The radio station plays a short clip from four songs… The Mindbenders "Groovy Kind Of Love" with Eric singing, 10cc's "The Things We Do For Love" and "I'm Not In Love", both with Eric's voice being heard, and 10cc's "Dreadlock Holiday", the clip of which features Graham Gouldman singing. The disc jockey's voice comes in as the last clip fades away…

You've just heard a montage from the first of our celebrity guests today, Eric Stewart. Now, during the 60's he was in the Manchester band, the Mindbenders, where he appeared onstage opening for the godfather of soul, James Brown. He then continues with 10cc and alongside, he's produced albums for Sir Paul McCartney, Neil Sedaka, the Alan Parsons Project. He's perhaps one of the greatest ever rock stars, who's hardly ever talked about until now. He's been in the music business for forty years and has his first solo album out for twenty years. It's called, er, Do Not Bend. Eric Stewart, good afternoon, welcome to the show, mate.

Good afternoon to you too

Ringing me all the way from Paris, I believe.

Yeah, yeah, I'm in Paris.

This is true, this is true, in fact, I was reading this article about you over the weekend. The Mindbenders thing, tell us about that.

Oh it was, it was one of those, um, things the Sunday Times do about the best of, worst of moments in your life. The Mindbenders were linked into a James Brown gig in America because we’d, we'd just got the number one record that week with "Groovy Kind Of Love" and the agent somehow managed to put us onto this gig. However when we got to the gig, which was the Atlanta Braves stadium, er, there were twenty five black Afro-American audience*, and we were three little white guys who did pop music. (*note: Eric actually said it like this - it is assumed he meant there were 25,000 black Afro-Americans in the audience.) This was a soul audience and we died a death.

Good Lord.

Um, very embarrassing, worst moment. But we had a great chance to watch James Brown first-hand, watch him and meet him and say hello and just watch what was going on onstage. And it had a massive influence on me after that, on the textures, feel, what a tight band can do, and all that sort of thing. Very, very educational.

I was actually reading the article and it said that er, apparently, James Brown sacked people if they made three mistakes in one concert.

In one concert, if you dropped a bum note, you got a $10 fine. If you dropped three, you were out of the band, and believe me, it was so tight, they had three drummers on there, great brass section, but, er, it was a hell of a way to go onstage thinking "God, I'm out of here if I drop 3 notes!"

That was something you employed of course, Eric. 10cc followed, didn’t it?

It did, yeah. 10cc, well when the Mindbenders folded at the end of the 60's, um, I started Strawberry Studios up in Stockport. Um, in fact, with the Mindbenders I used to play in Stoke quite a lot, you know. I used to play the King's Hall in Stoke...

Oh yeah, of course, yeah.

Loads of stuff around there in the earlier bands, but anyway…

So you've got some nice memories of Stoke though, obviously?

Yeah, yeah that area, Stafford, Stoke, the Potteries, yeah it was a very easy, easy trip down from Manchester then yeah. We used to gig a lot around there, fantastic

You were telling us about 10cc, carry on, yes.

I'd started Strawberry Studios with a mate of mine called Pete Tattersall. We started it in Stockport, um, it was a lovely building, used to belong to the er, Ministry of Defence and I believe they did the bouncing bomb there, you know, the Dambusters bomb. Anyway it was dilapidated, we hired it and we built our own Strawberry Studio there, and we were just below a place called Kesmonds Fashions that sold strange ladies underwear. So we used to get people coming into the studio going "Is this where I get the rubber stuff?" Er, no, no, no, we're music, we're music. The kinky's upstairs, kinky's upstairs. Anyway and that’s what started 10cc, we had a sort of a house band that produced people like Neil Sedaka, as you said, and we went on from there and started to write our own music, and that developed from a group called Hotlegs who had a hit with Neanderthal Man, which was a drumbeat record, into 10cc itself.

Wow. I grew up with 10cc. I remember all the hits, er, the favourite one, I mean, everyone loves I'm Not In Love, I mean it's brilliant, it's a classic one, but my favourite one is Dreadlock Holiday, strangely enough.

I, it's a lovely song, um, well I've got to say that, I wrote it with Graham Gouldman. Yeah, experience in the Caribbean, 3 experiences in the Caribbean about what happens there, you know, I don’t like cricket…

What? Was, was it based on fact, Eric, is that what you're saying?

Absolute fact.

Ooh, tell us about this

All of it's fact. The first thing, I'm walking down the street, and I see this white guy and he's trying to ape, emulate the way the, the Caribbean people move. They got this lovely sort of trucking thing they call it, where they, they sort of glide down the street you know, like watching a Brazilian footballer. They just glide, it looks like second nature and I saw this white guy trying to do it, he looked so stupid. I thought that’s a good idea for a song. So, a white guy trying to be black in the Caribbean, I thought that's an idea and I mentioned it to Graham and he said "Well, I have a funny experience. I'm sat there, watching a cricket match in Jamaica", you know, of course there's a big cricket audience there and er, the Jamaican, he said to the Jamaican there "Do you like cricket?". The Jamaican said "Like cricket, man? Like it? No I don’t like it, I love it" And that’s a, if you're a songwriter, that’s a great line and you, it sticks in your brain, you remember it, you remember it.

Fantastic! Why did you split up then, Eric? What was the problem there?

10cc? The first 10cc? The four piece? Well, Godley and Creme really wanted to go into different areas of music and video, which you know they became really famous for and er, the 4 men, the four man team that were incredibly creative at the start, I mean, apart from the Beatles, I think 10cc were probably the, the only four man team that could all write a hit record and…

That’s right.

…could all sing it er, you know, four great singers in one band, I mean, it's quite unusual. And er, our own studio, so quite unique. But unfortunately after sort of four years of it, that creative chemistry started to pull us apart, and Godley and Creme wanted to go in another direction. They, you know, they'd invented this instrument called the Gismo and they wanted to use that on stage with 50 Gismo players and um, Gouldman and I didn’t see it that way. So we said we don’t see that as 10cc so well they said we don’t want to do any more stuff like I'm Not In Love. In fact, Kevin was very uncomplimentary about that song. He said I don’t want to do any more crap like I'm Not In Love. Oh okay, alright, what you gonna do? Well, we're off, we're doing our own album called Consequences, which was a triple album, I think probably one of the only triple albums in history, and it stiffed and the rest is history. We carried on um, Gouldman and I carried on and it continued to have the hits. Thank God!

Yes indeed, do you ever sort of converse with the others, I mean, Godley and Creme. Do you ever sort of like, meet up and chat or…

Yeah, well, it's very incestuous. Lol Creme is my brother in law. He married my sister er, yes, um, not my sister, my wife's sister, he married. We didn’t see each other after the split for about four years. It was very sort of er, we didn’t ring each other up or anything. But I followed their career, and I saw they were doing great videos and coming up with some great songs too, you know, Crying and stuff like that um, and then we got in touch again after about four years and we're great friends now. We speak to each other a lot in fact, I've just sent him a copy of Do Not Bend which he was lovely and complimentary about. We may do some video stuff for it, for a DVD sort of thing so I'm still in touch.

Great, I mean, it's your first solo album for twenty years. Why?

Um, I've really got a good reason, Ben. I've been doing lots of other things. I've been travelling around the world, the Caribbean, through France and so on, doing a lot of other projects with other people, as you said. The McCartney stuff, lots of Alan Parsons Projects, writing for other people, for film, TV, all that sort of stuff, and um, I didn’t really feel I was right for the time, what was out at the time, whatever music was out, I felt well, I can't really compete with this, with whatever's in the charts. What I do lyrically and melodically and so on, I don’t think it will fit in, the trigger for Do Not Bend was um, I wanted to give a present to some good friends of mine. It was their 30th wedding anniversary, and I thought what can I give them that’s quite unique. Er, I thought I'm a singer, I'm a songwriter, I could actually write a song about them. So I've known them for twenty five years and I know their life and I could do a very sort of calypso song, you know, like calypso in the Caribbean was always telling the news about what was happening er, history of families, that’s what calypso was, it was the newspaper. I thought I could do a calypso about these two. So the song on the album there is called the Norman Conquest Two and after I'd written that, I had such great fun doing it, I thought, ahhh hold on, I've got a lot of friends with very interesting stories, all of them have got particularly unique lives, and I can, I can write songs about them because really, the words are already there. That geared me to do the album. And once I'd got six tracks down about friends, I was off and running again, I thought I'm really loving this, I'm enjoying it again, I'm getting excited.


Yes, it's there.

A favourite track from the album, Eric?

I think A Friend In Need is my favourite er, it's a deeply sort of heartfelt song about um, you know, people nowadays, I don’t think they're as caring about people, you know. I came from a terraced house in Manchester, the doors were open and we cared about people and we, you know, if Mrs Rowland three doors down hadn't opened her door, you'd go and knock and say "Are you okay, love? Is everything alright?" Nowadays a friend in need as that guy, there's a line in there, a friend of mine said "Listen, Eric, a friend in need is a pain in the arse!" I thought I don’t feel that way and I wanted to write about it. That, he triggered me to write this song and so it gets across emotionally what I think about people and I've played some guitar on this album that I'm really, I'm very pleased with. I've extended myself further.

Excellent stuff. Well we're about to hear that record now. Eric Stewart, can I say thank you for taking time out to talk to me, all the best with the album, let's hope you gig around Stoke soon alright?

Thanks Ben.

You take care, mate

Good luck

And you, bye, bye

Bye now

[A Friend In Need plays]