Behind the #1s – Norrie Paramor

We’ve covered 210 chart-toppers so far in this countdown, going from the very first chart through to Nancy Sinatra and her boots in early 1966. And it’s only fair that we turn our attention to the man that, up to now, has been involved in more of these #1 singles than anybody else, more than Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Bacharach and David…! Norrie Paramor.

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Born in 1913, Paramor had worked as a pianist and arranger through the thirties and forties, before being appointed recording director at EMI in 1952 – the very year that the singles chart he was to help shape began. Having developed his sound during the light-programme, easy listening days, Paramor was perfectly positioned to help the pre-rock stars sway (albeit gently). He was responsible for trumpeter Eddie Calvert’s hits, and the Northern-Irish warbler Ruby Murray’s ‘Softly, Softly’. Then there was Michael Holliday. Already a pretty impressive body of chart-topping work… And it was about to become all the more impressive, because along came Cliff.

Cliff Richard has had eight number ones so far in our countdown, all of which have been produced by Norrie Paramor. And each time I’ve complained that ‘rock ‘n’ roll Cliff’ was nowhere to be seen… Britain’s answer to Elvis etc. etc. Yeah right. He had a handful of truly rocking singles in ’58, but by the time he’d gotten down to the business of topping the charts the rock had become more of a gentle toe-tap. And a lot of that was probably down to Paramor. He wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll producer; he was a light-entertainment, easy listening kind of guy. I get the feeling he wasn’t convinced by rock and roll, probably saw it as a fad, and was willing to allow it as long as it was successful. Still, he moulded Cliff’s sound. One wonders how Cliff would have turned out had he had someone else’s hands on the tiller…

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(An early pic of Paramor, Cliff and The Shadows)

Of course, wherever Cliff went The Shadows weren’t far off. Paramor produced all of their chart-toppers too. Which makes for a more interesting comparison of styles, as discs like ‘Kon-Tiki’ and ‘Dance On!’ were actually pretty rocking little numbers. Perhaps it’s unfair, then, to write Paramor off as a dinosaur. Add to this the fact that he also oversaw Helen Shapiro’s wonderful 1961 chart-topping double – the bubbly ‘Walkin’ Back to Happiness’ and the melodramatic ‘You Don’t Know’ – and it’s clear that he wasn’t all bad…

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(Paramor with Cliff, again, and Helen Shapiro in the early sixties)

Wait, though… On the flip side of this particular coin lies one Frank Ifield. Yep, Norrie Paramor produced all four #1s from ‘The Year of Ifield’, pre-rock’s final hurrah before The Beatles and The Pacemakers saved us all… The yodelling horror that is ‘Lovesick Blues’ remains, for me, far worse than anything that Cliff has inflicted.

A mixed bag, then, from Norrie Paramor, prolific producer of the chart’s early years. In total (I think, it’s hard to keep track) he put his name to around twenty five chart-topping singles before the seventies arrived. He also acted as musical director for the Eurovision Song Contest, and wrote multiple film scores, before passing away in 1979. And, in a sentimental twist, the artist that was sitting at #1 in the UK as Paramor drew his final breath, with his first chart-topper in over a decade, was… Cliff!

149. ‘Foot Tapper’, by The Shadows

Once again, The Shadows replace themselves at #1, and all I have to say is ‘Thank God!’ Thank God that ‘Summer Holiday’ wasn’t their final UK chart topper. For the group that contributed more to British rock ‘n’ roll than any other act to bow out from the top spot with a record as sickeningly twee and limp as that would have been a travesty.

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Foot Tapper, by The Shadows (their 12th and final #1)

1 week, from 28th March – 4th April 1963

Thank God for ‘Foot Tapper’, then, as it ensures that Hank, Bruce and the other two score their final number one with, in my opinion, the best of the lot. OK, ok, ‘Foot Tapper’ might not be as sweeping as ‘Apache’, as epic as ‘Wonderful Land’ and it might not rock as hard as ‘Kon-Tiki’; but it is an insanely catchy little number.

What does it consist of? A light and limber riff? Check. Natty little drum fills? Check. A bouncy bassline? Check. A super-appropriate title? Check. (Go on – press play on the link below and watch your feet start tappin’.) Unlike their previous #1, ‘Dance On’, this one really does get you moving. This record just has a joie de vivre about it, a certain je ne sais quoi… It’s a song of such special potency that it’s got me speaking French.

It’s a very fitting way to round off three months of unparalleled Shadows dominance in the UK Singles charts. We’ve had The Shadows with Cliff twice (‘The Next Time’ and ‘Summer Holiday’), we’ve had solo-Shadows (‘Dance On!’ and now this) and we’ve had ex-Shadows (‘Diamonds’ from Jet Harris and Tony Meehan). They’ve replaced themselves at the top twice this year already, and now sit right behind Elvis Presley himself as the act with the most #1s in chart history. (Skip forward forty-six years, and The Shadows still remain joint-fifth in the all-time #1s list – level with Take That, and behind only Elvis, The Beatles, Cliff, Westlife and Madonna.)

And while we’re on the theme of Dominance, it is worth noting that ‘Foot Tapper’ is the 3rd chart-topper to be taken from the soundtrack to ‘Summer Holiday’. I’m not sure that there has ever been a more successful soundtrack than that. And… these Cliff ‘n’ Shadows number ones over the past few months have all been produced by the same man: Norrie Paramor. The same Paramor that also produced the only non-Shadows chart-topper of 1963 so far, Frank Ifield’s ‘The Wayward Wind’. So it could be argued that it is he that truly has the charts in a chirpy, string-drenched stranglehold.

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Back to the record in question, though, and I am not alone in holding ‘Foot Tapper’ in high-regard. The tune was, of course, the theme to ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ on Radio 2 – a show that I’ve mentioned before and will happily mention again whenever the opportunity arises. This meant that, no matter what tunes had been played in the preceding two hours – Procol Harum, Velvet Underground, experimental Scott Walker ‘B’-sides… – the last tune you always heard was this. Da-da-da-doo-doo, Doo-doo-dun-dun-da-da…

And so. We arrive at the end of an era. And I don’t just mean in the sense that we’ll never hear from The Shadows again. I mean that this is officially the end of the ‘rock ‘n’ roll age’, which we’ve been wading through ever since Bill Haley shouted ‘One, two, three o’clock…’ back in November 1955. Because of this I’m going to break my own rules slightly and do the next recap one song early (Gasp!) The first number one single after said recap will then be the starting pistol for perhaps the biggest, most influential movement in British popular music history! I’m excited! Are you…?

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!

146. ‘Diamonds’, by Jet Harris & Tony Meehan

Here’s a record I’d never heard before; and a rockin’ little record it is too. A hidden ‘gem’ (gettit?) of a record. Not to rag on the previous #1, ‘Dance On!’, too much, but this is how you do instrumental rock ‘n’ roll!

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Diamonds, by Jet Harris & Tony Meehan (their 1st and only #1s)

3 weeks, from 31st January – 21st February 1963

We start with a cool drum intro, and then a riff straight from the spaghetti-est of spaghetti westerns. Imagine the villain of the piece striding over a sun-baked hill, heat-haze rising around him. He stops and fixes the camera with a thousand-yard stare, spitting his tobacco over the dusty ground…

Then we get horns – Ba! Babababa-Ba! – and it feels as if the sixties, the ‘Swinging Sixties’ ™ are born. It goes from menacing to groovy in 0.5 seconds. First ‘Lovesick Blues’, and now this, have had what I would call a quintessentially ‘sixties’ sound – the sound that will define the next three or four years. And it’s great, the call and response from the brass section, but it’s not the best thing about this record. Because next we get…

A. Drum. Solo. In a number one hit single. I kid you not. What I thought the reserve of eighties hair metal bands and Phil Collins were around as early as 1963! I wish I could somehow describe it; but how on earth can you describe a drum solo? It lasts a good twenty seconds – one-tenth of the whole record! – and is great. That’s my official line on it. ‘Great.’

This whole song sounds familiar. But not. Like The Shadows… But not. It almost sounds as if it’s been recorded by The Shadows alter-egos, as if Hank, Bruce and the boys were moonlighting as darker, less clean-cut, slightly more evil versions of themselves…

Which may be a fitting description, as the two men playing on this record – Jet Harris and Tony Meehan – were (dun dun dun!) ex-Shadows. Harris, who we’ve heard playing bass on all but one Shadows chart-topper, had left the group in 1962 because of his drinking habits. Meehan, he of drum solo fame, had left a few months before that to go into producing. Thus, in the space of a few weeks we’ve had The Shadows supporting Cliff at #1 with ‘The Next Time / Bachelor Boy’, then going it alone with ‘Dance On!’, and now two former band members taking their turn at the top. Utter Shadows domination of the UK charts!

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I’m not sure if Harris and Meehan were on good terms with the other band members after their departures, but I do like the image of the pair celebrating their revenge in knocking their former band off the top of the charts. Interestingly (perhaps…) is the fact that Meehan left in October 1961, when ‘Kon-Tiki’ was at #1, and Harris left in April ’62, when ‘Wonderful Land’ was in the middle of its run at the top. Going out on a high, I suppose. The pair never re-joined The Shadows; but did occasionally collaborate during the eighties and nineties. Meehan died in 2005, Harris in 2011.

If we were to make this into a contest – Shadows Vs Ex-Shadows – then the latter win, hands down. ‘Diamonds’ is a clearly superior record to ‘Dance On!’. But… Harris and Meehan’s solo careers were short lived; almost at a one-hit-wonder level. While The Shadows are one of the most successful British groups of all time. ‘Diamonds’, though, stays with you: that riff and those horns running through your head long after the record has stopped.

Two interesting tit-bits before I finish. In 1962, Tony Meehan had the chance to sign The Beatles for Decca Records. He turned them down… And, the rhythm guitar on ‘Diamonds’ was played by one Jimmy Page, in one of his first session musician, pre-Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin gigs. Which is as close as one of the most famous guitarists in the history of rock ‘n’ roll will ever get to a #1 single!

145. ‘Dance On!’, by The Shadows

I might have suggested in my last post that Cliff and The Shadows utterly dominating the early months of 1963 would be a bad thing. I feel I spoke in haste; and would like to take it back. Especially when I see that The Shadows only have a handful of #1s left to come. We’ll be missing them soon enough.

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Dance On!, by The Shadows (their 10th of twelve #1s)

1 week, from 24th – 31st January 1963

Besides – this is a significant moment in British chart history. Fresh from accompanying Cliff on ‘The Next Time’ and ‘Bachelor Boy’, The Shadows now grab a week at the summit for themselves. Not content with being the first act to replace themselves at #1 – back when ‘Apache’ took over from ‘Please Don’t Tease’ – they’ve only gone and done it again!

And unlike their most recent releases, there’s neither a piano nor any strings in sight. It’s just the guitars, the bass and the drums – four boys having a tight little boogie. It’s unmistakably a Shadows record – you’d know as much when Hank Marvin’s lead guitar comes in on ten seconds. I like the bass here, and the way the main riff is drenched in echo. Plus the false endings, where the guitar crunches back to life like a motorbike revving, are cool.

These things aside, though, it is a bit of a throwaway disc. Nice enough, but you’ve pretty much forgotten how it went five seconds after it ends. It’s The Shadows at their most Russ Conway-ish: a decent melody in search of a purpose. Even the name of the record – ‘Dance On!’ – is pretty basic compared to the ‘Boy’s Own’ adventures conjured up by their earlier #1s: ‘Apache’ and ‘Kon-Tiki’They sounded as if they wanted to tell a story; this just wants you to shake your hips.

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Which, I suppose, is a fundamental aspect of pop music. That’s what it all boils down to at the end of the day: shaking your hips. And you never get the feeling that this record is trying to be anything more than something you can dance (on!) to. Which makes it kind of hard to write about…

There you have it, then. The Shadows follow Elvis in hitting a double-figured amount of chart-topping discs. Hurrah! And, if you thought them replacing themselves at the top for the second time was an impressive act of chart dominance, you’ll never believe who is about to cut short the reign of ‘Dance On!’ at the top …

144. ‘The Next Time’ / ‘Bachelor Boy’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows

As in 1962, the first number one of 1963 is by Cliff and his gang. New year; new Cliff? Well, kind of. His sound is changing… For the worse, mostly.

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The Next Time / Bachelor Boy, by Cliff Richard (his 6th of fourteen #1s) and The Shadows (their 9th of twelve #1s)

3 weeks, from 3rd – 24th January 1963

The first thing I noticed after pressing play on ‘The Next Time’ was that there’s an awful lot of piano. Previously, no matter how bland and soppy Cliff got – and he’s been plenty bland and soppy in his five previous chart-toppers – they were all guitar-led tracks. The Shadows are here, apparently, but quite why they were deemed necessary is beyond me. If I were Hank Marvin I wouldn’t have bothered getting out of bed for this one.

Away from the instruments, Cliff is properly crooning. They say I’ll love again someday, A true love will come my way, The ne-e-e-ext time… But after you there’ll never be a next time, Fo-o-o-or me… The song unravels at a snail’s pace, the verses and chorus blending together in a soggy mush. Lord, this is dull. It sounds like something Cliff should have been releasing in his forties; not when he was twenty-two!

There are lots of recurring themes here. It isn’t the first time that The Shadows have had their name on a disc to which their contribution was minimal (see ‘Travellin’ Light’.) It isn’t the first time that Cliff – the man who just three years ago was being hailed as Britain’s great rock ‘n’ roll hope – has released bland, saccharine crap (see ‘I Love You’.) But the more it happens the less I find I have the patience to listen to it.

By the time Cliff’s gone all nineties Hugh Grant, mumbling that he’s Still so very much in love… I’m over it. Grow some balls, Clifford. I can’t think of many previous #1s that were so lacking in oomph, so in need of a kick up the backside.

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Can the flip-side of this double-‘A’ redeem it? Well, straight away I’m getting strong whiffs of ‘Whatever Will Be Will Be’, both in the lilting rhythm and in the lyrics. When I was young, My father said, ‘Son I have something to say…’ And what he told me, I’ll never forget, Until my dying day… What is it that his dad imparts, in this testosterone-fuelled ‘Que Sera Sera?’ Well… Son you are a bachelor boy, And that’s the way to stay, Son you be a bachelor boy, Until your dying day…

Why his father is so anti-marriage is not explored, which is a shame, but Cliff wastes no time in putting Pop’s wise words into action. When I was sixteen, I fell in love, With a girl as sweet as can be, But I remembered just in time, What my daddy said to me… There’s no suggestion that he is staying unattached for any kind of racy, sow-my-wild-oats kind of reasons. No, not our saintly Cliff. He concedes, grudgingly, that he probably will fall in love eventually; though he doesn’t sound thrilled at the prospect. Until then though he’s Happy to be a bachelor boy… so on and so forth.

It’s better than ‘The Next Time’, but that’s a very low bar to get over. It’s faster paced, and at two minutes doesn’t outstay its welcome. I suppose this song would have been forgotten completely in the canon of British pop, even in the canon of Cliff, if it hadn’t become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: Sir Cliff has famously never married. Never even had a serious girlfriend, it seems. Which means that every time the ‘Daily Mail’ runs a story about Cliff and one of his female friends they will, without fail and to this very day, though he’s pushing eighty, trot out the ‘Bachelor Boy’ headlines. I bet he wishes he’d never recorded the bloody song.

Of course, there have always been rumours that Cliff is something of a ‘confirmed bachelor’, ‘not the marrying kind’, a ‘friend of you-know-who’ if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge… And people always argue that, in these enlightened times, he should just come out with it. But when you’ve been courting the evangelical Christian market for decades, and risk losing the only people that still buy your records in doing so… Anyway, all this is neither here nor there. The fact that I’ve started blethering on about this rather than the chart-topping record in question is a sign that I should wrap up.

Both ‘The Next Time’ and ‘Bachelor Boy’ featured on the soundtrack to ‘Summer Holiday’ – Cliff’s latest box-office smash (the 2nd biggest movie of 1963). And I hope you’re ready for more from Cliff and more from The Shadows, because they are going to utterly dominate the first three months of this year. Yay….

134. ‘Wonderful Land’, by The Shadows

In the wake of Elvis scoring his tenth #1 single, The Shadows are just about keeping up the pace with their eighth. With added strings! And horns!

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Wonderful Land, by The Shadows (their 8th of twelve #1s)

8 weeks, from 22nd March – 17th May 1962

Just as they did with Cliff on ‘The Young Ones’, Hank, Bruce and the boys have gone all orchestral. ‘Wonderful Land’ soars high, off above the clouds and away, sounding for all the world like the theme to a middle-of-the-road Western.

I wonder – as I wondered with Cliff on ‘The Young Ones’ – if the band were looking to broaden their appeal, to go after the teeny-boppers and their parents (and maybe even their grandparents). Whatever the plan – it clearly worked. Only two other records in the whole of the 1960s spent eight weeks at number one.

Personally, I am really struggling to see why this record connected in such a way with the general, record-buying public. It’s nice enough; but eight weeks at the top of the charts…? It’s not that nice. I’ll refer back to my complaint about previous instrumental chart-toppers – that an instrumental simply has to try that much harder than a song with lyrics. The lyrics are what draw you in, are 70% of what you remember about a song. Ok, ok, so you might remember a riff, or an intro, or a guitar solo – but not in the same way that you connect with a song’s lyrics. It means that, to me, instrumental records remain a little abstract; difficult to truly love. A few instrumentals get it so, so right (‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White’, by ‘Prez’ Prado) while most fall flat to some degree (‘Side Saddle’, by Russ Conway.) For me, ‘Wonderful Land’ falls into the latter category. But maybe I’m just a philistine.

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I do like the bit with the jingly-jangly guitars, the flickery bit… I have no idea what the official guitaring terminology is… Lightly-plucked? It’s cool, and drenched in an other-worldly echo. And ‘Wonderful Land’ gets a lot of love – even to this day – as one of The Shadows best songs. But I enjoyed their previous chart-topper, the crunchy, surfy ‘Kon-Tiki’, more than this. What do I know?

I feel like I should be giving a record such as this – a colossal, chart-humping giant of a record – more of a write-up. But I’m pretty much out of things to say. It’s not like this is the last we’ll hear from The Shadows – they’ll be back soon enough (with much better songs!) Still, worthy of note is the fact that, after 1961 gave us lots of one-week chart-toppers, lots of bye-roads to wander up and get lost in; the first three #1 singles of 1962 have taken us right into the middle of May!

132. ‘The Young Ones’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows

We enjoyed/suffered through (delete according to personal preference) a Cliff-less 1961. But Britain’s great rock ‘n’ roll hope kicks off 1962 with… (pause for dramatic effect)… his most famous hit?

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The Young Ones, by Cliff Richard (his 5th of fourteen #1s) and The Shadows (their 7th of twelve #1s)

6 weeks, from 11th January – 22nd February 1962

OK, there are the Christmas songs. And ‘Summer Holiday’. And ‘Congratulations’… Let’s just say that this is his most famous song not about festivities and/or vacations. Though this latest chart-topper is a celebration of sort – a celebration of being young!

Its starts with some Shadows ™ guitar, before Cliff comes in with his gossamer-light voice… The young ones, Darlin’ we’re the young ones, And the young ones, Shouldn’t be afraid… I am slightly loathe to admit it, but I have missed that voice of late… To live, Love, While the flame is young, ‘Cause we may not be the young ones very long… Any song performed by The Shadows and sung by Cliff can’t fail to be of a certain standard. It may well be cheesy, and the lyrics might be very trite, but downright bad? Unlikely.

And ‘The Young Ones’ does have its moments. I love the beat-band drum fills, while the guitars are very reminiscent of Buddy Holly’s mid-tempo hits – ‘Heartbeat’, ‘Maybe Baby’ and the like. Yet it’s far from perfect –  corny couplets like: Oh I need you, And you need me, Oh my darlin’, Can’t you see…? make sure of that.

And then there are the violins. Yep, Cliff’s gone orchestral. By the end the strings are swirling and cascading, drowning out Hank and Bruce’s guitars. (I can’t help wondering if this was one of those tracks, like the minimalist ‘Travellin’ Light’, on which The Shadows were a little bored…) I had to double-check that I was listening to the original version, rather than some kind of polished re-release… I’d see this as Cliff’s attempt to move away from teeny-bop discs like ‘Please Don’t Tease’ and ‘I Love You’ – his bid for adult-artist longevity.

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In that regard it’s a very clever record. The lyrics are about being young; and yet the production is very grown-up. It isn’t enough of a departure to alienate the screaming fifteen year-olds, but it’s classy enough to get grandma interested. And there’s a bittersweet edge to the closing lyrics that will appeal to mum and dad: And someday, When the years have flown, Darlin’ then we’ll teach the young ones, Of our own…

I wouldn’t call it a sell-out in the same way that Elvis prancing about in Lederhosen singing ‘Wooden Heart’ was a sell-out. Because, let’s face it, Cliff has never – in terms of his chart-topping singles, at least – managed to justify his tag as Britain’s foremost rock ‘n’ roller. From the opening chords of his first #1 he’s been planted firmly in the middle of the road. But… Something definitely clicked here, and his career has kicked up a gear. Thanks to its role on the soundtrack to Cliff’s movie of the same name, ‘The Young Ones’ had built up a staggering 500,000 pre-orders before its release, meaning that it rocketed straight in to the charts at Number One – only the 3rd single (and the 1st single not released by a certain Elvis Presley) to do so. It remains his biggest seller in the UK.

And its legacy was such that twenty years later it became the theme tune to BBC sitcom ‘The Young Ones’, in which Rik Mayall played a lisping, tantrum-throwing, anarchy-loving Cliff fan. The joke of course being that, by 1982, young people with any aspirations towards being cool couldn’t possibly be Cliff fans. But, the eighties are a long way off yet in our world. It’s January of 1962, Cliff and The Shadows are the biggest pop-stars in the country, and they’ve just scored their biggest hit yet. Though, as with all of us, they may not be the young ones very long…

126. ‘Kon-Tiki’, by The Shadows

As we continue our slow meander along the highways and bye-ways of 1961 –it does feel that this year is taking a little longer to get through than previous ones – it’s time for a little interlude.

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Kon-Tiki, by The Shadows (their 6th of twelve #1s)

1 week, from 5th – 12th October 1961

Picture, if you possibly can, the year 1961 as a TV variety show. On the bill are some huge, established stars – Elvis, the Everlys, Shirley Bassey – along with some new up and coming teen sensations – Johnny Tillotson, Helen Shapiro – and some quirky little gems – Floyd Cramer and The Temperance Seven. Maybe Cliff – who won’t actually be hitting #1 this year – can be the MC. OK? Well, to this weird mental image you can add the house band, the ones that pop up and play as the curtains drop and the scenery gets shifted. They are, of course, The Shadows.

‘Kon-Tiki’ is another instrumental. A lilting little slice of surf-rock. It’s got cool drum-fills, a nice crunchy, tinny edge to the guitars and a hint of reverb around the main riff. There’s a couple of call and response bits between the lead and the bass, and the ending has some gnarly (did they say ‘gnarly’ in the early sixties?) echo. It’s a decent enough record – I’m not sure that the Shadows made many poor ‘solo’ records – but when it ends less than two minutes in you’re left wondering… Is that it?

It’s far from being one of their bigger hits (I wasn’t particularly familiar with it before starting this post) and it kind of feels like filler. Something thrown together as the guys were jamming. A ‘B’-side, maybe? But hey, what do I know. It was a UK number one single; only the band’s second solo chart-topper.

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The Kon-Tiki was actually a raft used in a 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean by the Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl. ‘Kon-Tiki’ was chosen as it was an old name for the Incan sun-god. What all this had to do in inspiring the writing of this perky guitar instrumental is, to be honest, unknown. My best guess is that it sounds kinda tropical, kinda surfy, and could work well as the soundtrack to a sunset luau on the beaches of Hawaii. Compared to ‘Apache’, which really did conjure up images of Indian braves galloping across the plains, ‘Kon-Tiki’ is a little more abstract.

Maybe that’s fine, though. It’s a nice enough tune, a pleasant one-week interlude on our journey through 1961. It reminds us that The Shadows are still around, are still the biggest British band of the time. Maybe it needs no further meaning than that.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, it does feel like we’ve been lingering in 1961 for quite a while now. In actual fact, with twenty-one number one singles, 1961 has by far the most chart-toppers of any year yet covered. But that’s OK. It’s proving a nice place to be. Jazz, rock, showtunes, instrumentals… all genres are welcome here. And, if you thought it’s been eclectic recently; just wait till you hear what’s up next!

110. ‘I Love You’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows

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.’

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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.

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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!