Cliff Richard: Kingston 50 Years On

Article Excerpt, Now Dig This, March 2012, co-authored with Peter Lewry.

In March 1962, when Cliff Richard and The Shadows were nearing the end of their 1962 tour of one-nighters across Britain, EMI decided to capture their live show for LP release later that same year, but then, the album disappeared from the release schedules. Although rumoured to exist, it wasn’t until Cliff experts Peter Lewry and Nigel Goodall were working on a book about Cliff’s recording sessions that they decided to try and find out whether the tapes still existed. They discovered they did and were safely stored in the EMI Tape Vaults. On hearing the tapes of the finished album sides, they set out to convince EMI, Cliff and his management team to release the album as it was originally intended. Their perseverance finally paid off twelve years later when EMI released the lost 1962 live album in both special and regular CD editions.  Here, in Cliff Richard: Kingston 50 Years On, Peter and Nigel look back at the story behind the tour, the recordings and the album…

The first time we heard the Cliff Kingston tapes was at Cliff’s Office in Esher. Under the request of Cliff’s manager, EMI had ran off cassettes of both shows from the stereo tapes that had been recorded live on 7 March 1962, and invited us to go to his office to listen to them. When we heard the tapes we were simply blown away with how the recordings had totally captured the feeling of the hysteria of what it was really like to see Cliff and The Shadows ‘In Person’ during the early heady days of their career. So we did a lot more research about the shows, the tour and dug around to find out why the finished album had been lost for many years when we discovered and confirmed its existence.

What our research turned up, first and foremost, was how back in 1962, and for several years before that, one of the most popular ways to go and see your favourite record artist, live and in person, was at your local cinema. Throughout that whole era, cinemas all over Britain canceled their usual nightly film performance and replaced it with two performances of a live pop show ‘On The Stage’ for one night only. Among the biggest hit makers touring Britain in the same months of Cliff’s first tour of the year, and like Cliff, appearing at cinemas for one night only, were Helen Shapiro, Bobby Vee, Adam Faith, and Billy Fury.

Of course, back then, live shows were not as extravagant as they are today. No fancy sets or lighting. Even with the minimal equipment of basic amplifiers and microphones that artists had to contend with in 1962, in the days when mono records were the still the most popular listening format for record buyers, why should have anyone been worried.

Touring in the 1960s for the artists themselves was also a very different story. Today artists are driven between venues or fly across the country, but those early tours, like Cliff’s tour in the first three months of the year, things would have been a much simpler affair. It would simply involve Cliff and the Shads loading and unloading their own equipment from their own van and driving several hundred miles between shows, sometimes to opposite ends of the country, and without motorways in those days, the trek in between venues was often a tedious one. The luxury of limousines, tour buses and roadies were then a thing of the future.

Perhaps that’s why cinemas were chosen as the ideal venue for pop concerts. Easy access and location. Perhaps too, that’s why cinema gigs seemed to be so popular for all concerned. Certainly that seemed to evoke much wilder scenes of audience frenzy than they did in the later years. Cinemas were a lot smaller than the stadium gigs most artists play today, and with dozens of both British and American recording stars filling almost every Rialto and Ritz theatre across the country, it was an ideal situation for both artists and the fans.

The pattern for the tours was also hugely different than it is today. In many ways the shows were based upon the early variety shows that preceded the rock ‘n’ roll boom. The kind of show that became the popular format in the golden days of the music hall. The only difference now was that the jugglers, magicians and comedians had gone, and been replaced by the then up and coming names from the pop charts as the support acts, while stars like Cliff, Billy Fury and Adam Faith headlined the bill of what seemed like an endless list of hit makers.

Of course, for Cliff, he would usually share the bill with his backing group The Shadows, who played their own set before the interval and then after the interval would be joined by Cliff  for the second half of the show. Certainly that was the format for the ABC at Kingston, where Cliff’s stage show would be in place of the Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens flick, Susan Slade, that was the main feature of a double-bill being shown that week, just one week before a re-run of the 1959 Charlton Heston epic, Ben Hur, was due to start the following week.