Good Morning Judge

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“He didn’t do it, he wasn’t there
He didn’t want it, he wouldn’t dare”

I don’t know why these words started going through my head twenty minutes ago but there they were, unable to be excised. And the more they played in my brain the happier I was. I was entranced by the music, in my own private bubble, if not Idaho. I was so happy I didn’t want to be free.

10cc. At this point known for “I’m Not in Love” and “The Things We Do for Love,” if they’re known at all. Scratch that, if they’re REMEMBERED at all. The latter hit came out in 1977, and that’s 44 years ago. And the opening cut on that album, entitled “Deceptive Bends,” was “Good Morning Judge.”

The track is jaunty. But would it close someone who never heard it before? “The Things We Do for Love” is a one listen smash, perfect, a hit in any era. And then there’s the suite that ends the album, “Feel the Benefit,” an eleven and a half minute opus that reminds me of the Sweet’s “Love is Like Oxygen,” from their 1977 LP “Level Headed,” the only one I ever bought, even though they’re not really similar tracks, but they’re both extended, majestic.

You didn’t quite get this majesty in the original iteration of 10cc, which had too much talent to maintain. Ultimately Kevin Godley and Lol Creme went on to make a triple album boxed set with their musical invention the Gizmo and when that failed they became legendary video directors, pushing the envelope in the original explosion of MTV. But Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart soldiered on under the old moniker.

But those initial LPs, especially the eponymous first one, whew! Now that’s a masterpiece of not only construction and production, writing and playing, but HUMOR! Which is completely absent in today’s music sphere, then again it was just a small part of the enterprise back when, but the band’s “Rubber Bullets” ran up the chart in the U.K., and meant nothing over here.

“Rubber Bullets” is the best Beach Boys song Brian Wilson never wrote. Well, maybe we need to include “Back in the U.S.S.R.” in the equation too, but…”Rubber Bullets exploded out of the speakers, you had to run to catch up with it. As for the other songs on the LP, they were tongue-in-cheek and in the style of classics and the whole album was infectious, one of my favorites, but it was on Mercury, which was poison, and was far from meat and potatoes, which was dominating FM rock in the United States, so it stiffed over here.

The second LP had a radio track, “The Wall Street Shuffle,” and then the third, which I did not think was as good as the first two, had the gigantic hit, “I’m Not in Love.”

The fourth LP sounded much more like the first two, especially the second, and it did nothing in the U.S. marketplace, despite containing “Art for Art’s Sake” and “I’m Mandy Fly Me,” and then the band splintered.

Now the truth is I actually prefer the second Gouldman/Stewart album, “Bloody Tourists,” over “Deceptive Bends.” “Dreadlock Holiday” was a hit seemingly everywhere but the States, but it’s actually the slower, dreamier numbers that ring my bell, like “Old Mister Time.”

Anyway, I was thrilled one of my favorite bands had another hit so I rushed out and bought “Deceptive Bends,” which I would have bought anyway, and thus I know “Good Morning Judge” by heart. Just like seemingly everybody in the U.K. and northern Europe, where it was a successful single, which even had a video!

I just learned that, doing some research on credits. And I watched it, wary of this early video, pre-MTV, when they were made as ads for Europe where state radio was hard to crack. But when I watched it…it was magical! That sense of humor. Never forget, conception supersedes production every day of the week. And the video just reinforced what I knew from revisiting the track, these guys could WAIL!

“Well good morning judge how are you today?
I’m in trouble please put me away”

There’s a brash guitar opening, a lick and a slash, this cut hits the track running, it needs no build, it’s already built.

But then leaning towards sotto voce:

“I couldn’t stop it so I let it be”

Then comes the part that is stuck in my head:

“He didn’t do it, he wasn’t there
He didn’t want it, he wouldn’t dare
I didn’t do it, I wasn’t there,
I didn’t want it, I wouldn’t dare”

And then a little over ninety seconds in the cut starts to explode, there’s a guitar flourish and then a dancing lead which ultimately gets syncopated akin to an Allman Brothers cut and then both guitars are playing and there’s more of the hooky riff, and then it’s back to the story:

“Alcatraz is like a home sweet home
I’m so wanted and I’m never alone
San Quentin is the place to be”

There’s that humor, the ranking of prisons, never mind the HAPPINESS!

“I’m so happy I don’t wanna be free
So happy I don’t wanna be free”

That’s rock and roll, it takes you prisoner, you can’t shake it, you can think you’re burned out, done, but then it creeps back in. And it’s a big tent, the guitar is a key element, but there are so many styles, there’s a whole world to explore and relish. And the thing is you believe you’re the only fan and then you go to the show and find all these people who feel exactly like you, who were in their bedrooms alone, spinning the records, who are now at the gig to bond with the sound. They don’t need to talk, they don’t shoot selfies, they may even close their eyes as the music washes over them, a live version of what they know so well.

And I went to see 10cc at the Santa Monica Civic and…

Now they no longer have shows there.

And rock and roll no longer dominates the chart.

And chances are the obscure album you’re into has few other fans, there’s just so much product.

And everybody’s complaining they can’t make any money while they’re grubbing for it.

And the audience itself believes it’s entitled to be stars, as rich and well known as those on stage.

And the work is secondary to money and fame.

But if you were there, it was different. And it’s not coming back. But the tunes, the magic remains. I’m so happy I don’t wanna be free!

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