Thursday, October 14, 2010

What can I say but 'Congratulations'?

I've eulogised on here many a time about Cliff. And today he turns 70.

What a body of work. Far better known for his great singles rather than his classic albums (can you even name one?), he's been a constant through all our lives. We may not have liked everything, and for sure there have been some complete clunkers over the years, but recently I've been checking out some of his lesser known hits: Blue Turns To Grey, Sing A Song Of Freedom, Constantly, Joy Of Living (with Hank Marvin), Green Light, Suddenly (with Olivia Newton-John), the groovy Big Ship, Visions, Thrown Down A Line (with Hank again IIRC) and my absolute favourite The Day I Met Marie.

We've all got our favourites though. I've always had a soft spot for Wired For Sound, Devil Woman, Carrie, Please Don't Fall In Love and Do You Wanna Dance. You'll have yours whether you like him or not. Bit bored of Living Doll though.

Do you remember The Cliff Richard Show? In the early Seventies it was a Saturday night staple. He used to have guests and do comedy skits and Olivia Newton-John was always on. I remember a sketch where he came on and said 'I went out shopping today and bought Olivia a whole new wardrobe'. Cue Olivia coming on wearing... a wardrobe. I thought it was hilarious then, I still it's hilarious today.

When I interviewed Cliff about 11 years ago I wasn't disappointed. We had endless meetings before hand to hammer it all out. I interviewed him on the phone - he was at his Portuguese hideaway - and was told I had 15 minutes. But with so many stories to tell and and records to talk about, it was nearer an hour. The chat flowed and he was an absolute delight.

A few weeks later we went to shoot him at a hotel near his home in Weybridge. He's a small, slight man, quite intense, very well-preserved indeed but very tightly controlled by his management down to the last minute. I took along a bunch of singles and he signed them all most graciously. I was given a copy of The Millennium Prayer, and he was concerned it wouldn't get airplay. But it hit No.1 nonetheless. He was endlessly fascinating. There's no whiff of anything untoward, and if there was it was very carefully hidden. He was an all round Nice Man.

So happy birthday to you Cliff. You remain terminally unfashionable, there has been no revival or Tom Jones-like rebirth, though you did try with the whole Eighties Stock, Aitken Waterman thing, but it didn't make you cool. And the Young Ones just took the piss, albeit gently.

Like Matt Monro, Ken Dodd, Donald Peers, Val Doonican and Engelburt Humperdinck - wonderful voices all of them, he's in that naff bracket for most people, and though he's probably credited with kicking off British rock and roll no one ever says it too loudly. There has been no renaissance - he's always there. Long may he continue to be so.

14 comments:

Chris Hughes said...

I may have mentioned this before, but I loved The Day I Met Marie as a kid - my mum had Love Songs (the one where he's leaning against a lamppost in a tank top on the cover). Especially the bit where it goes from the slow ballady bits to the uptempo, circus-y chorus.

I also love We Don't Talk Anymore, Carrie and Wired For Sound - all of that period. I also like Some People - watch the video for that, it's completely bonkers.

Matthew Rudd said...

Well said F-C. I have no beef with Sir Cliff at all. I played Wired For Sound on the radio at the weekend and suggested that all he'd ever done "wrong" was live cleanly and believe in God.

Move It still makes me sing along. I think Miss You Nights is one of the most poignant songs ever made. I like I Could Easily Fall, The Minute You're Gone, Travellin' Light, Some People, The Best Of Me and countless others.

He's 70 and alive, which gives him one major advantage over Lennon. So where are the documentaries and magazine specials on Cliff?

Matthew Rudd said...

Oh by the way, when you say you went to Weybridge to shoot him ... *thinks of the Cliff fans who'll find you on Google and not know you work in the media...*

Five-Centres said...

Yes, I wondered about that Matt. Bring it on! Right about the Lennon thing too.

That dancing in the video is ill-advised Chris.

Bright Ambassador said...

I think he should take his 70th birthday as an opportunity to finally come out. Perhaps then I'd give him a tiny bit of respect.

Simon said...

Move It is an undoubted classic (although a lot of that goes to the guitars for me) and there's a lot of other good stuff too, but yes, definitely a singles man.

We won't mention Heathcliff though.

Chris Hughes said...

I like the Annie Hall bits, though, and the Escher stuff.

But what *is* he wearing? Some kind of blouse?

Five-Centres said...

He looks bizarre.

Cocktails said...

I like Cliff. One of my favourites is his duet with Phil Everly 'She Means Nothing to Me'.

I have one Cliff LP - 'Summer Holiday'. It is ace.

Mondo said...

Yes, congrats to Cliff - he is the Mr Pleasant of Pop. I knew someone who worked with him, during his run on Time at The Astoria. No grumbles, gossip or tittle tattle about Cliff apart from one dressing room requirement: a vibrating chair.

Great hair during the 70s, and didn't he do a regular sketch based around traffic signs - 'man having trouble with umbrella' type thing?

Mondo said...

PS - Roger Moore is 83 today.

Five-Centres said...

83! All our childhood faves are ancient aren't they. Next you'll be telling me John Noakes is 78.

Ishouldbeworking said...

Thatcher was 85 yesterday, but then she was never young, the bitch.

I can't raise any ire over Cliff, but I DO still have memories of creeping into the Dominion Theatre with my coat literally over my head on my Mum's 65th birthday, mortified in case any of my hip friends saw me. It was truly, truly terrible and Cliff was sporting a Limahl toupée and unforgivable red leather jumpsuit. But then we all made mistakes in the 80s.

Bright Ambassador said...

Jesus wept...

Labels