The Making of 10cc's melancholy '70s Moog hit, "I'm Not in Love"

Dangerous Minds is my favorite blog in the world (okay, other than this one!). A recent Brad Laner post unearthing this radio documentary on the making of the moody Moog '70s hit "I'm Not In Love" by 10cc is a perfect case in point. The song was released in June, 1975. Brad writes,

[It's] a song that I've always been very intrigued with. I love that it's both a rigorous formal experiment and a tremendously succesful pop tune, to say nothing of its dark and deeply melancholic atmosphere. It's easily one of the best radio hits of the 70's and I can't imagine ever tiring of it.

I couldn't agree more. I have such strong memories associated with this tune, from my own seventies childhood. They involve forests, long car drives, and grief and loss and everlasting love. I can listen to the song over and over and over again without tiring of it, but I can't listen to the song without being transported back to that child-mind, and the emotional environment that surrounded me. That's what great art does.

The 9:41 audio documentary reveals some of the analog-era soundcraft and technology behind that magic, some of which was very new at the time. Endless loops and multilayered "aaahs," a synth heartbeat in place of a drum, and hyperbolic chord overlays of some 256 voices, exhaling all at once. A Moog cathedral.

YouTube commenters identify the radio documentary as coming from a BBC Radio 6 documentary about 10cc as part of their "Producers" series, broadcast in 2009. Anyone have a direct link to the original at BBC? I'll post here, if so. I'm not crazy about the random, fan-edited still image montage in this YouTube video (the images aren't of their equipment, for example), but hey, I appreciate that someone preserved the radio doc so I can't complain too much.


MP3 download for "I'm Not in Love": Amazon link.

Bonus: The long-circulated grossout internet rumor about the band's name? False.


  1. What a cool video. It’s not really a Moog hit, though, since apparently the only thing played on the Moog is the quiet “bass drum” beat. The rest is guitar, bass, and a monumental layering of voices via tape loops that, at times, were literally strung across the room from machine to machine. Really neat to hear about how people did it when they didn’t have computers that could do pretty much anything; the recording process really was an art form in itself. The last time I was in the studio we still recorded to 2″ tape and I must admit to missing the “good old days” of tape edits and bouncing tracks. Analog FTW!

  2. Feels kind of wrong, somehow, to compare your “real life” experiences with my first encounter with this song, but I first heard it when it was used to great emotional affect in the last episode of the first season of the British Office. That song crystallized an especially poignant moment in the show, and when I hear it now, I still imagine myself in Tim’s shoes, lovesick and aching with frustration. Man, what a show that was.

  3. Ahh 10CC!
    Great early 70s/AM Radio memories!
    And There is Lol Creme So, I’ll just leave this here:Godley and Creme – Cry

  4. The technical details behind this song are fascinating. That said, I’ve always found it, and the lyrics in particular, way too precious and cloying.

  5. I remember when that song came out. I was working at a record store on the Sunset Strip and a man in a business suit came in and asked for that new Paul McCartney single, “something about not being in love.”

    I handed it to him, and he was surprised. “This isn’t it, it’s by Paul McCartney.”

    He didn’t believe it until I put it on the turntable and played it for him.

    I’ve never forgotten that.

  6. Xeni….could not agree with you more. I hear this song and I am instantly back in Denver circa 1977. Thanks so much for posting this!!

  7. I’m kind of coming down on the opposite side of BurntHombre on this one: I always thought there was a pretty good little pop song hiding under all the bongbast.

    We will of course, have to fight about this for several years, since one of us is obviously TOTALLY WRONG.

  8. Yeah, there’s not a lotta actual synthesis going on in the track, Moog or otherwise, which only serves to accentuate the absolutely Enoesque audio manipulation occurring. Creme and Godley had some pretty oblique approaches to music and instrumentation, no shit.

    To wit: The Gizmotron.

  9. also, the cheeky MTV-style editing on this piece pretty much ruins this for me. why do i have to see a clippy new image for every noun he says? i’d rather just see him sitting there, talking.
    /grumpy old man hat

  10. If I recall correctly, this song was supposed to be a joke and the music industry didn’t get it, leading to a vast pile of unexpected cash.

  11. Like Xeni, this song also takes me back to 1970s childhood. I specifically remember sitting in the back of the station wagon during a long car ride en route to a family camping trip when this song came on the radio and was later followed by Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)”.

  12. I’m grateful for this post. This kind of multi-tracking composition style is something that I’ve been grooving on for awhile.

    I love this song for that and it’s not really that unique. Many others at the time were doing similar things; Mike Oldfield, Queen, Todd Rundgren, the Carpenters, and way before them, the pioneer of it all Les Paul.

    Anyone loving this on a technical and aesthetic level should not miss the overdubbing insanity known as “Queen 2” (Rec. in 1973).

  13. Wow, I am drawing a blank on this song. If I have ever heard it before, I didn’t notice it. Cool little film though.

  14. Absolutely fascinating, a beautiful, atmospheric sound. Now I want to know how they came to write the*exceedingly* creepy lyrics

  15. THE Brad Laner? Awesome. I love Medicine and grabbed his “Neighbour Singing” a while back.

  16. @Jupiter12

    If that was a 1970 red Datsun 510, then I was sitting next to you staring out the window eyes saucer wide when we drove through Dinosaur National Park in Colorado because they had to have missed at least one dinosaur who had managed to hide behind a rock for the last couple a millennia, only to peak out if I blinked.

    am going to check out the lyrics now, too

  17. Also: Snack Attack (aka “Ismism”) from ’81 remains to this day a benchmark in the oft overlooked Pasty White English Lad Rap genre. Really…

    “They want me to be as light as a feather
    so the doctor’s wired my jaws together…”

    1. They weren’t the only one, there was also Lovin’ Spoonful.

      Xeni I’m surprised to discover you’re old enough to have had a 70s childhood.

      My question with this song has always been why they felt the need to use this mixing desk technique. Mellotrons had been around for quite a while by this point and would have accomplished the same thing, and been considerably easier to work with.

      1. Mellotrons were only capable of sustaining a note for 8 seconds before the playback head had to lift off the tape rack and race back up to the top to start over.

        1. Actually, when a Mellotron got to the end of the tape on a note, the capstan disengaged and the tape reversed.

          Don’t believe everything you read in Wikipedia.

      2. 10cc were really not about “easy”. They had used a mellotron on their previous album Sheet Music and they were certainly aware that they could achieve a similar effect. But they were tinkerers. I guess when you own your own studio and have 4 geniuses who could write, sing, play & produce as members of your band, you tend to embark on such flights of fancy.

      3. Pretty simple answer – the Mellotron could only play a note for about 8 seconds; the tapes that each key triggered weren’t loops but quickly rewound after the key was lifted. it was designed like that in order to reproduce sounds of instruments that had attack transients (i.e. piano, xylophone, marimba, etc), which would have been impossible if the tape was just a loop.

        Obviously, the band needed notes that would sustain for a bit longer than that…

    2. Apocropha. If the story is true i.e. that 10 cubic centimetres beats out -no pun intended – the “average” 9cc then please try to visualize this the next time you have the opportunity to compare it to something (your own or a friend’s). 10 cc is equivalent to 4 cubic inches. A whole lot more than average – which is likely to be closer to 3 cc.

      Just sayin’.

      1. 10 cm³ = 0.610237 in³ Please, please, please don’t go into nursing, because I do not want to get a shot from you. It would hurt, not to mention the whole ‘death from overdose’ thing.

  18. Terrific post and video.

    I always thought that the sound on this cut was produces by an ‘Orchestron’ (which came out around the same time )

  19. Interesting, but some of the visuals have nothing to do with the subject (except in the most vague sense) and are a bit of a distraction.

  20. Mellotrons were notoriously easy to break and the fidelity was not that great. I don’t recall anyone homebrewing tapes for the Mellotron but it wasn’t around that long from the time the Moodies introduced it until digital synths replaced it. It was also banned from some studios because of labor/union rules. I can see why they would prefer loops on the desk.

    I first heard this song while we played a gig in a local hotel. It couldn’t be played by a four piece band so between every set, someone had to put in on the box. We hated it: overplayed and overrequested (think Sweet Home Alabama).


  21. Great video find! Excellent!

    I, too, have to question the “Moog” thing, though. There’s nothing about that song that is even vaguely Moog-ish. Moog gear had a very particular sound, apart from other synth makers. It’s even a stretch to call the song a “synth” tune, really. Just a great piece of studio wizardry…using the studio AS an instrument.

  22. In 1975 I did my A Levels and left school, and that autumn went grape-picking in France with a couple of school friends. For some reason lost in time, in one bar we set I’m Not In Love to go on ten times in a row on a jukebox and then left, giggling.

    As an irrelevant aside, one of those friends had an affable older brother doing a fine art degree at the Central School of Art in London and we saw him as we passed through on our way to France. I didn’t hear of him again for decades until I saw Minority Report and his name (Alex McDowell) popped up in the credits as Production Designer (he also did The Crow, Fight Club and Watchmen, among others).

    I always quite liked I’m Not In Love, but some other 10cc songs were a bit irritating, like Rubber Bullets.

  23. Well, since he keeps mispronouncing ‘Moog,’ that sort of makes the article title valid.

    Really, that’s why they made a Moog Rogue synth, never a Moog Goog(le). . . .

  24. I love the fact that they indulged, like any engineering mind would do, in ‘music concrete’, to create the sound. I know the Stockhausen and the Beatles did it before, but 10cc honed it for that track.

    Probably analogous to Eno playing the recording studio as an instrument (he was earlier too) I love the fact that they took the genre they were in, warped it, home-baked the production and (maybe, don’t know the whole story) accidentally made a fortune.

    For my money, Godley and Creme’s best audio/video treat is ‘Under your thumb’ :

    Much more Moog-ey.

  25. Man, nothing sounds quite like analog and all that natural compression. This is a great tune that has suck a dope unique sound. I do take part to the video’s attempt at taking the “we were the first to ever loop around a mike stand” view. Alan Parsons did it first on dark side of the moon two years previously. Thanks for posting!


  26. I was always skeptical of the ‘gross out band name rumor’ because 10cc just didn’t seem right! The actual story is pretty weird and entertaining too!

  27. Great post! Takes me back as well to my moodily atmospheric ’70s childhood.

    Re: tape loops: here’s a clip from a nice UK doc on minimalist composer Steve Reich’s early tape loop experiments, dating back to 1965. The action starts at around 2:20. Features some commentary by Brian Eno.

  28. This video was fascinating (though the non-musical images were annoying as all hell). Anyway, I don’t think there is a single person alive who doesn’t love this song. I had always thought that the ‘breathy’ effect was just some neat filtering tricks on an old analog synth. Had no idea it was so intricate!

  29. This video and audio coverage is absolutely amazing to a fan like myself. It just makes me want a gigantic, comprehensive video documentary or FILM. {sigh}

  30. How impressed can I be by a technical discusser who pronounces the word “Moo-g” after all these years?

  31. @rodneyrotorooter

    The meaning of the lyrics are in this video:

    It’s a nice companion piece to the above clip.

  32. Whenever I hear that song, I think of one of the biggest transitions in my life; the change from 6th to 7th grades, going from elementary school to junior high (my public junior high shared the building with what would also be my senior high, and that was even more culture shock. Huge school). Xeni, your memories are very close to mine, though I suspect I was a few years your senior. I also link this song to “Jaws”.
    I became a big fan of the band thanks to this song, but their next album, “Deceptive Bends” was less progressive and more pop, due in part to Godley and Creme moving on, leaving only Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman for a few years. That 10cc was not nearly as daring.
    But to my 12 year old ears in 1975, no song ever sounded so ethereal as this one.

  33. I was there at Strawberry studios (with the Merseybeats) when the guys were recording this song back in the 70s. It set new standards for recording and the huge amount of time spent recording the vocals loops was the most impressive part of this song. Hours and hours sustaining notes up and down the scale in order to build that ‘wall of sound’ with Eric Stewart leading the way.

  34. There has been some discussion regarding who was first to use tape loops. I wrote an article last year on the history of loops and samples and discovered that the first tape loop can most likely be attributed to French composer, theorist, engineer and broadcaster Pierre Schaeffer in the late 1940s (the tape machine was introduced in the ’30s). He also invented the precursor to the Mellotron and Chamberlin, the phonogène.

    Karlheinz Stockhausen composed his first musique concrète piece, Étude Concrète, at Schaeffer’s studio in 1952, using tape loops. He in turn influenced many musicians, including the Beatles (he’s on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s). There are reportedly about 20 loops used on Revolution on the “White Album.”

    As mentioned previously, Alan Parsons and Pink Floyd used loops on Money, which was also recorded at Abbey Road, in 1973 — long after Stockhausen and Schaeffer.

  35. I love this song but my favorite cut from the album is “One Night in Paris” numerous layers of harmonies and voice overs that really build.

    This is some of my favorite Vinyl that I’ve had for 30+ years.

  36. I always enjoyed their song “Neanderthal Man” which has all of the vocals and instrumentation mixed WAY down so that all you really hear clearly is the kick drum. It’s a great motivator to get you to turn the song up too loud.

    I never heard anyone do those kind of extreme contrasting dynamics in the studio until the Flaming Lips recorded their album “Clouds Taste Metallic”.

    In a way, there is no greater act of commercial defiance nowadays than mixing parts of your song too quiet. What with all the brickwall limiting the kids are into nowadays.

  37. Not sure if this was mentioned yet, but this was sampled for Daft Punk’s ‘Nightvision’.

  38. Better late than not at all, I suppose… – a digital radio rip of the Producers episode in question does exist at (British torrent site), but a sign up is required.

  39. “Re-genned it back through itself… let it stew in it’s own reverb for about 3 days… patched it all through this old shoe to give it that oakey timbre.”

    Now I wanna see the making of Dreadlock Holiday (a far superior track of theirs, IMHO).

  40. I listened to this radio documentary last year and wiretapped it, so I have the whole hour and a half long thing as a WAV. I could make an MP3 and post up somewhere if you’re still looking for it.

  41. Wow. And all this time I thought it was just a robot doing bong hits.

    So mellow and creamy….

  42. “Big boys don’t cry?”

    For years, I always thought the line was ‘Bequest and be quiet.”

    I was a young Canadian kid in the Seventies, and I just thought it was another British thing I didn’t get.

  43. i’m 11 years old and just been given into trouble for something by my dad. my irish twin sis who’s 6 days shy of a year older than me starts to whisper the end of the song “big boys don’t cry” under her breath at me. this gets me into a rage and i try now to get her into trouble by telling dad she’s antagonising me. she innocently tells dad she’s just singing her favourite song. he gives her the benefit of the doubt and i’m left feeling even more disgruntled. i love that song!

  44. I’m trying to push my latest Youtube video. I though this would be a great place since this post is all musical and technical and stuff. Its a mashup with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Steve Miller that gives a glimpes on how I did it.

    Go check it out !

  45. Ooooh! I was only in first grade when this was released, but it is a fixture in the soundtrack of my childhood, along with Diary by Bread, Fly Like and Eagle by Steve Miller, Dream Weaver by Gary Wright,and Wildfire by Michael Martin Murphy.It’s amazing how the music played on the radio in those days affected my memories of childhood. The only thing that takes me back quicker is the smell of a new Barbie doll and Play-Doh.

  46. Yeah, it’s funny they keep saying Moog. The bulk of the track is a Rhodes, an electric bass and (gated?) acoustic guitar. The clouds of voices are icing on the cake. BTW, I always thought the production of Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” was an attempt to capture the mood of the 10cc song, in the way the backing vocals hover around and the phase on the Rhodes. Anyone ever hear or think that?

  47. The long-circulated grossout internet rumor about the band’s name?

    That rumor predates the internet by a bit. I remember it presented as hard [ahem] fact in Rolling Stone circa 1972. (Or possibly it was NME — although that much less frequently found its way into my Southside Virginia junior high….)

  48. @zeke danaughty: The “British” Office? WTF? It’s the “American” Office that’s produced in the USA, the original was from the UK.

  49. The first 15 seconds of “Things We Do For Love” also are intense. best tambourine sound evah

  50. This song made me reevaluate 10cc. I always laugh when I hear it, but there is actually a lot going on in this schizo tongue-in-cheek track.

  51. i’ve always thought all the voices were early synths. Amazing.

    Even the spoken part sounds like a synth – notice that she says “big boys don’t cwy”, foregoing the R the way early synth voices did.

    Now I want to know how the Billy Joel song “Just the Way You Are” from a few years later did it’s breathy voices. I thought it was the same synth, but I’m guessing those are human voices, too. In fact the whole production sounds similar. I see that Anon #67 also noticed this, too.

  52. ah ok thank you Anon #70. Phil Ramone pretty much duplicated the “synth” that 10CC used, and copied the production, too. Cool to know after all these years!!!

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