I could make this real easy and just write a list of the songs that Graham Gouldman played as his own opening act Friday night, and note that he wrote them all. During the GREAT BRITISH INVASION, of the early 1960s, Graham, a hired gun outta Stockport, England, wrote hits for Herman's Hermits, the Hollies (two, biggies), Wayne Fontana, and the Yardbirds.
These are songs we know as well as our own name: pop confections of enormous staying power and beauty. As good as anything the Brill Building were throwing up, but distinctly brilliant and very beautiful. Better then pop fodder, better than a day dream of what pop might be, it is so timeless and melodic they still call back to us through all these years.
Sitting center stage with just an acoustic, while the various members of his traveling 10 CC band join him as the set continues, Graham is unassuming but hardly intimidated man. It is a very, very English concept: because so absolutely aware of your achievements that you can let the songs speak for themselves.
An opening "Pamela Pamela" has much of its psychedelic subtext removed and becomes a nostalgia of a nostalgia, just a distance European folkiness gussied in West clothing. A great song, of course. Graham is joined by his lead guitarist for a Yardbirds song and then a devastating "Bus Stop". A Chekovian short story, so precise in its evocation of a romance and so well stretched from meeting to vow and so fucking catchy.
How did Graham learn to write like that? His Daddy taught him. His Dad gave Graham the concept behind "No Milk Today" -a letter on the doorstep of a friends house back in the day when milk was delivered, Graham couldn't see it until his Dad told him it was a metaphor for a love that had left.
But it wasn't all 45 year old songs. Graham played two, excellent songs, off an album to be released in the UK in two weeks, Love And Work. Both the songs were much closer in spirit, stuff like "Look Through Any Window" -another mammoth hit for the Hollies, which he also sang. A new one "Memory Lane" is a terrific song and a reminded that skills don't always diminish with time.
Graham brings out the bongos for his biggest hit before forming 10 cc, "For Your Love" . This was a huge huge smash: a perfect melding of art rock, blues and pop, and perhaps the only time Gouldman's version leaves something wanting. It needed a little more muscle.
But that is my only complaint. Graham is a pop genius, and it is a pleasure to hear him play a handful of the terrific songs he has written. And to hear him speak of his late father.