Can there have been a more basic title in the history of popular music? This is what pretty much every rock and pop disc ever recorded boils down to – the sediment left at the bottom of the barrel once the distilling process is over… ‘I Love You.’
I Love You, by Cliff Richard (his 4th of fourteen #1s) & The Shadows (their 5th of twelve #1s)
2 weeks, from 29th December 1960 – 12th January 1961
And it ain’t just the title that’s basic. Everything about this latest chart-topper has a bare-bones, doing-the-bare-minimum, holding-pattern feel. The plodding guitars, the solo that struggles to find a pulse, the lyrics… (*shudder*) Oh, the lyrics…
Your love means more to me than, All the apples hangin’ on a tree, And like those apples, Our love will grow, Because I… I love you… Yup. Then a bunch of similarly trite bletherings about fishes in the sea and how Cliff needs his girl near to him more than she could ever know, and then the piece de resistance: Everyone knows one and one is two, I’ll be the one, And the other one’s you…
I mean, you could moan and nit-pick, but are these lyrics really worth the time or the effort? I think what makes this record sound particularly bland is the fact that Cliff’s last effort ‘Please Don’t Tease’ showed catchy promise, while The Shadows last #1, ‘Apache’ was a bona-fide little masterpiece. What did they make of this record? Their dreamy guitar licks are the highlight of this track, licks that are rapidly becoming both a trademark and the sound of 1960, but they were clearly capable of so much more. Though ‘I Love You’ was actually written by Bruce Welsh, AKA rhythm guitarist for The Shadows, so… Either way, this is the sound of Cliff – who, let us not forget, is fairly tame at the best of times – undergoing a complete castration. It’s music for five-year-olds, the closest we’ve come to having a lullaby at the top of the charts. I’d liken ‘I Love You’ to ‘Living Doll’ – the Cliff track that it has the most in common with – but that at least had creepy sex-doll lyrics to pique the listener’s interest.
Having put my opening statement through more serious consideration, the ‘I Love You’ sentiment obviously doesn’t cover every pop song ever written. There’s the ‘I Used to Love You’ songs, the ‘I Wish You Loved Me’ songs, the ‘I Still Love You, But You Don’t Love Me’ songs, the ‘I’m Not Sure About Love But I’d Really Like to Bang You’ songs… In fact, there are precious few pop songs in the canon with such a relentlessly optimistic view of love as ‘I Love You’ (after all, only seven songs by this title have ever made the UK charts). I take it all back – this record is nigh on unique! But that doesn’t make it sound any better. Frankly, it could do with a bit of lust, a bit of regret, a bit of SOMETHING just to make it mildly interesting.
It does at least give us a first sighting of the two titans of early sixties pop knocking one another about at the top of the charts: Cliff replacing Elvis just in time for the new year. And this won’t be the last time that these two follow one another in and out of pole position. I’d even go so far as to suggest that the only other artist whose star power could have dragged this silly little ditty to #1 would have been Elvis Aaron. In the hands of any other singer this would have #12 hit written all over it. Too dull to be any good; not bad enough to be of any interest. Next!