In this exclusive interview from the the Cliff Guaranteed fan club magazine, Nigel talks to Carol Hall about what is involved in putting together some of the Cliff Richard album projects for EMI…
Carol: Can you remember the first record you heard by Cliff?
Nigel: Although I heard him when I was very young and remember seeing him a lot on TV, like onOh Boy, he didn’t really register with me until about 1961 when I heard The Young Ones, simply because my sister had the single and played it over and over on what at the time was the latest thing in mono record players (an ‘Elizabethan’ 4 speed auto changer in a blue and white cabinet), and then the film came out, which I thought was pretty cool. I remember I went to see the film with my sister, who had failed to persuade my Dad (who dreaded the thought) to take her to London to see it. In those days new films had a run in the West End before they were released nationally into the provinces, so it was some time after the film had been showing in London before we got to see it. We had to queue for a couple of hours to get in, and then, when we did, all the girls were screaming every time Cliff was on screen! It was great and was all part of the experience in those days of going to see a rock ‘n’ roll movie! The audience on the Kingston album reminds me a great deal of what it was like in the cinema at the Saturday matinee we went to. I started buying records soon after that, but not by Cliff, I usually bought records by Elvis and other artists. The first records I had of Cliff’s though were not singles, but the Silver Discs EP and the Summer Holiday album, so that was around 1962/63.
Carol: How do you view your role in the reissue of the Cliff’s catalogue over the last 12 years?
That’s a very difficult question! The first thing Peter and me worked on was The Hit List, but all we did for that was write the liner notes. The first project we did in terms of being consultants was for the Cliff at the Movies set in 1996, and that, to a certain degree, followed what Ernst Jorgensen and Roger Semon were doing with the Elvis Presley catalogue for BMG. And that was our brief from EMI, to make the Movies album the first step in upgrading Cliff’s catalogue to the same sort of respectability status that Ernst and Roger had achieved with Elvis’s catalogue, which basically meant adding bonus tracks, alternate takes and unreleased songs, giving it deluxe packaging, and really good sound restoration, which, of course, Cliff’s sound engineer Keith Bessey had been responsible for since The Hit List, and still is to this day. The Serious Charge and Expresso Bongo tracks are really good examples of that restoration. Until Keith remastered them, I don’t think we had ever heard them sounding so good. You have to remember those recordings are almost 50 years old.
Carol: Do you have any favourite CDs you have worked on? What in your view have been the exceptional releases with outtakes and alternate versions?
Nigel: There’s two ways of looking at that. Musically, I think the Rock ‘n’ Roll Years box set because I love the sound of all those early tracks from 1958 to 1963, and also the rare tracks we found, such as the live recordings of Cliff at Butlins and the Radio Luxembourg performances. But from another point of view, I think perhaps the Live at Kingston album is the one I like the most, because it was basically a lost album, and to get it released forty years after it was recorded was quite a milestone. It is a great document of Cliff live in the early sixties, performing songs he never recorded in the studio, and also in 1962 it was quite a rare commodity for a record company to make a live recording of a pop concert. To hear the audience going so hysterically wild just made the whole thing a piece of priceless pop history, so that was a personal triumph in a way to get it released.
Carol: Can you tell us anything about the forthcoming box set?
Nigel: It is basically a retrospective of Cliff’s 50 years in music. We have been working on it since Christmas 07, and for a couple of months before that, we were kicking around ideas with EMI, and the one thing that came out of our discussions was that they didn’t want to have a decade box set, because that was too obvious, and didn’t really have a collectors appeal, so it was really EMI who came up with the idea of having each disc themed – and basically that is what is coming out. We believe we have covered most of the different aspects of Cliff’s music. We have a disc of early rock and roll material, previously unavailable B-sides and EP tracks, a previously unavailable live concert, with some tracks never released at all in the UK, 23 number one hits from around the world, songs from the movies, pantos and musicals, Cliff’s own personal gospel favourites, and a whole disc of unreleased tracks. Originally there was a duets album talked about and a music of the world to take in Cliff’s foreign language recordings, but both had been done. Duets had been very well covered with the Two’s Company album and foreign language with the On The Continent box set. So we have ended up with 8 CDs, 35 previously unreleased tracks, a 10-inch 78rpm of Cliff’s first ever single from 1958, a 52-page photo book with a 50-year chronology, liner notes, and an exclusive gold-plated commemorative coin. So it’s pretty good value! And we have some very interesting alternate takes and previously unreleased masters.
Carol: Yes you do. I noticed from the track listing that there is a previously unreleased stereo version of Willie and the Hand Jive which will no doubt please many fans.
Nigel: Well, we hope so. The bonus is that it’s a genuine stereo master. But we were also aware that it was the original mono single version that fans had been asking for. Not since the original single was released, has the mono version been available – it has only ever come out in a mock stereo version that was all the rage in the 70s, and frankly, sounded awful, as did all those electronically reprocessed stereo tracks that were doing the rounds back then, so we are really pleased to have found this newly discovered full stereo version that has never been heard anywhere in the world! But of course, there will be those that will ask why didn’t we use the mono version as well, as a bonus track, because there are a lot of people, including myself, that like to hear some of those early classics as they originally sounded, which in the 1960s, would have been in mono. Its one of the reasons I recently bought the special edition of Elvis’s Kid Galahad EP, because I wanted to hear the songs in mono, because that is the way I remember them, and although we wanted to add the mono version at the last minute to the end of the Early Years disc, it was unfortunately too late as everything had, by that time, been mastered and delivered to EMI!
Carol: Whose idea was it to include the 78rpm vinyl of Cliff’s ‘Schoolboy Crush’/’Move It’?
Nigel: When we were discussing packaging with EMI, they told us that they were going to do a 12-inch box and wanted to include some sort of souvenir or memento, so we thought a really unique idea would be to have a 5-inch CD replica of Move It – and have it on black plastic, with grooves and original label art and of course, a replica of the original bag it was released in. So that is how the idea started out. I think it was EMI who suggested doing a 10-inch 78 vinyl, and they still knew a pressing plant that could produce 78’s on more or less the same sort of vinyl that the original 1958 would have been pressed on. What was quite interesting to discover, was that on the 78 label, Move It has an exclamation mark after it (Move It!) but when it was flipped to become the A-side, the exclamation mark was removed. Even though there will be quite a few of us that no longer have the equipment to play a 78, we think it is a very appropriate bonus to have in the box. And there is still something very special about vinyl. Especially 78 vinyl, it’s very brittle. I remember when we were kids, my sister, accidentally (or so she says!) stood on my 78 of Elvis’s Hound Dog. It just splintered into what seemed like a thousand pieces!
Carol: Talking of box sets, have you or EMI ever thought of doing a Cliff singles box?
Nigel: Not a singles box no, but we did think about an EP box. We actually suggested it as a 50th anniversary idea, but then of course, there are 46 EPs and that made the idea pretty much cost prohibitive. The Elvis box sets of singles that were recently done, only had 18 singles in, and sold for about 50 quid, so to do 46 EPs, would be very expensive to buy as well as produce. And because most of the EP material is already available elsewhere (or will be when the new box set is released), it probably wouldn’t have had much appeal, unless you are a collector, but I do love the idea of having a box full of Cliff’s EPs, and having them individually packaged in mini card sleeves to reflect the original covers and have each CD pressed on black plastic with grooves and original label art to replicate the vinyl version. Yes, that would be very cool.
Carol: What have been some of the most exciting finds for you with regards to unreleased material?
Nigel: There have been so many but I guess among my favourites is Got A Funny Feeling that we found almost by accident on a tape reel that was a year out of date and was tacked onto the end of a tape with some other alternate takes of other songs. We listened to that at Abbey Road, and we were just jumping up and down when he came across it because it was so different, and also by the fact that it had been recorded about a year after the original had been released, and so that was great find, and something we hadn’t expected to locate it on the tape we were listening to, and as there was no paperwork for it, or wasn’t listed on any tape report, it came as a complete surprise. It was one of those gems that you unexpectedly find from time to time, which in the 12 years we have been doing this, similar situations have cropped up from time to time, like the undubbed master of The Young Ones, which we knew existed but had no idea where the master was, as there was no reference in the Abbey Road Tape Library to it. Again, we found that by accident, tucked away at the end of The Young Ones LP master.
Carol: Does Cliff have a favorite album and do you know if he would ever listens to the reissues?
Nigel: I think one of his favourite albums is Always Guaranteed. He talked to us about it when we interviewed him for the liner notes of that and some other albums we were working on at the time. And I have been told he sometimes goes through the remasters when he is looking to find some new material for his live shows. I think that is how he rediscovered Baby I Could Be So Good At Loving You from the Sincerely Cliff album to include in his set at the Royal Albert Hall in April 2004. And it was interesting to see him do We Say Yeah at Leeds Castle because his introduction was almost identical to how he introduces the song on the Kingston album, so I guess the answer is yes, he does listen to the remasters!
Carol: Are there any Cliff recordings you haven’t found?
Nigel: Yes! We have never found the session tapes for Schoolboy Crush and Move It, and probably never will now. We reckon the original tapes are either lost or were taped over. You have to remember that in the uncertain first days of rock ‘n’ roll and Cliff it was, as the title of the new box set suggests, not expected to last, and EMI just probably re-used the tape for another session once they had cut out the takes that they wanted to use for the master. In those days, no one thought that there would be guys like us coming along years later looking for out-takes to release!
Carol: Are there any worthy books left to be written about Cliff, and have you got any plans to do any more?
Nigel: I think the new autobiography, My Life, My Way, that Cliff has penned with Penny Junor is as good as it is going to get. As for Peter and me doing another book, we have no plans, but if we were asked to do another book on Cliff, we would probably go for a book on his tours and concerts. There were a couple of books in the mid-90s by Lee Cotton called Did Elvis Sing In Your Hometown? and Did Elvis Sing In Your Hometown, Too? that covered every aspect of Elvis’s tours, and if we were going to do a tour book on Cliff that would probably be the way we would do it – to include every detail of every concert from show times to ticket prices, venue, hotel and travel arrangements, personnel and tour crew, songs performed and costumes worn, so as you can imagine, it would be quite an undertaking!