it again. We wouldn't get together or anything like that.

Really?

NO! we're all, we're all doing other things. Lol went into film and commercial production, Kevin does brilliant videos for U2 and Paul Mac' and stuff like that.

And Graham had a solo album out last year didn't he?

I believe so, yeah, yeah

…a very good one too.

Oh we're all working, yeah, everyone's working on different things. We get many requests each year but I think it would be bad news to try and drag 10cc out of the mothballs again…

…leave it as it was

the nostalgia Tour, it just sounds horrible to me.

Well, ericstewart.com is where you can find Do Not Bend and we're gonna play 'A Friend In Need'. Thank you Eric, very much.

Thank you, Bernie.

[A Friend In Need starts playing]