June 15, 2007

"I'm Not in Love"

"I'm Not in Love" is an analog-era, multi-track recording masterpiece. It was written by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman of the English group 10cc and was on the album The Original Soundtrack (1975).

10cc in Strawberry Studios, 1975. From left: Lol Creme, Kevin Godley (at rear), Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman. (pic from Sound on Sound)

From the Wikipedia entry:

A collaborative effort built around a title by Eric Stewart, "I'm Not in Love" is notable for its innovative production, especially its choral backing. An ethereal sound was created by laboriously building up multiple overdubs of the voices of Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme singing a single note in unison. This multi-track was then mixed down and dubbed down onto 16-track tape. This process was repeated across all sixteen tracks to create a lush 256-voice "virtual" choir that could "sing" chromatic chords.

(pic from Sound on Sound)

A number of these prepared multi-tracks were then cut into several endless loops, each which contained the basic notes of the main chords used in the song. The chorus loops could then be played by using the mixing desk rather like a keyboard -- each chord could be sounded by bringing up the fader for that loop. The instrumental break featured the repeated spoken phrase: "big boys don't cry...", which was spoken by Kathy Warren, the receptionist of the Strawberry Studios where the band recorded the track.

Strawberry Studios secretary Kathy Redfern, whose enthusiasm for "I'm Not In Love" helped to persuade the band not to scrap it, and who eventually supplied the whispered female vocal. (pic and caption from Sound on Sound)

In this pre-sampler period, the group was able to simulate a large polyphonic choir, creating a dramatic tonal effect similar to that produced by the well-known choir setting on the Mellotron, but with a far richer sound, and in full stereo. The same effect was used in Billy Joel's ballad "Just the Way You Are," released two years later. Released in May 1975, it became the band's second number one single and stayed on the top spot for two weeks from June 22nd.

Everything you could possibly want to know about the technical aspect of its recording can be found at Sound on Sound.

Here they are lip syncing to it on August 20, 1975, on "Musikladen" (sort of like the German "The Midnight Special"). Even though the performance is lip synced, they do it well, and it gives you a good idea of who is singing which of the background parts. The chromakeyed stars background is perfect, because since I first heard it, I've thought "I'm Not in Love" was sort of science fiction-flavored. That could be because the tinkling, twinkling sounds have always reminded me of those used by Vangelis on the soundtrack to Blade Runner (1982). Might Vangelis have been inspired by 10cc?


Lisa said...

What a brilliant song. When I "DJ'd" (i.e. picked out songs to play off an ipod hooked up to an amp) at my friends' wedding, they considered playing it at the reception just cause it's so awesome, but decided against it (inappropriate message.)

Chris said...

It was probably the right thing to do not to play it at a wedding, but I can understand why it came to mind! It has that odd, yet appealing, mix of raw feelings and emotion and those strange, spacey choral loop effects. I think it's pretty amazing.

The Pine Blogger said...

It's really a great song. Always been a favorite, but I didn't know who sang it originally.

Chasrich said...

Remember the song they came out with several years later- "The Things We Do For Love?" I remember hearing that over and over on AM radio when it came out. I still like it.

Chris said...

It is a great song. "The Things We Do For Love" was a bigger hit than "I'm Not in Love," and it occurred after Godley and Creme left 10cc, so it must have been very satisfying for the remaining two guys.

Chasrich said...

Wonder whatever became of Kathy Redfern?