Cliff Richard Live

Article Excerpt, Record Collector, November 1994. Co-authored with Peter Lewry.


How many artists have ever begun their album career with a live record? A quick jog through the magazine’s collective memory unearthed a few names from the British R&B boom like Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame and the Yardbirds, plus a mixed bag of bands since then, from MC5 to Nine Below Zero. To that select group can be added the unexpected name of Cliff Richard. His debut LP Cliff was recorded at Abbey Road studios, but in front of a live audience – a startling vote of confidence in his abilities as a performer from the EMI hierarchy. Thirty-five years later, Cliff is embarking on yet another tour, with a repertoire that will concentrate on his Top Five hit singles. During the intervening decades, he’s consistently toured Britain, Europe and the Far East, allowing EMI around the world many opportunities to capture the excitement of his live performances on record in a variety of settings. What follows, is a guide to Cliff’s official live releases – including not only the familiar Top 10 albums, but an entire unissued LP from 1962, and several batches of recordings which were only made available overseas.

Cliff’s first live album, simply titled Cliff was also his debut LP for Columbia. It was recorded at Abbey Road before an invited audience of 200, and featured Cliff backed by the Drifters (who had yet to become the Shadows). The repertoire concentrated on a string of rock ‘n’ roll favourites, including Cliff’s then current hit Move It, plus three tracks by the Drifters. Two tracks from these sessions, It’s Only Make Believe and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine remain unreleased. Besides the LP, two EPs were taken from the sessions, issued in both mono and stereo. The first CD reissue of the album in 1987 (no longer available) boasts improved sound quality, but retains the same cover and liner notes as the original. NB: On 21 October 1958, Cliff added his vocals to pre-recorded backing tracks of seven songs which were used on Parlophone’s Jack Good’s Oh Boy! LP – cashing in on the success of the ABC-TV show. The album was presented as if it was a live recording, but was actually taped in Abbey Road’s No. 2 studio without an audience.

7 MARCH 1962 (2 identical shows) – ABC KINGSTON
During Cliff and the Shadows’ gruelling round of one night stands early in 1962, Columbia taped two live performances at the ABC Theatre in Kingston, Surrey. The tapes were intended to fill an album, provisionally entitled The Cliff Richard Show with one side devoted to the Shadows, the other to Cliff. The repertoire for these shows was intriguing, as familiar hits like Move It, Living Doll and Gee Whiz It’s You were replaced by material that Cliff never recorded in the studio. These included the rocker Dim Dim The Lights (as recorded in the 50s by Bill Haley), the Ray Charles R&B classic I Got A Woman, the gospel track Save My Soul and the country-tinged Rovin’ Gambler. But the undoubted highlight was the medley of songs from the film The Young Ones. It began with Lessons In Love and ended with a rousing We Say Yeah. Once the tapes were delivered to Abbey Road, EMI’s in-house engineers set to work. An internal ‘tape review’ dated 22 March 1962, just over a fortnight after the concerts, noted that “There are a number of problems that occur in the tape, including distortion, level changes, etc, due to the conditions under which it was recorded. These are to be remedied at a later date, when a corrected copy tape will be made.” Two weeks later, producer Norrie Paramor sent Abbey Road a reminder: “I should be grateful if you could supply as soon as possible flat transfer Mono lacquers of the equalised and compressed tape. This is very urgent and any hold-up would delay the release of this potentially fast-moving record.” Within the week, Paramor received the lacquers he requested, and then he prepared a slightly edited version of one of the shows – where upon the project quietly disappeared from EMI’s schedules. Why was the album never released? Presumably Norrie Paramor felt that it wasn’t up to scratch. It’s difficult to see any other reason, because Cliff’s next album 32 Minutes And 17 Seconds, didn’t appear until October, and The Cliff Richard Show could have been in the shops by June.

Cliff In Japan contained the first ‘real’ love recordings on vinyl – and the first of four batches of Japanese concerts taped officially. Cliff was backed by a Japanese orchestra, conducted by Norrie Paramor, on this set of current album material and recent hits. Unfortunately, the closing medley of Let’s Make A Memory through to say We Say Yeah failed to match the excitement of the originals. Two tracks, Bachelor Boy and It’s All In The Game were only issued on the Japanese edition of Cliff In Japan. The British release was eventually issued on CD in 1992. Several tracks from this show remain unreleased: In The Country, Angel, The Day I Met Marie, The Next Time, Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Good Golly Miss Molly.

30/31 MAY – 1 JUNE 1968 (3 identical shows) – TALK OF THE TOWN, LONDON
By 1968, Cliff and the Shadows had decided to pursue totally separate careers, although Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch did tour with Cliff as part of Marvin, Welch & Farrar in the early 70s. When these three identical, Shadow-less sets were recorded at London’s prestigious nightclub, Cliff had long since changed from a rebellious rock ‘n’ roll star to a mainstream cabaret performer, though he managed to retain his teenage fans. The Live At The Talk Of The Town album, issued in 1970 on EMI’s budget label, Regal Starline (and released on CD in 1992) included fine performances of All My Love, Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon, and Visions but Something Good and When I’m 64 were less impressive. For the album, EMI chose to ignore the renditions of his earlier hits, leaving the medley that began with The Young Ones and ended with In The Country unreleased.

After the demise of the Shadows, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch formed Marvin, Welch & Farrar, who accompanied Cliff on his 1972 Japanese tour, along with Alan Hawkshaw and Brian Bennett and vocalists Olivia Newton-John and Pat Carroll. The entire set of songs were featured on the Japanese only release Live In Japan, a selection of the best tracks from this mix of recent hits and standards eventually saw UK release as Cliff Live in 1976.

Once Cliff had taken the decision to undertake regular gospel tours, it was an obvious move for him to devote a live album to his love of inspirational music. Cliff reverted to the live-in-the-studio format of his debut LP for this project, Help It Along. Barrie Guard’s orchestra overdubbed strings on 26 September, confirming that the object of this exercise was to produce an album that sounded good rather than a 100 percent faithful document of a concert performance. Several tracks from the sessions remain unissued: Reflections, Jesus Is My Kind Of People, I’ve Got Confidence, One Fine Day, Streets Of London and Chaser.

Of the three albums recorded solely for release in the Far East, Japan Tour 1974 stands out, with its excellent mix of hits, rock ‘n’ roll classics and contemporary material. The high calibre of musicians like Alan Tarney, Kevin Peek and Trevor Spencer combined to make this a far better buy than any of the then more recent live releases. This is a very difficult set to track down these days and a CD release featuring the four unissued tracks (Living In Harmony, Nothing To Remind Me, The Next Time and Wind Me Up) is long overdue.

Reunited on stage for the first time in 10 years, Cliff and the Shadows celebrated their 20th anniversary at the London Palladium – the site of many of their early success in concert and in pantomime. The two acts performed both separately and together, allowing EMI the chance to issue their first UK recorded live album for a decade, Thank You Very Much which included four songs by the Shadows: Shadoogie, Atlantis, Nivram and Apache. Two of Cliff’s songs from the show remain unreleased: Up In Canada and Yes He Lives.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra were Cliff’s back-up band for this show at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall. It was an unusual combination but it produced a refreshingly enjoyable album, Dressed For The Occasion. Besides recent hits like Green Light, Miss You Nights and Devil Woman, it included several tracks Cliff hadn’t recorded before like Softly As I Leave You and Treasure Of Love. The old Buddy Holly hit True Love Ways provided Cliff with a Top 10 hit single. Four songs (Daddy’s Home, You, Me And Jesus, Little Town and Discovering) remain unreleased from this performance.

Probably the biggest challenge of Cliff’s career, came when he gave two shows to a combined audience of 144,000 people at Wembley Stadium. The format was based around the 1950s TV show Oh Boy! with guest appearances from veterans of the era like the Dallas Boys, the Kalin Twins and the Vernon Girls – all featured on the album, From A Distance – The Event, alongside Cliff, the Shadows and the Oh Boy! Band. During his set, Cliff performed Move It with the help of two of the original Shads, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan. But his full set with the 1989 Shadows contributed only two songs to the album, The Young Ones and In The Country. The remainder of their set, from Bachelor Boy, Willie And The Hand Jive, Living Doll, Please Don’t Tease to Dynamite and It’ll Be Me remains unreleased. So are the following songs from the final set, which feature Cliff with a much larger backing group; Dreamin’, Daddy’s Home, Two Hearts, Joanna, Remember Me, Stronger Than That, Miss You Nights, Just Don’t Have The Heart and The Best Of Me.

Once again, Cliff and the Shadows teamed up to revive some of their biggest hits, as part of the all-star line-up at the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Clinic benefit show. Their entire set was broadcast live on BBC Radio 1, but only On The Beach and Do You Wanna Dance were included on Knebworth – The Album