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1970s / 10cc - I'm Mandy Fly Me -Top Of The Pops
'I'm Mandy, Fly Me' by Eric, Graham and Lol begins with the hook-line from 'Clockwork Creep' (on second album 'Sheet Music') and an airplane flying overhead before being swiped aside by a fat bass line, exotic synthesiser sound effects, a vocoder apparently whispering 'amazing grace' and whistling. We find out later that the airplane has crash-landed in the water, with the narrator thrown out of the plane (his first line is that he's 'on the outside looking in') but rather than sound petrified or angry, the narrator bobbing in the water is ecstatic. The poster he sees on the side of the aircraft, of an air-hostess named Mandy, 'with a smile as bright as sunshine' causes him to hallucinate (or so it seems) and takes him out of himself ('The world was spinning like a ball, and then it wasn't there at all!') Mandy gives him the 'kiss of life' that saves him, his addled brain setting off on a journey of exotic acoustic guitars and psychedelic effects that ends only when he's pulled from the wreckage; he asks for Mandy but she's not there. A love song to an imaginary person, created by a situation so intense and extreme that the 'real essence' of life comes into sharp contrast, 'Mandy' is balancing a lot of things for a humble catchy single. For a start we don't know who to believe: the narrator is clearly awake enough to realise that what's happening to him seems like a film (Mandy acts 'just like the girl in Dr No, no no no') and yet when he tells his rescuers later that it might have all been in his head they tell him 'no no no no' and that she was was real, yet currently missing - do they mean this? Or is that simply a ruse to keep him awake and conscious in the hope that the pair might be reunited? (note the sheer amount of denies in each of those two lines, the sort of things you do when you're lying to someone). The key line of this song is 'if your chance would you take it?' - would you be prepared to create a whole new life for yourself in your mind to keep yourself alive? And if you did, what would happen to you afterwards when you realised you were making it all up? It's interesting in this context that the band chose an 'air hostess' as their 'exotic woman' (the first in a whole sequence of imaginary confident Eric Stewart girls who'll end up seducing him on subways and all sorts in albums to come): air hostesses never seem quite real anyway, what with all that make-up and being made up to look the same. This clearly isn't a 'real' woman: she's the sort you see everywhere if you travel by plane a lot and even that name - Mandy - isn't a common one amongst 'real' people, though it's used a lot in books. The result is a fourth straight song in a row that's easy to admire and yet there's something difficult to fall in love with compared to earlier classic 10cc singles: there's too many questions and not enough answers for this to be an 'easy ride', with the sudden switch of gears every time the band break out for another instrumental making this song less easy on the ears than, say, 'I'm Not In Love' or 'Rubber Bullets'. Still, this is a lot of people's favourite 10cc song for a reason: its a love song told with such a radical twist that no one on first hearing could have heard it coming (if they'd understood it at all), traditionally loved by 'true' fans (although interestingly co-writer Lol Creme wasn't one of them; it was this song he quoted as evidence that the band were growing stale). In actuality 'Mandy' is a clever hybrid of catchy commercialism and bonkers uniqueness that couldn't possibly have been thought up by another band, but there are better mixtures of the same ingredients around, even on this same album.