The Cliff Richard Show Live At The ABC Kingston 1962
Released by EMI in March 2002. Project co-ordination, liner notes and archive research (with Peter Lewry).
Had this album been released in 1962, it would have been Cliff Richard’s second live album. His first and debut LP, simply titled Cliff, was also live, recorded at Abbey Road Studios before an invited audience of two hundred, and had featured Cliff backed by the Drifters, who had yet to become the Shadows, and whose collective repertoire then concentrated on a string of rock ‘n’ roll favourites.
Almost three years later, Columbia Records decided to tape Cliff and the Shadows’ first and second houses at the ABC Theatre in Kingston, on 7 March 1962, during a twenty-three-date tour of one nighters. The subsequent album would be provisionally titled The Cliff Richard Show with one side devoted to the Shadows and the other to Cliff.
The first step in this ambitious project – at least for a pop record in those days – began with a survey of the venue the previous week to see if it was going to be workable for making a live album. With facilities to set up a control room inside the cinema, suitable locations for hanging audience microphones, good acoustic separation and reasonable access for cables, main supplies, and off loading recording equipment, it seemed it would.
Unlike the repertoire of that first live album, back in 1959, the choice for these shows was the most intriguing aspect of the two performances. Although the Shadows culled much of their set from earlier singles, album tracks, and their current smash Wonderful Land (then on its way to the top spot), some of Cliff’s familiar hits like Move It, Living Doll and Gee Whiz It’s You were dropped and replaced with material that he never recorded in the studio, before or since. Tracks such as Bill Haley’s 1955 rocker Dim, Dim The Lights and the Ray Charles R&B classic I Got A Woman. There were also surprises like the gospel Save My Soul and the country-tinged Rovin’ Gambler. But probably the highlight for most was the medley of songs from what historians now call the prototype Cliff Richard film, The Young Ones, released the previous Christmas, and at the time of the Kingston concert still on general release. From Lessons In Love to the rousing We Say Yeah, it is clear form these recordings why the film had shot to number two at the box office and had turned Cliff into the most popular film star of 1962.
With the tapes – recorded in duplicate on two machines and staggered to make sure nothing was missed out – delivered to Abbey Road, however, it was clear that all was not well, despite the playback squeezed in between the two houses. Even with a few minor adjustments made to the second house performance, an internal EMI tape review dated 22 March 1962, just two weeks after the Kingston concert had been recorded, indicated that there were in fact a number of technical faults that occurred on the tapes of the first house recording, particularly distortion and level changes. That was probably due to the conditions under which it was recorded, not least, the fact that Cliff’s hand microphone was not one of the high quality condenser ones used for the backing group and audience that EMI installed into the theatre the day before, but part of the cinema’s on PA system.
Although these problems were remedied at a later date when a copy tape was made from the original session tapes, Cliff’s producer Norrie Paramor sent an inter-departmental memo requesting that Abbey Road should supply, as soon as possible, an acetate (a disc cut for evaluation purposes only) of the original intended album production master. He also marked his reminder urgent, insisting that any hold up would delay the release of a potentially fast-moving record.
Within the week, Paramor received the acetate he requested, and then prepared a slightly edited version of the second house show. With the album now complete and front sleeve art, later adapted for More Hits By Cliff, prepared, the album could have been in the shops by June. However, the project quietly disappeared from EMI’s release schedules.
Several theories abound as to why it was never released at the time. In some quarters, it was presumed that Paramor felt the recordings were not quite up to scratch, and in others, that a summer release would have been to close to Cliff’s next album 32 Minutes And 17 Seconds appearing that October. Whatever the reason, the tapes were restored to the EMI vaults, where they have until recently remained. Not only the original master tapes from both shows but also various master reels marked The Cliff Richard Show and The Cliff Richard Stage Show.
It was not until the compilation of Cliff’s Rock ’n ’Roll Years box set in 1997 that two tracks, Dim, Dim The Lights and Save My Soul were featured as samplers of what is now released in its entirety, as originally intended for 1962 release but now digitally remastered.