Illustration by Gluyas Williams from the US Department of Labor's If Your Baby Must Travel in Wartime, 1944
70s art-pop combo 10cc were a quartet with an abundance of talent - each of the four was a talented vocalist, instrumentalist, and songwriter. I'm particularly fond of their first two albums, 10cc and Sheet Music, inventive records that also pay homage to a lot of the band's pop inspirations, including the Beach Boys. "Rubber Bullets", from the self-titled debut, outs Graham Gouldman as a big fan of the early Beach Boys stuff, taking that sunny pop sound and using it to describe a bloody prison riot. It's a fun song, but I prefer the band's other big Beach Boys homage, "Old Wild Men" from the band's second album.
A Godley and Creme composition, it is a rare tribute to the dreamy post-Pet-Sounds sound Brian Wilson favored on Surf's Up and Smiley Smile. The song has a guitar-based arrangement, but you'd never guess it, as the song's persistent background drone was done using "the gizmo", a device invented by 10cc to create lush string-section sounds using a normal guitar. The vocal harmonies are intricate without being show-offy, and the poignant lyric about the aging stars of rock music's first generation is pretty great. In 1974, when this song was released, Brian Wilson was cloistered in his bedroom, lost in a haze of drugs and mental illness, and this song always brings that tragic image to my mind when I hear it.
"Old Wild Men" by 10cc