Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cliff Richard

Having cash in one’s pocket is not to be underrated.

And so it was one day in March, 1996, I had cash in my pocket when I walked into Into The Music (ha! That’s funny!). I’d just settled some major law suit, and my client, being the grateful type, handed me a bit of a cash tip. Shh. I actually used some of the money to buy groceries. But some of it, well I just decided to go and buy whatever I felt like buying.

So I spent some money on vinyl. These were all second hand copies you understand. I bought Creation by Fever Tree, and there is a story behind that that hopefully I’ll get to later, and some other titles, and 2 best of’s by Cliff Richard. That is, I got The Best Of Cliff and The Best Of Cliff vol. 2. And that’s where much of my collection comes from.

The first bit comes from The Early Years, a collection of 12 tracks spanning 12 years (ok, 13). And I got some stuff on random 45s (including Don’t Talk To Him) and I downloaded some tracks from The Hit List from Those tracks are on a CD, the rest are on tape like usual, so this is a bit of a bastardized list.

Also some stuff comes from a tape I picked up at Woolco; those are early tracks.

Some stats: Cliff Richards’s biggest North American hit was Devil Woman, that reached number 6 on Billboard in the fall of 1976, and for some reason I don’t have that one. Surprising that it wasn’t on The Hit List. Otherwise I have an impressive collection here, well I only have 5 of his 9 Billboard singles (that's up to 1978), but he had 50 top 20 singles on the UK charts between 1958 and 1973, and I have 41 of them. Oh, and 5 extra to 40 hits post 1978, which is when my top 100 book ends. This is confusing. Most of the references here to chart stuff is UK based. Remember that…

Oh, and up to sometime around 1966, most of his records were Cliff Richard & The Shadows.

Cliff Richard:

Move It – Move It rhymes with groove it, and that’s how the song goes. His first hit was a tribute to the music that he was getting into, which, at that time, was pretty solid rock and roll. From the fall of 1958, a number 2 hit in the UK.
Livin’ Doll – This was a false start for Richard; it reached number 30 on Billboard in the late fall of 1959, but it didn’t lead to anything more of substance, and Richard remained a UK phenomenon. In England it reached number 1, in the summer, and the Canadian radio stations played it in the fall, like their American counterparts.
Travellin’ Light – Another UK number 1, this one if the fall of 1959. Cliff tells us of his journey to meet his “baby,” and the spare arrangement matches the contents of his suitcase.
Please Don’t Tease – The old story, she’s driving him nuts. It’s a short walk from here to Stop Teasing Me by Chad Allen & The Expressions, lyrically and stylistically. A UK number 1 in the summer of 1960.
Theme For A Dream – Who *are* those singers; they sound like mice. Otherwise this is a more than respectable sappy teen idol song. A hit in the winter of 1961.
The Young Ones – A suitable sappy celebration of youth, and young love, with strings and all. A UK number 1 in the winter of 61 / 62 and top 10 in TO in the spring.
Do You Want To Dance – Cliff does his version of the Bobby Freeman classic. Extra points to The Shadows on this. Top 10 in the UK in the spring of ’62.
It’ll Be Me – Cliff goes country, not for the last time. From the fall of 1962. Jerry Lee did this. It reached the Canadian radio stations in the summer of 1963.
Bachelor Boy – Advice from a father to a son, unlikely advice. A UK number 1 in the winter of 62 / 63, and top 100 US hit in the summer of 1964.
Summer Holiday – From the movie. Another number 1 hit, this one from the winter of 1963, in England and in Canada.
Congratulations – Yet another UK number 1, this one from the winter of 1968.
Hello Sam, Goodbye Samantha – I guess this is meant to be a growing up song, sort of a dumbed down version of Bobby Sox To Stockings, if you can imagine. The moral is that you can’t be friends with boys and with girls at the same time. Sheesh. A UK hit in the summer of 1970. This is one that I’m not sorry that it didn’t make it across the pond.
High Class Baby – Shades of Elvis, shades of High School Confidential, good rockabilly by Cliff and The Shadows, believe it or not. This was the follow-up to Move It, a UK hit in the fall of 1958.
My Feet Hit The Ground – This is really High Class Baby soundalike.
Mean Streak – More good rock and roll, from the spring of 1959.
Apron Strings – This isn’t a song about motherhood, not exactly, but there is surely something oedipal about singing “I want to be tied to your apron strings” to one’s loved one.
A Voice In The Wilderness – A good example of Cliff’s early ballad style, before the bathos set in, though it’s a corny as all get out. From early 1960.
Gee Whiz It’s You – This hit from the winter of 1961 was a song of regret, think of I Want You Back by The Jackson Five, but this is upbeat and optimistic, if hopeless in reality.
We Say Yeah – A song of defiance. Everyone says “no;” we say “yeah.” What else. Pretty basic. But by the end, he has everyone convinced.
It’s All In The Game – He’s left The Shadows behind. Actually a harp seems to serve here as lead instrument, as Cliff applies his vocal prowess to the evergreen. It had been a number 1 hit for Tommy Edwards in 1958, and it would be a top 40 hit for The Four Tops in 1970. Cliff’s version was a phenomenon in that it hit the Billboard top 40, though it only reached number 25, and that was in the winter of 1964, so it may have been somehow related to the British invasion that was going on then. If so then it’s too bad, because it was the wrong song. Interesting that the song was number 2 in England the previous fall, and reached number 1 on the CHUM chart in Toronto, also in the fall of ’63.
Don’t Talk To Him – If anyone ever asks you what the British Invasion sounded like, play him this song. It’s all here, the singer giving a straight rendering of what would be melodramatic, or downright silly, lyrics, great uncomplicated but irresistible lead guitar, a drummer who puts fills in all the right places, harmonies as required. And man, that tune, that tune… For my money, this is the best he ever did, and The Shadows shine. The irony, if it is such, is that this is British Invasion music that didn’t invade. It did not crack the US top 100. It was a top 20 hit in Canada, of course, Canada being light years ahead of our American counterparts, and in the good old UK the song reached number 2 in the fall of 1963.
Blue Turns To Grey – Cliff & The Shadows, in their waning days together, and they let out all the stops on this, the closest he came to hard rock, appropriately, given that this was a Stones song, originally on the December’s Children album. A hit for Cliff (in the UK of course) in the spring of 1966.
The Minute You’re Gone – I’m listening to this and I could swear that it’s a cover, and I’m right, though Wikipedia identifies it as a Cliff Richard song. Good for Cliff, but Sonny James did it first, in 1963. Cliff’s version, which was respectable country, was number 1 in the UK in the winter of 65, around the time that This Diamond Ring was a hit in the US.
On My Word – Here is where Cliff thinks he is Neil Diamond, and Neil hadn’t had a record out yet. A UK hit in the spring of 1965.
The Time In Between – Listen hard, and you can hear The Shadows of old, but the style overall is more pop, less rock, and typical of Cliff’s mid-60s stuff. Reminds somewhat of groups like The Fortunes.
Wind Me Up (Let Me Go) – Another variation of the Puppet On A String theme, but here’s it’s not a good thing. Think String Along by Rick Nelson / Fabian, but slower. A hit in the fall of 1965.
Visions – The harp from It’s All In The Game makes a reappearance here, if anything more up front and centre. The visions in the song are romantic ones, not religious ones, not surprising perhaps, but Cliff was to get religion later, so nothing is to be taken for granted. A UK hit in the summer of 1966.
Time Drags By – Cliff does Dylan, not literally, but stylistically, sort of. He tries, harmonica and all. From the fall of ’66.
In The Country – Very similar to what Three Dog Night was doing on Out In The Country, and Lighthouse on Take It Slow. From the winter of ’66 / ’67. He assures, toward the end, that “it belongs to you and I.” Oh my…
It’s All Over – A ballad, vaguely country. From the fall of ’67.
I’ll Come Running – This is one of those classic songs that Neil Diamond wrote and recorded back when he recorded for Bang Records. All of his stuff was overproduced and tinny, and transcendent. Cliff does ok with this, at least he got the song some deserved recognition, I guess he did, though it didn’t make the top 20, so it’s not in my book.
The Day I Met Marie – I don’t know who wrote this, but it sounds like something Jacques Brel might have done. From the fall of 1967.
All My Love- This song in waltz time sounds very much like something from the Engelbert Humperdink songbook. From the fall of 1967.
Marianne – Another syrupy ballad, and he pronounces “Marianne” funny. Not the Stephen Stills song.
Throw Down A Line – A cry for help, but I’m not sure what the actual danger is, it’s all metaphor, but I don’t know for what. Here Cliff is getting into a style that was typical of late 60s early / 70s pop. From the fall of 1969.
Jesus – Here is where he goes religious on us. Lucky he didn’t turn into a gospel singer.
Sunny Honey Girl – The intention was probably to do a Sugar Sugar type song, but while this is poppy (think My Baby Loves Lovin’) it isn’t poppy enough to qualify. Cliff Richard isn’t Bobby Sherman after all. From the winter of 1971, just a bit late for this kind of thing anyway.
Ain’t Got Time Anymore – A hit in North America for Glass Bottle. Cliff’s version was far less dramatic.
Flying Machine – A loop de loop type song, (The Beach Boys, not Johnny Thunder) but a bit too serious sounding for the subject.
Sing A Song Of Freedom – Not to be confused with the Bobby Darin song, this was undoubtedly Cliff Richard trying to jump on the same bandwagon. Rather mild, I’d say, given the ambition. From the fall of 1971.
With The Eyes Of A Child – Not The Moody Blues song, but probably the same idea. A song about innocence, ballad-like. From the winter of 1969 / 1970.
Good Times (Better Times) – This definitely sounds like a song that Bobby Sherman would have done, but it’s a bit before Sherman’s time (by about a year) and Bobby would have done it better. From the winter of 1969.
I’ll Love You Forever Today – A song about not committing, dressed up as a love ballad. And there’s that harp again…
The Joy Of Living – Another song with a message, this one about the environment and stuff. Prescient.
Silvery Rain – Cliff goes la-dee-da, almost John Denver.
Big Ship – A song with clichés about love, except the title refrain. “Love is a big ship following me?” From the summer of 1969.
Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon – Kudos to Cliff for covering this, but he doesn’t do much with it. Listen to Urge Overkill for a good cover (on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack as well as elsewhere), or go for the Neil Diamond original.
Fall In Love With You – Back to days of The Shadows, this hit from the winter of 1960 has more than a little of teen idol written all over it, but The Shadows still kick butt.
Nine Times Out Of Ten – A swaggering tale of romantic frustration. I say “romantic” but that a kind of euphemism. From the fall of 1960.
I Love You – Well it can’t get more basic than that, can it. A different song from all the other songs called “I Love You.” From the fall of 1960, later fall than Nine Times Out Of Ten.
A Girl Like You – Not The Rascals song. From the summer of 1961.
When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart – Cliff does a real syrupy rendition of the Connie Francis’s hit. It was a hit in the fall of 1961.
Lucky Lips – This is a cover of Ruth Brown’s hit. I know it’s a pop song and all, but still it strikes me as downright bizarre. From the spring of 1963, and it was on Canadian radio in the summer.
Power To All Our Friends – A tepid variation of Power To The People. A hit from the winter of 1973.
We Don’t Talk Anymore – 20 years after his US debut with Livin’ Doll, Richard puts his second hit on the Billboard top 10 (the first was Devil Woman). In the interim he has transformed himself into every conceivable kind of pop music entertainer, and he’s arrived at the point where he is doing right up-to-date California style pop worthy of fellow Britons Fleetwood Mac. And it’s a song about failure to communicate, the deterioration of a relationship, and very real stuff. From the fall of 1979.
Carrie – The follow up to We Don’t Talk Anymore, very dramatic indeed, every bit as good as its predecessor, except for the melodrama perhaps, but it only made number 34 on Billboard. And nothing better illustrates Cliff Richard’s strange difficulty maintaining a career in America. From the spring of 1980.
Wired For Sound – A celebration of music, written for the iPod age before it existed.
Daddy’s Home – From the winter of 1982. This song, originally done by Shep & The Limelites in the early 60s, was successfully covered by Jermaine Jackson in the 70s.
Some People – A treatise on human nature, similar to and at the same time very different from Whacha See Is Whacha Get by The Dramatics.
Mistletoe And Wine – Cliff Richard’s contribution to the Christmas canon.
The Best Of Me – Cliff Richard becomes Barry Manilow…
I Just Don’t Have The Heart – Cliff Richard goes disco…
Miss You Nights – The big ballad, but not really…
Green Light – Not the American Breed song. Not much more to report.

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