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At This Godley Hour
Now a Wicklow resident, Kevin Godley remains a contrary fellow, steadfastly following his creative vision wherever it takes him. That vision was born on Manchester’s music scene during the Swinging ‘60s, led him to leave 10cc at the height of their powers and, with old ally Lol Crème, spurred him on to create some of the earliest and most memorable music videos of all time. Re-entering the spotlight with his innovative WholeWorldBand app which is being previewed at this year’s Music Show in the RDS, Godley talks to Craig Fitzpatrick about his astonishing career.
Craig Fitzpatrick, 21 Feb 2012
Moving into the next decade, if you felt 10cc didn’t have much going on visually, you suddenly decided to go in the opposite direction entirely. Why make the leap into video directing?
It came about by accident. We had a single coming out called ‘An Englishman In New York’, not the same as the Sting song. Video was teetering around the edges of the industry and we thought, “How can we promote this? Maybe we could do a little film?” We came up with an idea for a film and took some storyboards to the record label. They thought it was quite cool but told us we couldn’t do it ourselves, they’d have to put us together with someone who has made videos before. We worked with Derek Burbidge, who’d directed the first few Police videos and we completely baffled him. We took over the shoot, and he let us do what we want. We took to it like ducks to water. Of course, if you look back at that video now, it was a real pile of old poo. The upshot was that Steve Strange had just signed to our label with Visage, one of the first New Romantic bands. He was looking for someone to direct a video, because it was a very visual movement. I knew him from the club scene and he didn’t get on with the straighter directors, wanted something a bit more interesting. He saw one of our videos and asked us to do something for him, which we did for the princely sum of five grand. Half of which went to the make-up! It was a hit and then Toyah Wilcox came to us, Duran Duran came to us and we were wondering what the flipping’ hell was going on! The important thing was that we were musicians, so there was more of a chance we’d know what they were trying to say with the music. We weren’t these upmarket film fellas.
It’s amazing to look at the list of names you worked with from then on, all those immediately recognisable videos. How do you remember the time?
We had good relationships with everybody. It was very different. What happens now is you get called up by a record label and told they’re making a video for so-and-so and want it a bit like something they’ve already seen. And they only have five quid. And by the way, there’s four other people scripting for it as well. You no longer make it for the artist, you make it for the marketing department or the label. Back then, no one knew what a music video really was. The lunatics were running the asylum. We’d missed it the first time around in the ‘60s, when the lunatics were running the music business. But this time round we got to that place where what we said goes. So we were allowed to do some pretty wacky things.