3D Great Rock Bible
Cliff Richard iTunes Tracks Cliff Richard Official Website

Cliff Richard

An Elvis wannabe who shook up a staid, pre-BEATLES British pop scene in the late 50s, before mellowing into a celibate, tennis-loving elder statesman, CLIFF RICHARD, O.B.E. – like his pelvis-swinging musical compadre – made more than his fair share of all-singing, all-dancing films. Despite a chart career that seemed to mirror that of his American idol (although falling way short of the mark Stateside), the lip-curling “Peter Pan of Pop” has had Brit hits in every decade since breaking through in ‘58 with the glorious `Move It!’.
Born Harry Rodger Webb, 14th October 1940 in Lucknow, India, he spent his formative years as a citizen of the British Empire, but moved back with his family to England (Enfield, Middlesex) in 1947, plotting out his course to be a star. He formed his first band, The Quintones, while still at school and subsequently teamed up with The Dick Teague Skiffle Group to compete with fellow runners and riders such as The VIPERS. Changing his name to CLIFF RICHARD, the young one and his Drifters (then drummer Terry Smart, rhythm guitarist Ken Payne, et al) performed at clubs mainly in the Hoddesdon/Cheshunt district of Hertfordshire, before succumbing to the bright lights of London, via Old Compton Street’s 2Is coffee bar.
Developing their rock’n’roll aplomb with the aid of lead guitarist/songwriter Ian Samwell, the quartet reached out to a certain George Ganyou, a theatrical agent who was duly impressed by their Saturday matinee gig at a Gaumont Theatre talent show in Shepherd’s Bush. A demo tape was rushed out to E.M.I. producer Norrie Paramor and, after a fruitful audition, and an insistence to keep his backing band rather than an orchestra, CLIFF RICHARD inked a deal with Columbia Records. Duly touting an acetate of the unadulterated Bobby Helm-penned cut, `Schoolboy Crush’, to TV producer/executive Jack Good (maker of “Oh Boy!”), interest flagged until the man turned to its flipside, `Move It!’, an altogether different proposition that finally heralded the advent of a bona fide British rock’n’roll star, while the platter narrowly missed out on the No.1 spot by a quiff-hair’s breath.
Duly letting its author Ian Samwell take his leave to become a professional songsmith, an all-new Drifters – led out by the bespectacled lead guitarist Hank B. Marvin, rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch, plus Jet Harris and Tony Meehan on bass and drums respectively – would subsequently change their group name (see below). During these fast-developing times, Cliff and The Drifters – who had to manoeuvre their moniker due to a top American R&B act – secured a run of hits, kicking off with a second Top 10 smash, `High Class Baby’; others included `Livin’ Lovin’ Doll’, the double-A `Mean Streak’ / `Never Mind’, and a pair of chart-toppers `Living Doll’ and `Travellin’ Light’. Exclusive to these 7” (or 78 rpm) discs, albums, too, showed the star had come of age, both CLIFF (1959) {*7} and CLIFF SINGS (1959) {*5} more or less procuring fickle fans who’d once teen-idolised the likes of TOMMY STEELE, MARTY WILDE, and a host of others. Although hardly on a par with the raucous rockabilly-influenced rock’n’roll coming of America’s Sun Studios, RICHARD’s music was raw by UK standards, and he was at least initially regarded as the British answer to Elvis – and, for that matter, controversial and er… sexy!
Like PRESLEY before him, RICHARD rapidly moved into film work, appearing in two 1959 kitchen-sink flicks, “Serious Charge” and “Expresso Bongo”. The first of these was a movie which boasted fairly explosive subject matter for its day. Although his part was pretty minor, among the soundtrack’s trio of Cliff songs was one of the most enduring, `Living Doll’, featured in its rawer original version. Compared to almost everything else RICHARD recorded, `No Turning Back’, was – “Move It!” aside – possibly the star’s most authentic and compelling stab at Elvis-sponsored rock’n’roll: it was lean, mean, and – at the time at least – was probably just a wee bit dangerous to own. Yep, the lad sounded positively rebellious, contorting his vocals in patented lip-quivering style against roiling, DUANE EDDY-esque guitar. Perhaps even more of a surprise was the fact that the song’s author was Lionel Bart, the man soon-to-be behind such inoffensively respectable stage musicals as “Oliver”. Bart actually wrote three of the songs which appeared on the soundtrack EP, including `Living Doll’, a song he later re-recorded with comedic cult heroes The Young Ones (making him one of a select band of artists to make No.1 with two different versions of the same song). In fact, the ingratiating shuffle which appeared on the EP was a radically different take on the uptempo version which originally featured in the film (in keeping with the era’s Musicians Union rules, all soundtracks had to be re-recorded anyway) and which RICHARD wasn’t reportedly too keen on. `Mad About You’ fell somewhere in between, propelled by a “Not Fade Away”-style guitar dynamic courtesy his The Drifters, Cliff’s proto-SHADOWS backing band and the men responsible for the EP’s sole instrumental, `Chinchilla’.
The satirical, pseudo-autobiograpical music business drama, “Expresso Bongo” (1959), cast Cliff as Bongo Herbert, a young under-age wannabe transformed into a huge star by a wily Soho suit. While an EP of songs from “Serious Charge” failed to chart, this soundtrack EP hit the top 20 as his film career really began to kick in. Still in thrall to Elvis, it once again attempted to match the King’s hip-swivelling, hormonal appeal through `Love’, the soundtrack EP’s frantic, bongo-assisted lead track. Yet the presence of two ballads reflected the prior success of “Living Doll”, and predicted the future direction of Cliff’s career: `A Voice In The Wilderness’ pitched the fresh-faced star’s honey-wouldn’t-melt vocals against Marvin’s swaying, slow-motion glissandos and almost topped the chart (even if the version on the EP was different from the single release), while `The Shrine On The Second Floor’ remained the most lugubriously unnerving of all the man’s ballads, all the more so considering his subsequent religious conversion. 1960 also saw a string of other Top 3 smashes, namely `Fall In Love With You’, the No.1 `Please Don’t Tease’ (penned by Welch), `Nine Times Out Of Ten’ and his fourth chart-topper, `I Love You’; again exclusively separate from that year’s attendant third LP, ME AND MY SHADOWS {*6}. The winning formula continued into 1961, when `Theme For A Dream’, `Gee Whiz It’s You’ and `A Girl Like You’ (plus top-selling albums, LISTEN TO CLIFF {*6} and the poignantly-titled 21 TODAY {*4}), cornered the market in light and breezy pop.
Yet along with the toning down of his image came a switch from gritty cinematic realism to inoffensive musicals. Inspired by a Rodgers & Hart production, THE YOUNG ONES (1962) {*6} landed Cliff his biggest role to date as the son of a millionaire determined to foil his father’s designs on the local youth centre. Chief in the lad’s armoury was, of course, songs, largely of the shiny happy variety and which pushed the attendant film soundtrack to No.1 in the UK (where it spent almost a year on the chart). In line with the movie’s MGM-esque pretensions, the OST featured a full studio orchestra on top of Cliff’s regular backing band, The SHADOWS, while the film itself remains one the man’s best loved vehicles, infamously lending its name to the anarchic 80s comedy of Rik Mayall, Ade Edmundson, Nigel Planer, et al.
If the first of Cliff’s full-tilt, technicolour musicals resulted in cloying, cockney-sparrer music-hall trifles like `Friday Night’, the best parts of this soundtrack hinged on the haunting synergy – by this point finely honed – between Hank’s vibrato charm and RICHARD’s sultry, nostalgic vocals, not least in the career-defining title track. And if he’d finally given up ambitions of becoming the British Elvis, PRESLEY was still the man’s closest creative peer: the Stateside influence hung heavy over the likes of `Got A Funny Feeling’, the gutsy `We Say Yeah’ and especially the accompanying hit, `When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart’, in which Cliff abandoned his slightly fey ballad style in favour of a smouldering croon. Throw in the gorgeous `(It’s) Wonderful To Be Young’ and you have a seriously good record which at least competed with Elvis’s contemporary Hollywood offerings and, arguably, outstripped them.
Soundtracks aside, Cliff and his team continued to source out material for follow-up 45s, `I’m Looking Out The Window’ (from Peggy Lee and flipped with a take of BOBBY FREEMAN’s `Do You Want To Dance’) plus JERRY LEE LEWIS’s `It’ll Be Me’, both not included by the equally fruitful Top 3 set, 32 MINUTES AND 17 SECONDS (1962) {*5} – yes, a time when thick 180g vinyl couldn’t stretch much further than half-an-hour.
1963’s SUMMER HOLIDAY {*6} proved even more successful, breaking box office records and mimicking the proven formula of the Elvis movies with its heady brew of glamorous location, beautiful women and escapism songs. The fact that Cliff was actually playing a London transport mechanic who travels by bus rather than private jet merely added a bit of stolid British modesty to proceedings. The record was the biggest showcase of CLIFF RICHARD’s career to date, extending the big-budget musical blueprint of “The Young Ones”. Yet while the latter leavened its MGM-inspired whimsy with some great songs, “Summer H” laid on the showbiz snaz with a trowel. If the famous title track (another UK No.1) admittedly benefitted from sparingly applied orchestration, an excess of cheesy show-tune numbers like `Seven Days To A Holiday’ and `A Stranger In Town’ made this a far less attractive and enduring album than its predecessor – unless one was a fan of Broadway musicals. As an attempt at SINATRA-style sophistication, `A Swingin’ Affair’, fell fairly flat, and even unadorned chestnuts like `Bachelor Boy’ (a smash hit flipped with `The Next Time’) had a whiff of novelty nostalgia about them. Cliff sounded far more comfortable and natural singing homegrown rock’n’roll like `Dancing Shoes’, and as a stand-alone listening experience, this soundtrack would’ve considerably improved its shelf-life by including a few more in a similar vein. Maybe RUTH BROWN’s `Lucky Lips’ (unceremoniously left out from CLIFF’S HIT ALBUM (1963) {*8}), TOMMY EDWARDS’ `It’s All In The Game’, or other hits `Don’t Talk To Him’, `I’m The Lonely One’ and the traditional `Constantly’ would’ve better suited these period pieces; as for the Top 10-only WHEN IN SPAIN (1963) {*4} set, Cliff looked to Mediterranean climes, without much interest at home.
Just as it seemed there was no stopping RICHARD’s inexorable rise to cinematic fame, the emergence of The BEATLES served to put something of a brake on the success of his next film, WONDERFUL LIFE (1964) {*4}. While its tale of romance and movie-making in the Canary Islands seemed to have all the right sunny ingredients, the picture failed to repeat the financial rapport of its predecessor and, tellingly, the soundtrack was kept off the No.1 spot by its BEATLES counterpart, “A Hard Day’s Night”. But if Cliff couldn’t hope to compete with either The BEATLES’ songwriting or their skewed Scouse humour, at least he still had an appreciative and commercially viable audience. The studio schmaltz of this all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza, boasted a title song which could easily take pride of place on “The Sound Of Music”. Some of this soundtrack really was gormless Broadway-by-numbers, making one pine for the long-lost SHADOWS’ patented twang. Yet with Merseyside’s finest breathing down Cliff’s neck and making him look more than a bit passe by this point, RICHARD was savvy enough to perform a few neo-BEATLES pop songs and at least attempt to claw back some of his fading street cred: despite blatant inspiration from “Twist And Shout”, `On The Beach’ wasn’t half bad, a spin-off Top 10 hit and the toughest track RICHARD had done in years. `What’ve I Gotta Do’ wasn’t so hot, but it’s at least more animated than most of the dreary ballads.
1965 was a telling time for Cliff as sales reached an all-time low, not helped when he emerged with a pantomime album, HITS FROM ALADDIN AND HIS WONDERFUL LAMP {*3}, far removed from the chart-topping success of `The Minute You’re Gone’, or for that matter, other selective Top 30 hits, `On My Word’, `The Time In Between’ and `Wind Me Up (Let Me Go)’; while albums CLIFF RICHARD {*5} and 1966’s KINDA LATIN {*5} both dented the Top 10, sales returns for MORE HITS BY CLIFF (1965) {*5} and LOVE IS FOREVER (1966) {*3} – not featuring his JAGGER-RICHARDS interpretation of `Blue Turns To Grey’, looked to be shattering the man’s confidence.
Neither its rather convoluted, espionage-style plot nor the pared down music in FINDERS KEEPERS (1966) {*6} were regarded as matching previous standards, although both the film and the Top 10 soundtrack performed well financially. On this, CLIFF RICHARD’s last musical with longtime backing band The SHADOWS, the production glitz was mercifully stripped away in favour of a rootsy sound designed to soundtrack the film’s Spanish setting but actually more Americana character. It was also the first of his soundtracks which, released from Musicians Union restrictions, featured the actual versions heard in the movie. While the influence of Cliff’s new competitors, The BEATLES, was more pronounced than ever, it’s perhaps the folk-pop smarts of John Sebastian and his LOVIN’ SPOONFUL which The SHADOWS – writers of all the material here – lean most heavily on, at least if the likes of the groovy `Time Drags By’, `In The Country’ and `Oh Senorita’ were anything to go by. Much like Elvis’s late 60s OST’s, there were some great, unsung tracks here and it all hung together much better than its bad press would’ve had you believe; it’s certainly more consistently listenable than the insipid previous film. Perhaps just to prove how much all that Iberian sun had gone to his head, Cliff even addressed a love song (`Paella’) to some traditional Spanish cuisine. Tasty but way past its sell-by date.
1966 also found Cliff famously providing the singing voice for his puppet likeness in Gerry Anderson’s “Thunderbirds Are Go”, although the song in question, `Shooting Star’, failed to chart. His announcement that he’d become a born-again Christian only served to increase his popularity among older listeners. By this point he’d already begun to embrace the MOR establishment with an inoffensive bubblegum-pop style, any traces of early credibility among serious rock fans more or less gone. In spite of this, or more likely as a direct result, Cliff racked up as many Top 10 hits as ever, including `It’s All Over’, `The Day I Met Marie’ and `All My Love’, although at a time when “Sgt. Pepper” was king of LPs, DON’T STOP ME NOW! (1967) {*3} and GOOD NEWS (1968) {*3}, failed to sell in any great quantity.
A resurgence of sorts came courtesy of a Eurovision song contest entry, `Congratulations’ – a tune that was certainly inane enough. It predictably topped the UK chart in 1968 having come second in the competition.
His next film proper, TWO A PENNY (1968) {*4} was a bizarre vehicle for American evangelist Billy Graham, substituting the youthful dance routines for overly simplistic religious moralising. Only one of the soundtrack’s four RICHARD songs was performed in the film, while the OST itself – bolstered by extra material – was his first not to chart. CLIFF RICHARD was once again paired with a studio orchestra, although thankfully there was no return to the stage theatrics of old; the film was a conscious move away from the commercially ailing boy-meets-girl musical. His voice was also maturing and, framed by funky, Swinging London brass arrangements, RICHARD sounded like a different man from the one who coyly crooned “Living Doll” all those years ago. As if to underline how seriously he was now taking his artistry, the track `Questions’ found him wrestling with the existence of the big man upstairs; as metaphysical material goes, it’s at least more engaging than his future religious fare. It was also the year when RICHARD finally bade farewell to The SHADOWS by way of the collaborative ESTABLISHED 1958 (1968) {*4}, although they continued to perform and record together on an occasional basis; chief shadow, MARVIN, actually cut a Top 10 joint single, `Throw Down A Line’, with RICHARD in 1969, under the moniker Cliff & Hank.
Although the big hits became thinner on the ground in the early 70s (his biggest stemming from 1970’s `Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha’ and 1971’s `Sing A Song Of Freedom’), `Power To All Our Friends’ cracked the Top 5 in 1973; his opening gambit for E.M.I. By the time Cliff recorded his next and final movie soundtrack, the Top 50 TAKE ME HIGH (1973) {*4}, RICHARD – at 33! – was getting on a bit, and while much of his audience had probably aged with him, his movie-musical formula – like PRESLEY’s before him – had long since passed its sell by date. At a time when Cliff was supporting campaigner Mary Whitehouse in her moral crusades, it was difficult to believe that he’d star in a film with as ambiguous a title as this. Be assured though, the movie had absolutely nothing to do with drugs, and, unfortunately, everything to do with hamburgers. Still, if the woeful plot finally put an end to Cliff’s screen career, at least the music was worth revisiting. If the axe-wielding intro to `It’s Only Money’ was disturbingly reminiscent of future ROBBIE WILLIAMS’ “Let Me Entertain You”, the song itself dealt in the kind of feel-good rock which The DOOBIE BROTHERS used to write in their sleep. The rest of the soundtrack ran a gamut of 70s stylistic bases, from glam-rock, to neo-rock’n’roll, to singer-songwriter, to PAUL McCARTNEY/ABBA-esque pop of the title track (a Top 30 hit), in a rarely less than entertaining if never exactly thrilling fashion. Cliff arguably recorded some of his best work in the 70s, this album though – minus embarrassing rubbish like `Brumburger Duet’ – was at least a pointer towards it. Much more approachable was his 1974 set, THE 31ST OF FEBRUARY STREET {*6}.
Having returned in ’76 with `Miss You Nights’ after a year away from the limelight, Cliff also stormed the US Top 10 for the first time in his career with `Devil Woman’. This funky little chart number was the closest the clean-cut singer had come to rocking out in years, its lyrical bent straying dangerously far from his normal sentimental twaddle; the accompanying I’M NEARLY FAMOUS (1976) {*5} also found a reinvigorated fanbase, although critics in a post-prog world were less than enthused.
1977’s `My Kinda Life’ (Top 20 from EVERY FACE TELLS A STORY {*5}) was also relatively rocking, at least by Cliff standards, while the chart-scaling 40 GREATEST HITS (1977) {*9} eased the pain of that year’s ascending punk-rock takeover. The same could not be said for fresh albums, SMALL CORNERS (1978) {*5} and GREEN LIGHT (1978) {*5} that filled the bargain bins at one’s local retailer.
Spurred on by the self-explanatory THANK YOU VERY MUCH – REUNION CONCERT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (1979) {*6} with The Shads, classy ballad `We Don’t Talk Anymore’ was a deserved No.1 (US Top 10), while both `Hot Shot’ and the Top 5 `Carrie’ (his third hit from the album, ROCK’N’ROLL JUVENILE {*6}), struck a chord with a new set of Cliff acolytes.
The man celebrated turning 40 with an album (I’M NO HERO (1980) {*5}) high in the charts, while attendant 45s, `Dreamin’’ and `A Little In Love’, achieved similar Top 20 status as his duet with OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: `Suddenly’. While another compilation, “Love Songs” was giving the man his umpteenth chart-topper, `Wired For Sound’ (later covered by Scots indie act SPARE SNARE) and `Daddy’s Home’, brought about some recognition and clout at a time when pop was king; the album WIRED FOR SOUND (1981) {*6} equalled the Top 5 peak of its title track.
`The Only Way Out’ from the NOW YOU SEE ME… NOW YOU DON’T (1982) {*5}, followed a similar pattern; Cliff’s popularity seemingly immune to any changes in fashion or musical climate. His cross generation/genre experience meant he could duet with the likes of PHIL EVERLY one minute (on subsequent Top 10 hit, `She Means Nothing To Me’) and the London Philharmonic Orchestra the next (on the follow-on, BUDDY HOLLY-penned hit, `True Love Ways’), while the live DRESSED FOR THE OCCASION (1983) {*7}, SILVER (1983) {*6} – celebrating 25 years as a pop star – and ROCK CONNECTION (1984) {*6} – featuring his band, John Clark, Mark Griffiths, Dave Cook (or) Alan Park and Stuart Tosh (or) Graham Jarvis – spoke volumes of Cliff’s tenacity.
The success of BBC2 sitcom “The Young Ones” afforded him a modicum of kitsch appeal among younger music buyers. and a 1986 No.1 re-issue of `Living Doll’ with Rik, Ade and Co; Sarah Brightman and ELTON JOHN were quick to cotton on to “Quiff’s” newfound resurgence, respectively utilising the man’s trusty vox for back-to-back hits, `All I Ask Of You’ and `Slow Rivers’.
1987 saw RICHARD hit the Top 10, this time with `My Pretty One’, `Some People’ and the accompanying long-player, ALWAYS GUARANTEED {*6}. Following in his grand tradition of Christmas singles, RICHARD was back at No.1 in December ‘88 with the execrable `Mistletoe And Wine’, his most cheesiest of all time and one that took the most flak from supporters of “real rock”. Following on from Top 3 entries, `The Best Of Me’ (authored by RICHARD MARX) and Stock-Aitken & Waterman’s `I Just Don’t Have The Heart’, the Top 20 `Lean On You’ also roped-in fans for STRONGER (1989) {*6}), many VAN MORRISON fans no doubt cringed when they heard their hero was serving up a duet with Cliff, but in the event, `Whenever God Shines His Light’, was actually pretty damn fine if more overtly religious than Van the man’s normal philosophical musings.
Incredibly, CLIFF RICHARD was more popular in the late 80s than at any previous point in his career, entering the new decade on a high with 1990’s Top 3 live set, FROM A DISTANCE… THE EVENT {*5} – featured the Julie Gold title-track nugget – and yet another Xmas No.1: `Saviour’s Day’. This was followed a year later by a whole album of tinsel-flavoured mush, TOGETHER WITH CLIFF RICHARD {*3}.
Unsurprisingly, the 90s proved no barrier to RICHARD’s eternal chart crusade – he was now the only artist to have had No.1 hits over five decades and he still looked barely out of his 30s! – which left one to ponder whether the Devil really had all the best tunes after all. With hits sporadic, minor and decidedly unforgettable (`Peace In Our Time’ from 1993’s No.1 set THE ALBUM {*4} and a few from the SONGS FROM “HEATHCLIFFE” project in 1995, arguably his best), the curtain descending on the decade as Cliff found himself the subject of an uncharacteristic bout of controversy when he came up against an E.M.I. unwilling to release his annual Yuletide single. `The Millennium Prayer’ (a combination of “Auld Lang Syne” and “The Lord’s Prayer”) was eventually independently issued, confounding his former label and the critics when it went all the way to the top the charts despite limited radio play. It was now official, Sir CLIFF RICHARD (knighted in ’95) had become a reluctant indie star!
Papillion Records would also be behind his comeback studio set, WANTED (2001) {*5} – E.M.I.’s REAL AS I WANNA BE (1998) {*6} was his previous effort), while attendant singles, including the nostalgic double-A package of `Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ & `What A Wonderful World’, filled a void for his ageing fanbase and their Union Jack flag-waving kinfolk. Taken in at Decca Records, Cliff yet again hit Top 10 status with the `Somethin’ Is Goin’ On’ single, from the slightly adjusted title set, SOMETHING’S GOIN’ ON (2004) {*5}.
Unsurprisingly showing more than a few wrinkles as he was reaching his twilight years, the “Peter Pants of Pop” had the odd hit or three, which really only had a swooning effect on his loyal horde of female fans still alive and kicking out the jams. Unperturbed by rumours of his sexuality (he now lived with a Catholic priest, but in his time dated tennis star/TV presenter Sue Barker and singer OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN), Cliff’s disciples bought into a string of Top 10 sets, namely 50th anniversary album REUNITED – CLIFF RICHARD AND THE SHADOWS (2009) {*5}, BOLD AS BRASS (2010) {*5}, SOULICIOUS (2011) {*5} and his return to his roots, THE FABULOUS ROCK’N’ROLL SONGBOOK (2013) {*4}; the latter his 100th official long-player.
2014-2016 were testing time for Sir Cliff after allegations of historical sexual offences were reported by the media, as the police raided his home in his absence. One could visibly see the toll it took on the singer’s public and private life. Charges subsequently dropped by Operation Yewtree and apologies from the misguided BBC (who broadcasted the aforementioned raid live), it looked certain that Sir Cliff would pursue justice through the courts.
Finally, endorsed by Sony Music, CLIFF RICHARD was free to get back to his profession; ardent fans of his style of pop-rock happy to put JUST… FABULOUS ROCK’N’ROLL (2016) {*4} into the Top 5. At 76 years of age and nigh-on 60 years in showbiz, the “Move It” man was still in fine fettle on the likes of `Dimples’ (featuring PETER FRAMPTON), `Cathy’s Clown’ and an electronic duet with ELVIS on the opener, `Blue Suede Shoes’.
© MC Strong 1994-1995+2008/LCS-BG/MCS // rev-up MCS Dec2013-Nov2016

Share this Project

Leave a Comment