It was Number 1 on the ‘UK Singles Chart’ for six weeks from July, becoming the biggest selling single of 1959 in the UK with sales of 770,000. Richard was awarded a Silver Disc on 1 November 1959. It was a number 1 hit in several European countries, including Ireland, Norway, and Sweden and a top ten hit in numerous countries. In the US, it was Cliff Richard's first hit single, reaching Number 30 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’. It went on to sell over a million copies worldwide and earnt the record company's internally awarded Gold Disc for the achievement in 1960.
It was the first Number 1 in the ‘UK Singles Chart’ for Cliff Richard and the Drifters; although their debut single ‘Move It’, released the previous year, is often cited as their first Number 1; whereas, in fact, that peaked at Number 2. The song also won writer Lionel Bart an ‘Ivor Novello Award for Best Song’.
I grew up in an age where there were no blurred distinctions when it came to lifestyle or taste. Just as society is split into being either ‘Remainers’ or ‘Leavers’, ‘cat’ or ‘dog’ lovers today, so were the divisions in the two opposing camps of our young men in the 1950s. The only thing that all teenagers agreed upon at the time was that they were no longer small replicas of their fathers and that most adults of the day were square plonkers!
Teenagers who grew up in my generation were divided into two distinct groups who never once met in an air of friendliness. Their look and taste were as different as butter and margarine. One group was known as ‘Mods’ and the other group became known as ‘Rockers’ and wherever the twain met, there were fights to be fought. Each group tended to fight the other group in mobs rather than individually. They fought on the floors of café bars or on the sandy beach of Brighton every Bank Holiday Monday. One camp wore their hair long and had drainpipe trousers, while the other group sported crew cuts and tended to wear wide-legged trousers. One group dressed in black leather, whereas the other wore suits. One group drove high-powered motorbikes and the other group, motor scooters.
Whatever their differences were, the major difference came in the area of musical taste. One group favoured the American singer Elvis Presley (whom they called ‘The King’) whilst the other group were fans of his British rival, Cliff Richard.
As a member of the Teddy Boy group of ‘Rockers’, I was never a fan of the sugar-sounding clean-cut-boy-next-door Cliff Richard, whose birth name of Harry Rodger Webb was never good enough for him to take to his grave; unlike the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ who was born ‘Elvis Presley’ and died ‘Elvis Presley’.
My allegiance to the ‘Rockers’ as opposed to the ‘Mods’ in my teenage years obviously affected how I view Cliff and his music then and ever since. I must admit to always having regarded Cliff Richard as being a sort of ‘Marmite Singer’; who one either loves or cannot stand. I will confess, however, that over the years as old age has mellowed my musical taste, I have occasionally on a wet Wednesday found myself listening to a Cliff song. I’d even as far as to say that I’ve listened to one of Cliff's records a second time.
Today’s song was probably heard by me on its release, not only because it was Cliff’s first number 1 hit, or because it was the top-selling single in the UK in 1959. I probably gave it air time because of the temporary absence of Elvis from the scene. Between March 1958 and March 1960, Elvis was drafted to serve in the United States’ Army while Cliff (the Pretender to the throne) remained clear of the firing line and unsuccessfully tried to usurp the King’s crown in his absence.
Come to think of it, whereas ‘The King’ left the house for the final time in 1977, not one wrinkle had ever taken residence in his face. Indeed, his mere age of 42 witnessed his physical departure from this life without a facelift, any cosmetic surgery having ever been performed on him or even one pin-prick of Botox having ever been applied in the futile attempt to enhance facial beauty.
Contrast this with the cosmetic courses his British rival across the Atlantic underwent in the pursuit of eternal youth. Harry Rodger Webb entered the world with wrinkles all over his face and body and when Cliff Richards leaves this earth, he’ll have increased the wrinkles in his face tenfold!
Come to think of it, Cliff’s greatest fan then and now was my ex-wife, but had she told me this fact before I married her, our wedding would most certainly have been called off.
Still, I must admit that my first taste of Marmite wasn’t as repulsive in taste as I initially feared it might be and after stomaching it a few times, I found the taste ‘acceptable’ to my palate.I have sufficient grace and charity in my old age to admit that (except for Elvis) Cliff has had a hit in the ‘UK Top Ten Charts’ in each of the six consecutive decades (1950s-2000).
Cliff Richard has sold more than 250 million records worldwide while Elvis (despite his early death in 1977) has had an estimated one Billion sales (Yes! One thousand Million). When it comes to stamina and sheer staying power, however, Cliff’s sixty-year singing and recording career will never be beaten by Elvis or anyone else, I suspect.
I will, however, leave the final word to Cliff himself, who, when asked, “Who has been the greatest rock and roll singer ever?” replied unhesitatingly, “It has to be Elvis; he was always the greatest. He was always my favourite!”
Love and peace Bill xxx