Thursday, February 19, 2015

10cc – "Life Is a Minestrone" (1975)

I'm leaning on the tower of Pisa
Had an eyeful of the tower in France
I'm hanging round the gardens of Madison

The "Leaning Tower of Pisa" is a free-standing bell tower (or campanile) that stands in Pisa's Cathedral Square.  

The construction of the tower began in 1173 and was completed in 1372.  It began to sink in 1178, shortly after work started on the tower's second floor.  The problem was unstable subsoil.  

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Between 1990 and 2001, the tower was stabilized and reconstructed.  It once tilted 5.5 degrees, but now tilts only 4.0 degrees.  Engineers say that the tower will be stable for at least 200 years.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is nothing compared to the Leaning Tower of Wanaka in New Zealand, which was constructed to lean at an angle of 53 degrees to horizontal:

The Leaning Tower of Wanaka
I have a real weakness for bands like 10cc and songs like "Life Is a Minestrone."

One reviewer called the song "a truly joyous slice of pop nonsense, and one of 10cc's most effervescent hit singles. . . . Lyrically, it is nothing less than a deadly accurate barrage of disconnected theories, thoughts and ghastly geographical puns, all tied together by that bizarre nomenclatural observation.  Utterly daft, wholly compulsive."

"Life Is a Minestrone" was released in 1975 on 10cc's The Original Soundtrack album, which I bought when I was in law school.  It reached #7 on the UK singles chart.  (The big hit from that album was "I'm Not in Love," which I think is one of the worst songs in history.) 

10cc consisted of two distinct songwriting teams.  Eric Stewart (formerly of Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders) and Graham Gouldman (who wrote "Bus Stop" for the Hollies and "No Milk Today" for Herman's Hermits) wrote pop songs, while Kevin Godley and Lol Creme wrote 10cc's artsy-fartsy songs.  

Before forming 10cc, all four of its members worked at Strawberry Studios, which was located in the Manchester suburb of Stockport.  (Eric Stewart, the co-owner of the studio, named it after his favorite Beatles song, "Strawberry Fields Forever.")  

In 1969, famed American bubblegum pop producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz – who were responsible for the Ohio Express, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, and Crazy Elephant – commissioned Graham Gouldman to write bubblegum songs, many of which were recorded at Strawberry Studios.

Gouldman felt he had prostituted himself by accepting the Kasenetz-Katz deal.  "That was a time when I had lost a little bit of confidence in my writing," Gouldman said.  "I hadn't had any hits for some time. I felt awful. I just didn't seem to be keeping up with what other people were doing. It was very depressing."

Gouldman convinced Kasenetz and Katz that the series of throwaway two-minute songs he was writing could all be performed and produced by him and Stewart, Godley, and Creme at a fraction of the price of hiring outside session musicians.

Kevin Godley described the quartet's three-month stint at Strawberry Studios for Kasenetz and Katz:

We did a lot of tracks in a very short time – it was really like a machine.  Twenty tracks in about two weeks – a lot of crap really – really shit.  We used to do the voices, everything – it saved them money.  We even did the female backing vocals.

Here's "Life Is a Minestrone":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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