In this interview from July 1996, Nigel explains some of the reasoning behind the Cliff At The Movies compilation, how he and Peter Lewry tracked down some of the previously unreleased material and how they overcame some of the problems of putting together such a project…
Did you have a free hand when it came to compiling the set or were there certain guidelines you had to follow?
Nigel: The only real guideline was that all the performances had to obviously relate to Cliff’s movies, and the other was the we had to keep the time of each CD within a seventy-seven minute playing time. We have each one literally full to the brim. We just couldn’t have put any more on.
Regarding the material that you obviously had to leave off, how was it decided what would stay and what would go?
Nigel: There were certain principal points we worked to. To begin with we made the decision to concentrate on the essential performances plus some rarities, and at the same time we wanted to make sure that every film would be represented. Some of the tracks had to be left off, because we couldn’t go beyond two discs, and we wanted to come up with a set that could be aimed not just at fans and collectors, but at the general public, too.
Many fans will be wondering why the fast version of Living Doll from Serious Charge has not been included?
Nigel: Because we couldn’t find a complete studio master or a complete sound stage recording. The only version to exist would be on the 35mm magnetic film master which would just be too short to include, as three quarters of the track has dialogue over it.
You’ve included an alternate take of Got A Funny Feeling, presumably there must be something special about it.
Nigel: This alternate take we’re using is really different – this is a much more rocking version with a guitar break that really makes it kick, and with a real different feel to it. Actually, we think the fans are really going to like this, because it’s one helluva performance, and strangely enough, it was recorded a year after the original version had been released. This one’s got Brian Bennett and Brian Locking, whereas the original had Jet Harris and Tony Meehan.
The same question applies to the alternate cut of Wonderful Life….
Nigel: We’ve used that because it’s one of the few occasions where we have a really different arrangement of a song. Cliff didn’t change arrangements much on songs, but he did on this one by replacing the orchestral opening with a guitar solo intro, and removing the backing vocals. A really nice version which nobody really knew about.
What’s the story behind Look Don’t Touch?
Nigel: We found Look Don’t Touch on a session reel with A Matter of Moments. On the tape box both tracks were listed as ‘playback for listening purposes only’ which suggested to us that it may have been well intended for the Wonderful Life soundtrack, especially as On The Beach had been cut out from the same tape and put onto the LP master reel. That’s really how we identified the track as being a likely contender for the movie and the soundtrack.
Is that why Outsider from the 21 Today album has been included because it was identified for a movie?
Nigel: Yes, that’s correct. It was one of three songs commissioned from an early draft script of The Young Ones, but never used for the film. Instead it was recorded and issued on the predecessor to the soundtrack album. We’ve included it on this set for historical reasons.
Looking at the track listing, there’s five tracks that have never been issued on CD before…
Nigel: Yes. They’re the EP tracks from the first two movies Serious Charge and Expresso Bongo with the exception of Living Doll, of course. We particularly wanted to include the EP version of A Voice in the Wilderness, because it wasn’t available elsewhere, whereas the single version had been on The Hit List.
Why did you use only four of the movie versions?
Nigel: Because EMI does not have the movie versions as they were not done at the regular soundtrack sessions, they belong to the film companies. They obviously all exist on 35mm magnetic film, and that’s the source we took them from, although Keith Bessey had to do some editing work to Lessons In Love, because in the movie it is an incomplete performance.
How are going to answer the inevitable criticisms that the set is not complete?
Nigel: Cliff recorded so much for the movies that to make it a complete set would have taken three or maybe four discs, even if it was just all the released stuff without any rarities, which we knew we couldn’t do. The idea of the set was to present the very best of Cliff’s film music, and give the critics a chance to re-evaluate Cliff in the movies, and that he actually recorded a lot of very, very good material for his films. We’ve had to leave out some things because there just wasn’t the room to include it all.
Would you say that any of the previously released performances on the set sound radically different from how they were originally released?
Nigel: Keith Bessey made improvements when he did the digital remasters and remixes. He regenerated what was there on the original recordings by considerably enhancing them without detracting anything from the original sound, but added a consistent proficiency that ensured a state-of-the-art sonic quality. Listen out for the superb clarity on the Serious Charge and Expresso Bongo EP tracks. We think they’ll blow your socks off!
You’ve included an edited version of A Little Imagination.
Nigel: Yes, because we thought it would be nice for fans to have this track without the orchestration and production pieces in the middle, plus of course, we get back to overall running times, and to include the full version would have perhaps meant leaving another track off.
Presumably the undubbed version of The Young Ones is the one that was released as a single overseas.
Nigel: Yes. We actually found it on the master reel of the soundtrack album which was surprising, because the master reels normally contain only the takes that have been cut. But we’re really pleased we found it, because of how different it sounds without the orchestral strings.
It’s interesting to note that you’ve added some of Cliff’s dialogue from the film to Seven Days To A Holiday. Was it a conscious decision to do this?
Nigel: The idea came from Keith Bessey who thought the dialogue would provide an authentic addition to the track. After hearing the finished master, we decided on including it, because it was such an essential part of this one in the movie.
Was the extended version of Oh Senorita the complete film version, or did you have to create one?
Nigel: We had to create one yes, as we didn’t have all the parts of the film version, and we couldn’t dub it off the film master, because it was too interrupted with dialogue. We had to construct the track from the regular album version with Cliff’s vocal, and the film version with the Shadows and cast vocals to make it as complete as it was in the movie, and although there were a few adjustments we had to make to get it just right, we know people are going to like it.
Have you sequenced the original running order of the tracks as they appeared in the films and on the soundtrack albums?
Nigel: Yes, we’ve done that – not because we religiously believe that’s what we should do, but basically because of the nature of this set, and for what the fans would find familiar.
Tell us about the remixes of Big News and On The Beach.
Nigel: Keith Bessey went back to the original session tapes and remixed these two tracks for the very first time since they were released! In principal they were remixed to balance out the sound, to bring certain instruments and vocals forward, to enhance the overall performance, as they sounded far too stereo created to fit into this set with their vocals on one channel, and everything else on the other. It’s quite a treat to at last have the chance to hear On The Beach without Cliff’s cough!
Was the reason you used an alternate version of It’s Wonderful To Be Young because the released one was missing?
Nigel: Yes. It had been removed from its original tape reel and sent to America for the US soundtrack album, and was not returned after its use. We therefore had to go back to the session tapes to locate another version that would be suitable for the set. We chose alternate take 24, because it only had subtle differences to the version released on the US soundtrack album and on the British Forever Kind of Love EP.
Who thought of the title?
Nigel: It was a mutual decision between EMI and the Cliff Richard Organisation. It actually started out out with our suggestion of Reel Hits: The Essential Movie Performances.