September 8, 2005

Obnoxious Ugly Guys

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For whatever reason, the 1970s is derided by many as an embarrassing decade for culture, where most of what was being produced seemed like the ugly love child of the 1960s. Even ’70s cultural icon John Lennon called the era “a drag,” and believed that the next decade held promise towards greater cultural innovation. Of course, jerry curls and David Hasselhoff quickly proved Lennon’s prediction wrong, but I feel the 1970s is significantly underrated culturally, especially in terms of the music that was coming out at the time. While punk and new wave were probably the most cutting edge movements of the decade, the genre of “obnoxious ugly guy” music might have been the most substantial type of music being created at the time.

Along with such singer/songwriters as Todd Rundgren and Harry Nilsson, 10cc made music that seemed to be for nothing but their own amusement, even if they happened to create some of the most intriguing pop songs of the decade in the process. 10cc and other “obnoxious ugly guys” could be just as sensitive and thoughtful as James Taylor and Co., and certainly just as musically skillful. They were, unfortunately, just a little too nasty and eccentric to discipline themselves for songs like “Fire and Rain.” Instead, 10cc chose to write songs like “I’m Mandy Fly Me.”

Named for the amount of sperm (according to the metric system) in the average man’s ejaculate, 10cc was a supergroup of art rockers who didn’t hit it big in the United States until their 1975 number two hit “I’m Not in Love.”

A defining song of the decade, “I’m Not in Love” comes off as a conventional love song on the surface, albeit one bursting with despair. Beneath the forlorn melody lies a fascinating Freudian character piece of a man trying to convince himself that he doesn’t love a girl he is clearly obsessing over, justifying every sign of attachment with some lame excuse that he is trying so pathetically to believe. “I keep your picture upon the wall / It hides a nasty stain that’s lyin’ there / So don’t you ask me to give it back / I know you know it doesn’t mean that much to me.” While 10cc was always naughty and tongue-in-cheek in their musical work, it was moments like this that showed they also had a heart, after all.

Archived article by Jared Wolfe
Sun Staff Writer