The Story of... 'I'm Not in Love' by 10cc
11 November 2020, 17:11
10cc's 1975 number one single 'I'm Not in Love' is one of the greatest ballads ever made, and there's never been anything quite like it since.
With its never-ending harmonies and heartbreaking lyrics, it became an instant classic and is a truly timeless song.
But how was it made? And what was the song about? Who whispered the famous 'big boys don't cry' line?
To celebrate 45 years since it reached number one in the UK, here's the official story behind the song:
Who wrote 'I'm Not in Love'?
Written by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, Stewart came up with the idea for the song after his wife of eight years asked him why he didn't say "I love you" more often.
He said: "I had this crazy idea in my mind that repeating those words would somehow degrade the meaning, so I told her, 'Well, if I say every day "I love you, darling, I love you, blah, blah, blah", it's not gonna mean anything eventually'."
The other 10cc bandmates hated it at first
Originally conceived as a bossa nova song with guitars, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme were not fans, particularly Godley, who told him to abandon the idea completely.
It wasn't until they heard staff members humming the tune that they gave it another shot.
The band later revealed that the conversation went like:
How was the song made?
10CC - I'm Not In Love (Official Music Video)
Stewart spent three weeks recording Gouldman, Godley and Creme singing "ahhh" 16 times for each note of the chromatic scale, creating a 'choir' of 48 voices for each note.
Creme suggested they could keep the voices going for an infinite time by using tape loops. Stewart created 12 ft long loops by feeding them at one end through the tape heads of the stereo recorder, and at the other end through a capstan roller fixed to the top of a microphone stand.
Stewart played each loop through a separate channel of the mixing desk, turning the desk into a musical instrument. He also put gaffer tape across the bottom the channels, making it impossible to completely fade them down, creating constant background vocals.
Only a few instruments were used: a Fender Rhodes electric piano played by Stewart, a Gibson 335 electric guitar by Gouldman, and a bass drum sound played by Godley on a Moog synthesizer.
After the song was finished, Godley felt there was still something missing...
Stewart said: "Lol remembered he said something into the grand piano mics when he was laying down the solos. He'd said 'Be quiet, big boys don't cry'. Heaven knows why, but I soloed it and we all agreed that the idea sounded very interesting."
Who provided the whispered voice?
Stewart later explained: "Just at that point the door to the control room opened and our secretary Kathy [Redfern] looked in and whispered 'Eric, sorry to bother you. There's a telephone call for you.'
"Lol jumped up and said 'That's the voice, her voice is perfect!'."
It almost wasn't released at all
10cc - I'm Not In Love
Mercury Records signed the band to a five-year deal based purely on the song. However, the label weren't sure about releasing the epic song as a single.
Thankfully, many influential figures in the music industry demanded that it be released, and Mercury relented. 10cc had to edit the song down to four minutes for radio play, but many stations played the full version anyway.
How did it perform in the charts?
It gave 10cc their second number one single, in June 1975. It also reached number two in the US.
It has appeared in many TV shows and movies
- Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
- Indecent Proposal
- He's Just Not That Into You
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Goodnight Sweetheart
- The Office