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Eric Michael Stewart (born 20 January 1945) is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer, best known as a founding member of the rock groups The Mindbenders with whom he played from 1963 to 1968, and likewise of 10cc from 1972 to 1995. Stewart co-owned Strawberry Studios in Stockport, England from 1968 to the early 1980s, where he recorded albums with 10cc and artists like Neil Sedaka and Paul McCartney. Stewart collaborated with McCartney extensively in the 1980s, playing on or co-writing songs for McCartney’s solo albums Tug of War (1982), Pipes of Peace (1983), Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), and Press to Play (1986). Since 1980, Stewart has released four solo studio albums.
We started off with ‘Stranglehold’, putting rhythmic words in, using lyrics like a bongo, accenting the words. We enjoyed the experience, then went on to write the six that are on the album… I remembered the old way I’d written with John, the two acoustic guitars facing each other, like a mirror, but better! Like an objective mirror, you’re looking at the person playing chords, but it’s not you.Paul McCartney, about writing songs with Eric Stewart for “Press To Play”, Club Sandwich N°42, Autumn 1986
From Club Sandwich, N°36, 1985:
Manchester singer Wayne Fontana was naturally upset when two of his backing group failed to turn up for an audition with Fontana Records in 1963. But this was a blessing in disguise, since guitarist Eric Stewart and drummer Ric Rothwell were on hand and, together with bassist Bob Lang, became Wayne’s permanent accompanists, the Mindbenders. The other three names are known to most fans of ’60’s beat music, but only that of Eric Stewart remains relevant in 1985. The years between are a fascinating story.
Like most of their contemporaries, Wayne and the boys played largely American material, scoring first with Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Um Um Um Um Um Um’ and notching another biggie with ‘Game Of Love’, until the hits dried up and Wayne and the group parted in late 1965. Strangely, it was the Mindbenders who hit the charts first after the split. Students of the Tug Of War and Broad Street album credits will know that Eric features frequently as backing vocalist and the group’s first ‘solo’ hit, A Groovy Kind Of Love’, was indeed notable for its harmonies — Eric was now the principal singer.
Ashes To Ashes’, another ballad, was the ‘Benders’ only other sizeable hit, though they soldiered on until late 1968. Their reluctance to record originals was in retrospect a mistake: the maturing Stewart’s ‘Yellow Brick Road’, a late B-side, has been called “the best record Traffic never made”. Compilations of Wayne and the group, plus the group on their own, are surely overdue from beat era enthusiasts Edsel Records.
The Mindbenders toured the same circuit as the Beatles and another indirect link between Eric and Paul followed hard on the group’s demise, when Eric and his partner named their Strawberry Studios venture in Stockport, north-west England, after ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. A third partner was soon added in Graham Gouldman, the mid-’60’s composing prodigy who had latterly worked with the Mindbenders. Together with Gouldman’s earliest musical cohorts, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, he and Stewart embarked on a string of studio projects.
Strawberry drew many notable names to Stockport— an unlikely musical centre — including The Scaffold with Mike McGear (McCartney) and Paul’s protege Mary Hopkin. (Among productions by the house team were records by Manchester City and Leeds United soccer clubs and Lancashire County Cricket Club!) Then, in June 1970, the backroom boys made the news. Eric was testing a four-track recorder, Kevin and Lol joined in and their messing about resulted in the novelty smash, ‘Neanderthal Man’. Calling themselves Hotlegs, these three plus Graham supported The Moody Blues on tour, but this exposure and an album (Thinks School Stinks) could not sustain the momentum.
Then one of pop’s more unlikely comebacks — that of Neil Sedaka —finally triggered off a more lasting bout of fame for the four Strawberries. They were the backing group on the former teenage star’s early ’70’s albums, Solitaire and The Tra La Days Are Over, and the success of the first stirred them into attempting something substantial in their own right. ‘Waterfall’, the first effort by what was to become 10cc, was submitted to Apple Records — and rejected! Seems they were right, since it flopped as a single in 1975.
In 1972 Eric Stewart got Jonathan King, a fan from Mindbenders days, up to Stockport to hear ‘Donna’, a ’50’s pastiche faintly reminiscent of The Beatles’ ‘Oh Darling’. King loved it, gave the group their name and signed them to his UK label. Donna was a huge hit and others (notably ‘Rubber Bullets’) followed, until in February 1975 Phonogram Records made 10cc an offer they couldn’t refuse — namely about a million dollars.
The group’s lack of image, combined with King’s reputation as a purveyor of one-off novelties by The Piglets, Weathermen etc., meant that critics were at first unsure how seriously to take them. When the second 10cc album, Sheet Music, was released in July 1974, they had no doubts: the Melody Maker review described them variously as “the Beatles of Penny Lane”, “comic cuts characters” and “sheer brilliance”. Beatles comparisons would recur, though the two
groups had wit, originality and four distinctive individuals in common, rather than obviously similar sounds. Oddly enough, at the time Sheet Music was recorded Paul and Linda were also working hard at Strawberry Studios, deeply involved with Paul’s brother Mike on his McGear album. This was the first proper meeting between Eric and Paul.
Besides the snappy lyrics of songs like ‘Wall Street Shuffle’ (“You need a yen to make a mark”), the guitars of Messrs. Stewart and Creme rang out crisp and clear and 10cc could always touch the heartstrings: ‘I’m Not In Love’ has often been voted all-time best single and the yearning brilliance of ‘I’m Mandy, Fly Me’ would be hard to beat. They were still at the top in 1976 when Godley and Creme left to become occasional hitmakers and video directors of note.
Graham Gouldman and Eric showed their versatility by making the next 10cc album, Deceptive Bends, almost unaided. The first single from it, ‘The Things We Do For Love’, resembled a whimsical McCartney song and raced up the charts. Other musicians were enlisted for live dates and in 1978 ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ made number one: its catchy pop reggae was something else in common between Eric and Paul, whose interest can be traced from ‘0b La Di, 0b La Da’ through ‘C Moon’ and others.
Most musicians would like to make at least one solo album and in 1980 an Eric Stewart LP, Girls, finally appeared on Polydor. If he had ever fancied working with Paul McCartney, that wish was also soon to come true. After years with Wings, Paul chose leading musicians from all fields for the Tug Of War sessions; with similar expertise required in the vocal department, Eric was a natural choice —who could forget the multi-layered harmonies of ‘I’m Not In Love’?
It worked so well that the Stewart tones graced no fewer than seven tracks on Tug and featured widely on Pipes Of Peace. Eric also played guitar on ‘So Bad’ and appeared in the video — a sure sign of his importance to Paul — with the McCartneys and Ringo, all of them in early Beatle suits. Eric sang on both versions of ‘No More Lonely Nights’ on the Broad Street album.
The names of McCartney and Stewart are now still more closely linked. Over the years, Paul has written songs with Linda and Denny Laine, besides his more publicised recent partners; the way things are going, you should soon be able to add Eric Stewart to that list. Paul seems very pleased with progress so far and we should be able to judge for ourselves from the next album. When two such talented heads are put together, the results should be quite something!Club Sandwich, N°36, 1985
Eric Stewart, from CultureSonar, December 3, 2018:
Q: You are one of a handful of people to write with McCartney after Lennon. He had written with Linda and Denny Laine and would later write with Elvis Costello. How was it different than writing with Graham Gouldman and Lol Creme?
A: Lol’s a bit wilder with his work. He’d come in and say something, which might make you stop. Then you would say, “Life! It is a minestrone!” The ups and downs of life, summed up in a title! He had some nice riffs too. I loved playing guitar on Godley and Creme songs like “Rubber Bullets”… That was a song that was written about American prisons, where you would shoot a rubber bullet to hurt — but not kill — an inmate. It came out when rubber bullets were being used in Northern Ireland. Lol could come out with lines that started the musical bent… Lol was very creative. Paul could be like that. You’ve probably heard this story: I went to his place telling him how beautiful it was walking through three feet of snow with the sun shining. He started singing “it’s beautiful outside” which became “Footprints.” An amazing experience for me! The second track on my album [Eric Stewart / 10cc: Anthology] is “Code of Silence” which came about when Paul was in my music room. He had come around for lunch. We went to the music room where I could go to record. He started playing a beautiful string section, then put down an electric piano part. I said it was brilliant, and he left it with me. I did the vocal and sent it to him. He liked it and said, “hope I get credit” [laughs]. He did put the backing down, so, of course, he did!
Eric Steward, from interview with Amped, October 2017 :
SPAZ: A lot of people seem to be interested in your work with Paul McCartney – what was it like to work with him?
ERIC: Well, there’s a whole great chapter in the book about me and Paul McCartney (see link below for book details). First time I met him, we were both doing an audition for BBC Radio. We passed the audition – our group was called Jerry Lee and The Stagger Lees – but The Beatles didn’t. And I sat there and watched them- the audience was made up of people who had been in the auditions. I was looking up at them and I said to my mates, “That is the future of English music”, and they all said, “No, no, no man, Cliff Richards and The Shadows, far better”. I said, “Well there’s something here that is so special!” They released “Love Me Do” about six weeks later. And it was so fantastic. And I talked with Paul many, many times after that because we were locals. Manchester and Liverpool, we were just 30/40 miles from each other. I kept in touch with him all the way through his career and all the way through my career, and he actually came up to Strawberry to record some songs up there when we had the 10cc thing going – it was about the time of SHEET MUSIC. We also lived close to each other, which we still do now, – he lives within half an hour of me. So I got involved with these songs, on the TUG OF WAR and the PIPES OF PEACE album. He asked, “Do you want to come and do some backing vocals with me and Linda?”, I said “I’d be delighted.” And then he said, “We’re going to pay you.” I thought, “Thanks a lot, but I’m just delighted to do it anyway”. So going and working with him and with George Martin, the fifth Beatle, and watching the influence of George on Paul was terrific – he could bring something out of him. So, he’s been one of my heroes all of my life, Paul. He usually comes up with the most brilliant ideas just right off the top of head. I remember a time, it was snowing here in winter, and we were supposed to be writing together so I said, “I’m going to try and make it down there”. The snow was three feet deep and I got down to his place and the sun was shining outside and was gorgeous and I walked to this little studio at the back of his house and I walked through this little door and I said to Paul, “It’s beautiful outside, Paul look at this beautiful…”, and he sang “It’s beautiful outside”. That was the basis of the song “Footprints” and we started writing it. His brain worked in that way which really got my brain working as well when I was doing my solo stuff, so a great debt is owed to Paul by a lot of people but especially by me.
Last updated on March 1, 2020
Songs written or co-written by Eric Stewart
March 1983 ? • Songs recorded during this session appear on Give My Regards To Broad Street (CD version)
Albums, EPs & singles which Eric Stewart contributed to
Concerts, TV & radio shows
Nov 24, 1986 • United Kingdom • London • Theatre Royal