Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Guardians Of The Galaxy” Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Im Not In Love By 10 cc Off The Album, “The Original Soundtrack” 1975
This song incorporated the backing of a large wordless choir, which in reality was the group’s voices. It was painstakingly built up from chord loops and multi tracks: some 256 vocal dubs were required to complete the lush harmonies behind Eric Stewart’s vocal.
The idea for the song came from Eric Stewart saying to his wife that if he kept saying “I Love You” over and over, it wouldn’t mean anything even though he did love her. He recalled to The Guardian:
“I met this gorgeous girl called Gloria at Halifax town hall. I was 18. She was 16. Three years later, we got married. A few years after that, Gloria told me: ‘You don’t say ‘I love you’ much anymore.’ I told her that, if I said it all the time, it would sound glib. But I started wondering how I could say it without using those actual words. So ‘I’m not in love’ became a rhetorical conversation with myself – and then a song.
I wrote the lyrics in a couple of days. The line, ‘I keep your picture up on the wall, it hides a nasty stain’ was about the crack in my bedroom wall at my parents’ house in Manchester. I’d put a photograph of Gloria over it. When I took the song to the band, they said: ‘I’m not in love’? What the f–k is that? You can’t say that!’ But Graham Gouldman, our bass-player and chord-master, agreed to work on it with me. We both liked The Girl From Ipanema, so we gave it a similar bossa nova style. Then Kevin Godley, our drummer, said it was crap.
We were about to scrap it and wipe the tape but, as I walked around the studio, I heard the secretary singing it and the window-cleaner whistling it. I knew we had a tune: we just hadn’t captured it properly. Kevin suggested doing it again, but with banks of voices. I thought that meant hiring a choir, but Lol Creme, our keyboard player, said we could do it using tape loops.”
The guy in this song sounds like he’s trying to convince himself he’s not in love anymore, but he’s not fooling us. That conflict stems from the title and helped make the song so poignant.
In an interview with Graham Gouldman, he explained: “I had the opening chords to it and it grew from there. Eric and I had always avoided a love song, but I was always convinced we could do a great one, and once again Eric came up with the title of that song, and it was the perfect title of an anti-love song. But of course, is it an anti-love song? Is it I’m not in love, or is it I am in love?”
The whispered vocals of “Be quiet, big boys don’t cry” came from the secretary of Strawberry Studios (the studio the band operated), Kathy Redfern. They were looking for a certain sound when Redfern entered the studio to quietly tell Eric Stewart he had a phone call. When they heard her voice, they knew it was right for the song.According to Kevin Godley, they originally recorded this song as a “lounge-lizard, bossa-nova thing,” which clearly didn’t work. When they revisited it, they came up with a new approach. “It was possibly out of desperation of not knowing what to do that we tried all the washy voices,” Godley said in an interview. “Forget instruments, forget guitars, forget drums. Just voices, like a heavenly choir, like a tsunami of voices.”
Godley says they spent days singing notes into a microphone, which they then turned into tape loops. These loops were loaded onto 16 different tape machines and rolled simultaneously. In the control room, each band member had four faders to bring each loop in and out of the mix on the fly, which they overdubbed onto the basic track they had built with electric piano, guitar and a Moog synthesizer set to simulate a bass drum. Said Godley: “We used Eric’s original guide vocal in the end because it just worked, and from that point onwards, everything we added or took away or changed from that point worked. There were no head-scratching moments, no arguing, no disagreements, no problems. It was like we were in a magic bubble and everything fell into place. Then we mixed it, and it was six-and-a-half minutes long – something crazy – and we realized we had done something special. We didn’t know it was a hit record or anything, but we knew it was special.”
In 1990, the duo Will To Power released a cover version that went to #7 US. Two years earlier, Will To Power had a #1 US hit with a medley of two cover songs: Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.”
Other popular covers include a 1976 version by Richie Havens that made #102 in the US, and a 1993 version by The Pretenders recorded for the movie Indecent Proposal – this one was produced by Trevor Horn. This song opens the 2014 movie Guardians of the Galaxy, where Chris Pratt’s character is listening to it on a Walkman. The song is part of a mixtape his dying mother gave him called Awesome Mix Vol. 1, which plays a huge part in the film and also forms the soundtrack, reviving many hits from the ’70s. “I’m Not In Love” and other selections (“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” and “Hooked On A Feeling” among them) are incongruent choices for a superhero action movie, but they proved very effective, as the soundtrack went to #1 in America.
Director Bruce Gowers made a video for this song showing the band performing it in the studio. A few years later, Godley & Creme made many elaborate concept videos for the likes of The Police, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and George Harrison. In 2019, Godley shot a new video for “I’m Not In Love” that was used as a concert visual in Graham Gouldman’s touring version of 10cc.