Happy birthday, Eric Stewart! The multi-talented Brit musician turns 76 today… let’s hope he remembers to tell his wife Gloria, that he loves her. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Stewart’s name is far from well-known, but a good deal of the music he’s worked on is – most notably the band 10CC.
Stewart was born in Lancashire, and few details of his upbringing are on record, but we do know he joined The Mindbenders by 1965. They were one of the rising tide of bands in the British invasion, and soon after he joined them they scored a #2 hit on both sides of the Atlantic with a song he sang for them: “A Groovy Kind Of Love” . Of course, Phil Collins had a major hit with it about twenty years later, introducing it to whole new generation of fans. Although he didn’t stick with them for too long, The Mindbenders did two important things for him. It made him money, and it introduced him to Graham Gouldman who was also in the band.
After leaving the band by 1969, Stewart said he was “infected with ideas of becoming a recording engineer and building a studio where I could develop my own ideas.” He and Graham bought into a studio near Manchester, which they renamed “Strawberry Studios” as an homage to The Beatles (and “Strawberry Fields Forever”.) They soon had Kevin Godley and Lol Creme joining them to work on recordings there. By the time they recorded and did much of the music for Neil Sedaka’s 1972’s Solitaire, they had the idea that they could make their own music. Shortly after, 10CC came about.
With that background, there’s little surprise 10CC were known for meticulously-produced records. While popular here in North America, they were more popular and sooner at home in the UK, where they trotted out five-straight top 10 albums in the ’70s and scored 11 top 10 singles, including a trio of #1s. For the first four or five years, there seemed to be two duos within the larger group- Godley and Creme ; Stewart and Gouldman. In 1976, the former left leaving the latter pair to steer the band through the late-’70s and ’80s. “I was sorry to see them go,” Stewart says “but it became clear things went much smoother” afterwards.
Of the two “duos” within 10CC, Stewart’s was the more commercially accepted. Stewart sang lead on most of their big singles including “Art for Art’s Sake” and “I’m Not In Love” and he co-wrote almost all of their hits, including “Things We Do For Love” and “I’m Not In Love” (both #1 hits in Canada).
The latter, their signature tune, was inspired by Eric’s wife. “My wife, Gloria and I were having breakfast at home…she said, ‘Why don’t you say you love me as much anymore?’ .We had been married nine years at the time. I said, ‘If I say that every day, the words will lose their meaning, won’t they?’ She said ‘No they won’t.’ … I went off to the living room where I had a grand piano and my acoustic guitar and began writing a song about saying ‘I love you’ without actually saying it.” As of last year at least, Eric and Gloria were still happily wed, 50-plus years in.
While 10CC slowed down in the ’80s (Eric eventually ran into issues with Graham and quit for good in 1995), he made friends with Paul McCartney. Apparently at the suggestion of super-producer George Martin (who felt Paul needed “new blood”), he joined the Beatle in 1982 to do guitar work and backing vocals on his Tug of War album and then collaborated on the next three albums of his. that culminated in 1986’s Press to Play. Stewart co-wrote six of the songs with Paul, did guitars and keyboards and helped out in the studio process. Unfortunately, the album was not one of the high points in Paul’s career, lacking a hit single and going gold only in the UK. the pair didn’t work together much after and since then, but for minor contributions on albums by Alan Parsons and Abba’s Agnetha, Stewart seems to have largely left the business.