It’s fair to say there was a seismic shift in the Manchester music scene during 1968.
Freddie and the Dreamers split up after a lack of chart success, Graham Nash left The Hollies and The Mindbenders folded after their latest album and single flopped.
A potent mix of creative talent was thrown into the melting pot. What came together after the elements had settled produced some of the best music Manchester had ever heard.
Nash became part of the folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash, penning the memorable hit singles Marrakesh Express, Our House and Teach Your Children.
Back home, The Mindbenders’ demise triggered the start of Strawberry Studios in Stockport and the genesis of one of the biggest bands of the 1970s – 10cc.
Up to 1968, The Mindbenders had been going strong with the major hits Game of Love with Wayne Fontana in 1965 and A Groovy Kind of Love in 1966.
The band started life as Fontana’s backing group in 1963 with an original line-up of Bob Lang on bass, Ric Rothwell on drums and Eric Stewart on guitar.
Their first major hit in Britain was the curiously titled Um Um Um Um Um Um released in 1964. It reached No. 5 in the charts and led to a tour with American vocalist Brenda Lee.
The Mindbenders were left high and dry when Fontana walked out in the middle of a concert in 1965. Stewart took over as lead singer and The Mindbenders were born.
In 1966, the band toured America as the support act to ‘the Godfather of Soul’ James Brown.
In a taste of what was to come, Stewart had become a songwriter. His early efforts met with little success, but he persevered. The experience would prove invaluable.
The Mindbenders then appeared in the 1967 film To Sir With Love starring Sidney Poitier. Two of their songs, Off and Running and It’s Getting Harder All the Time, featured on the soundtrack.
Although chart success continued to elude them into 1968, the band were often in the news.
Bob Lang became engaged to Lorna McDonough, the blonde model who stepped into the back of Simon Dee’s Jaguar in the famous closing sequence of the TV show Dee Time.
He also made TV appearances with actress Jennifer Moss who played Lucille Hewitt in Granada’s Coronation Street.
But the cracks were beginning to show in The Mindbenders. Lang quit and was replaced by Graham Gouldman. His tenure was brief but it included the band’s final single entitled Uncle Joe, the Ice Cream Man.
The Mindbenders broke up in November 1968 on the final date of their UK tour with The Who, Arthur Brown and Joe Cocker. Stewart and Gouldman stuck together and went on to form the group Hotlegs.
Stewart also teamed up with Peter Tattersall, the former road manager of Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, to become the joint owners of Inner City recording studios in Stockport.
Inner City was later renamed Strawberry Studios after the Beatles’ record Strawberry Fields Forever – and two familiar faces joined Stewart and Gouldman.
They were Gouldman’s old school friends Kevin Godley and Lol Crème. It was clear now that the momentum was growing.
Godley and Crème were accomplished writers and musicians in their own right, with a string of collaborations under their belt.
In 1969, the quartet were working together at Strawberry Studios. Gouldman had persuaded American producer Jeff Katz to let his three friends record the songs he’d written for Super K Productions.
The quartet’s first single, Neanderthal Man, was released under the name Hotlegs. It reached No. 2 in the UK charts and sold more than two million copies worldwide.
The band co-produced and played on records for other artists including Neil Sedaka. It was the success of Sedaka’s two albums that persuaded the group to go on their own.
The final decision was made in a Chinese restaurant.
After a couple of false starts, the quartet recorded a Godley and Crème composition called Donna, complete with a falsetto chorus.
They invited the record producer Jonathan King up to Stockport to hear it because they thought he was the only person mad enough to like it! He did.
So did Radio One disc jockey Tony Blackburn who made it his record of the week. Donna went to No. 2 in the UK in October 1972.
All the four needed now was a name. Once again King had the answer.
He suggested 10cc…