148. ‘Summer Holiday’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows

The doors are locked, the suitcases stowed in the boot, the dog’s at the kennels. Dad starts the car and mum turns to the kids in the backseat. We’re all going on a summer holiday… she sings… No more working for a week or two…

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Summer Holiday, by Cliff Richard (his 7th of fourteen #1s) & The Shadows (their 11th of twelve #1s)

2 weeks, from 14th – 28th March / 1 week, from 4th – 11th April 1963 (3 weeks total)

Chances are, if you had any sort of semi-regular, middle-class British childhood in the latter half of the twentieth century, you will have lived through that very scene. I know I have – more than once. There can’t be many better known #1 hits than this? I’m racking my brain to think of chart-toppers that more people will know the words to, and I can come up with ‘Hey Jude’, and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…

We’re goin’ where the sun shines brightly, We’re goin’ where the sea is blue, We’ve seen it in the movies, Now let’s see if it’s true… It’s a horrendously twee song. The jaunty guitar ‘riff’, the glockenspiel, the strings that are apparently now a constant part of Cliff’s musical journey… And those lyrics. So we’re goin’ on a summer holiday, To make our dreams come tr-u-u-u-ue… Fo-or me and you… ‘Trite’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Then there’s the key-change, and the humming to fade. Humming!

This should be an awful song. It is awful. And yet, it’s not. Not really. Because deep down in even the hardest, most cynical and blackened hearts there remains a kernel of the-child-that-was. And that little kid, in the backseat of his family’s Ford Escort, cares not for the sickeningly perky guitar and the vomit-inducing lyrics; to him it is simply the sound of, well, the summer holidays.

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This song is Cliff doing what he does best. Cliff at his Cliffest. Peak Cliff. This will be his last chart-topper for a while, and it’s kind of fitting that we pause here. ‘Summer Holiday’ draws to an end his teeny-bopper stage – very soon he’ll be usurped by a four-piece from Liverpool as Britain’s foremost pop-act of the age. And it’s the perfect song to do so with, as any lingering hope that Cliff was Britain’s great rock ‘n’ roll hope is finally, brutally, irrevocably snuffed out in this record’s opening chords. Looking back at his seven #1s so far, only ‘Please Don’t Tease’ came anywhere close to being a rocker; and even then it was a super-mild rocker. The coconut korma of rock ‘n’ roll records. ‘Summer Holiday’ is, of course, one of the songs that Cliff performed on Wimbledon’s Centre Court during that rain delay, a moment still commemorated every year in Middle England’s village halls…

‘Summer Holiday’ is also the second chart-topping record from the hit movie of the same name, after ‘The Next Time’ / ‘Bachelor Boy’. Which is impressive – not many movies spawn two #1s (and it’s not finished with the chart-toppers yet!)

It also, and this is something that’s just came to me, confirms ‘Summer’ as the biggest single theme in pop music, after Christmas. We’ve already had ‘Here Comes Summer’ by Jerry Keller as a chart-topper in 1959, and I can think of at least three more summer-themed number ones through the years (there are surely others…) Which makes it all the odder that winter was barely finished when this song actually topped the charts… The power of Cliff! Even the seasons couldn’t contain him!

14 thoughts on “148. ‘Summer Holiday’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows

  1. badfinger20

    A culture question for you… Did a lot of British children and parents go to holiday camps? I have read that some did. Two weeks at a time.
    Over here we would usually go to beaches and it’s a free for all.

    1. Yeah, they were definitely a big thing for ‘working class’ families from the fifties through to the eighties. Butlins and Pontins were the main two. In fact, a lot of British pop stars started their careers as holiday camp entertainers. Once European holidays became more affordable the camps became less popular, but a handful are still around

      1. badfinger20

        Thank you for answering that…sorry to go off topic. I have seen it mentioned but didn’t know how common it was among people to take them.

        It sounds kinda cool on the surface having everything for everyone in one place.

      2. That’s alright. I think 50 years ago they were the place to go… and a lot of them probably haven’t seen any renovation in those 50 years. But if British Holiday Camps had an anthem, it’d be ‘Summer Holdiday.’

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