106. The Shadows – Apache (1960)

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From 25 August to 11 September 1960, Great Britain and Northern Ireland competed in the Olympics, held in Rome. It wasn’t a great performance, with only two gold medals, six silver and 12 bronze brought home. On the same day, Cliff Richard and the Shadows were deposed from the top of the charts by… the Shadows (with a cameo from Cliff). This unusual turn of events came about because the Shadows had a recording contract separate to their one as a backing band for the UK’s most popular artist at the time. Their instrumental, Apache, is of course one of the most memorable and evocative pre-Beatles UK singles, and catapulted them to super-stardom, making Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris and Tony Meeham the first backing band to step out of the shadows (sorry) and become as popular as their frontman.

As previously stated in my blogs for Living Doll and Travellin’ Light, the Shadows were originally known as the Drifters, and none of the original line-up remained by 1960. When Cliff recorded his first hit, the influential Move It, the band consisted of founder Ken Pavey, Terry Smart, Norman Mitham and Ian Samwell. Samwell had written Move It, but only he and Smart were allowed to play on the recording, and that had taken some persuasion. By the time of the recording of Living Doll, the famous line-up was in place. Hank Marvin, the guitar wizard and most well-known band member, had been hired partly due to his Buddy Holly-style spectacles. Originally, Tony Sheridan, who later recorded My Bonnie with the Beatles, had been in the frame. Jet Harris had christened the group the Shadows just before their second number 1,  Travellin’ Light. The four-piece had released a few of their own singles, but none made it to the charts, until they struck gold with Apache.

Singer-songwriter Jerry Lordan’s tune I’ve Waited So Long had been a hit for Anthony Newley in 1959, and his biggest solo hit, Who Could Be Bluer?, was produced by George Martin, and performing well when Lordan was supporting the Shadows early in 1960. He had been watching the 1954 western Apache, starring Burt Lancaster, and was inspired to write an instrumental on his ukelele. He presented the tune to the Shadows on the tour bus. The influential guitarist Burt Weedon had recorded a version, yet to be released, but Lordan wasn’t a fan, and figured the Shadows could make a better job of it. He wasn’t wrong.

Apache begins with foreboding beats, achieved by none other than Cliff himself, banging away on a Chinese drum. This was the first time Cliff had sounded dangerous since Move It. And it certainly makes for a more effective sound than the impressions of Indians that feature on Johnny Preston’s Running Bear. That famous, hazy surf guitar sound that then enters and really makes Apache came about when cockney singer Joe Brown gave away his echo chamber to Hank Marvin, who played around with it and the tremolo arm of his Fender Stratocaster. You can laugh at how nice and polite the Shadows used to look now, with their funny little choreographed walk and beaming faces, but Apache is a hell of a performance, sounding dangerous, modern, and very cool, as well as achieving what Lordan wanted from the track  – namely something that brought to mind the drama, courage and savagery of the Indians in Burt Lancaster’s film. Although the spotlight falls on Marvin, this is a group performance, and the other three really shine too.

Bizarrely, Norrie Paramor, who usually had a great ear for a hit and had produced plenty of chart-toppers, wasn’t that keen at first, and neither were their record label. Paramor preferred The Quatermasster’s Stores, but admitted at 40 he was perhaps growing out-of-touch, and let his teenage daughter decide. She picked ‘the Indian one’, and Apache slowly creeped to number 1 for five weeks, inspiring countless guitarists. Cliff was gracious and found the idea of being usurped by his own band amusing, and no bad blood resulted.

Of course, Apache went further than influencing rock’n’roll. Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band, a project started by MGM executive Viner, released the album Bongo Rock in 1973. The second track was a fantastic cover of Apache, featuring a now legendary drum break by Jim Gordon, formerly of Derek and the Dimons. That breakbeat became as ubiquitous to hip-hop as James Brown’s Funky Drummer, appearing in early DJ sets by pioneers such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. You’ll recognise it from the Sugarhill Gang’s fun version of Apache, from Grandmaster Flash’s The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel (both 1981), and the West Street Mob’s Break Dance (Electric Boogie) (1983), and they’re just the obvious ones. Why is Gordon not recognised for this contribution to modern music? Perhaps because in 1983, he murdered his mother during a psychotic episode. In fact, yes, I’m certain that’s why.

On 15 September, while Apache was still chopping down all competition, an evil scourge began stalking the streets of London, and life for motorists was never the same again. The dreaded traffic wardens were here, for good.

Written by: Jerry Lordan

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 5 (25 August-28 September)

Births:

Actor Hugh Grant – 9 September
Actor Colin Firth – 10 September
Actor Danny John-Jules – 16 September
Race car driver Damon Hill – 17 September 

Deaths:

Actress Amy Veness – 22 September
Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst – 27 September 

104. Cliff Richard and the Shadows – Please Don’t Tease (1960)

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30 July 1960: At the third Beaulieu Jazz Festival in Hampshire, riots break out between the teenage progressive jazz fans and the older trad jazz brigade. Following a stage invasion, 39 people were injured and a building was set on fire, causing the BBC to pull its coverage early.

So it would seem that teenage rebellion was to be found in the jazz world in 1960, because it’s hard to imagine anyone getting fired up to the sound of most of the number 1s of that year so far, and Cliff Richard and the Shadows’ Please Don’t Tease is certainly no exception. Cliff’s fans are to blame for his third chart-topper. In an unusual gimmick for the time, Columbia Records assembled a panel of youngsters to listen to a batch of unreleased tracks from Cliff and co, and Please Don’t Tease was the winner, with Nine Times Out of Ten the runner-up (it became the subsequent single, but didn’t make it to number 1). The fans picked well, as their hero’s last two singles only made it to number 2. Please Don’t Tease had been written by Shadows rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch and Pete Chester, son of comedian Charlie Chester. Hank Marvin and Welch had been in Chester’s band, the Five Chesternuts (groan) before joining Cliff Richard and the Drifters (as they were called originally).

It’s hard to write about this single, as it’s so flimsy it’s impossible to remember. It’s like a castrated version of Move It, that tries to sound like Elvis or Buddy Holly, but is so wet and polite, it’s laughable. Cliff’s getting mighty cross that his lady friend is messing him around. He’s sick to death of her playing it ‘oh so doggone cool’, and he’s so annoyed, ooh, he’s going to… ask her to please kindly refrain from teasing him, because it’s really upsetting him. Now I prefer a gentlemanly Cliff to the idea of him locking his girl up in a trunk, but come on Cliff, show some balls, please! And while you’re at it, please don’t ever attempt to sing the word ‘hurricane’ in an American accent again. Ah well, at least, like most 1960 songs, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Oh wait, it does. For some reason, Please Don’t Tease goes on for over three minutes. On the plus side, Marvin’s guitar solo is pretty good.

After a week at number 1, Johnny Kidd & the Pirates’ rightly toppled Cliff with the astounding Shakin’ All Over, but somehow Please Don’t Tease returned for a further fortnight at the top. What an injustice. During its second stint, Cyrpus gained independence from the UK, as of 16 August, and a day later, a five-piece performing in Hamburg, West Germany played their first concert under a new name. Would the Beatles stick with it? Only time would tell. And on 22 August, the first performance of the satirical review Beyond the Fringe took place in Edinburgh. Featuring Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore, the show received a lukewarm response until it moved to London.

Written by: Bruce Welch & Pete Chester

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 3 (28 July-3 August, 11-24 August) 

Births:

Darts player Phil Taylor – 13 August
Singer Sarah Brightman – 14 August 

92. Cliff Richard and the Shadows – Travellin’ Light (1959)

On 30 October, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club opened in Soho, London. One of the most renowned venues of its kind, some of the artists who later played there include Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Prince and Jimi Hendrix, in his final public performance. Two days later, the first section of the M1 opened, between Watford and Rugby. London Transport. 17 November saw Prestwick and Renfrew become the first UK airports to feature duty free shops.

During this period, and beyond, Cliff Richard enjoyed his second lengthy stay at number 1 of the year, after Living Doll had become the biggest-selling single of 1959. Since Living Doll, his backing band, the Drifters, had run into trouble. Unlike most backing bands at the time, they had signed a separate contract to Cliff, meaning they could release material on their own. Their first single, Feelin’ Fine, had to be withdrawn in the US when the manager of the famous soul group with the same name threatened legal action. The second single, Jet Black, was credited to The Four Jets, but manager Norrie Paramor suggested they needed to find a name and stick to it. That July while in a pub in Ruslip, bassist Jet Harris suggested to guitarist Hank Marvin they should be called The Shadows, and thus the name of one of the most famous bands of the next few years was finally settled. Ironically, Bobby Vee’s backing group were also called the Shadows, but Marvin and co didn’t know this, so tough. Travellin’ Light, written by Sid Tepper & Roy C Bennett, became their first single with their new name. Tepper and Bennett became two of Richards’ most frequent collaborators, and they also wrote many songs for Elvis Presley, particularly for his films.

Travellin’ Light is pretty much a rewrite of Living Doll, as close as you can get to following up a number 1 with a repeat of the same formula. It’s also quite similar to Roger Miller’s 1965 number 1, King of the Road – had he been listening to this? The production is also similar to before, but this time Cliff’s voice has been treated with a strong echo effect, and there’s some welcome twangy guitar flourishes from Marvin, that could have done to be louder in the mix. Cliff is on his way to see his girl, and he’s so excited he’s taken nothing with him. He can’t even be bothered with a comb or toothbrush, the dirty beggar. It’s an average country tune that would be better remembered if they’d at least tried to make it sound different to what had come before, but five weeks at number 1 suggests their fans were happy with more of the same.

Written by: Sid Tepper & Roy C Bennett

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 5 (30 October-3 December)

Births:

Actor Peter Mullan – 2 November
Actor Paul McGann – 14 November
Footballer Jimmy Quinn – 18 November
Politician Charles Kennedy – 25 November
Presenter Lorraine Kelly – 30 November
Actress Gwyneth Strong – 2 December

Deaths:

Pianist Albert Ketèlbey – 26 November

88. Cliff Richard and the Drifters – Living Doll (1959)

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‘Look out! Cliff!’ It’s hard to believe now, but when Sir Cliff Richard’s first single Move It narrowly missed out on number 1 to Connie Francis’s Carolina Moon/Stupid Cupid in 1958, he was considered edgy, and the closest we had to our own Elvis Presley. Tommy Steele’s impersonation of ‘the King’ on Singing the Blues was too similar, and he soon began concentrating on his film career. Unlike Elvis, Cliff was and is mainly a British phenomenon, and his cool image soon disappeared, and was forever replaced by that of the wholesome Christian entertainer. Not that it damaged his career of course. Cliff is the third biggest-selling artist in the history of the UK singles chart, behind The Beatles and Elvis, selling over 21 million in this country alone. This is the first of many staggering statistics – 67 UK top ten singles, 14 of which were number 1. Along with Elvis, he is the only act to make the chart in the first six decades, and is the only singer to have had number 1s from the 1950s through to the 90s. This is the story of Living Doll, his first.

Harry Rodger Webb had been born in Lucknow, British India on 14 October 1940. The Webbs had a modest life there, but following Indian Independence in 1948 they moved into a smaller semi-detached house in Carshalton, south London. The teenage Webb became keenly interested in skiffle, like so many future stars, and his father bought him a guitar for his 16th birthday. In 1957 he formed the Quintones, before becoming the singer in the Dick Teague Skiffle Group, and then the Drifters. This was, of course, not the US soul group of the same name. entrepreneur Harry Greatorex became their manager, and suggested Webb needed a name change if they were to get anywhere. He came up with ‘Cliff’– because it sounded like ‘rock’, and band member Ian Samwell thought Richard would make a great surname as a tribute to Little Richard. Together with drummer Terry Smart and guitarist Norman Mitham, they were now Cliff Richard and the Drifters, and Move It, penned by Samwell, stormed the charts. Cliff was a sensation, with his good looks, scowl and rock’n’roll attitude. John Lennon even called it the first British rock record.

Further singles followed, coming and going from the top ten. By the time of Richard’s film debut, in the film Serious Charge (1959), the line-up of the Drifters had become Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch on guitars, bassist Jet Harris and Tony Meeham on drums. Lionel Bart had been approached to write songs for the film. Bart had already won awards for his pop songs, and had helped discover Tommy Steele, before moving into musicals soon after. He was browsing a newspaper when he came across an advert for a child’s doll. Ten minutes later he had written the controversial lyric for Living Doll. Originally planned as a rock’n’roll song (as featured in the film), Richard was not a fan, and was horrified to hear it was going to be their next single. Producer Norrie Paramor told him they could record it any way they wanted as long as it got done. It was Welch that came up with the genius idea of slowing down the tempo and making it a country song. Previously, the Drifters had only accompanied Cliff in live performances. This was their recording debut.

Welch’s change of pace proved to be a masterstroke, and completely made the song, It’s still an ear worm now, as I can’t get it out of my head after relistening. The problem with Living Doll, of course, is Bart’s lyrics. They really haven’t aged well, and it’s hard to match Christian crusader Cliff Richard with words that objectify women so badly. The easy-going charm of the tune cannot disguise the sinister, misogynistic lyrics that Cliff is crooning (and his crooning is really effective here – Living Doll is a great production by Paramor). The words are just plain odd at times, too. For instance, if they are taken literally, then Cliff is chuffed that, although his girl looks like a doll, her hair is in fact real, and what’s more, he’ll let you have a feel if you like. Even worse, Cliff seems to get jealous very easily, and is prepared to lock her in a trunk to keep her away from other men. I wonder if Cliff ever wonders what God thinks of him singing this? Of course, in 1959, nobody gave a toss about comparing women to dolls, and Living Doll became the biggest-selling song of the year. It also marked the beginning of the end of ‘Edgy Cliff’, with his sound becoming more family-oriented. It was 27 years later that Cliff took a decidedly irreverent version of the same song back to the top, and that’s the version I first heard, but we’ll hear about that when we get to 1986.

During Living Doll‘s six-week period at the top, Barclays made history as the first bank to install one of those new-fangled computers (4 August), and on 26 August, the first Mini, an icon of the following decade, went on sale.

Written by: Lionel Bart

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 6 (31 July-10 September) *BEST-SELLING SINGLE OF THE YEAR*

Births:

Journalist Kim Newman – 31 July
Del Leppard singer Joe Elliott – 1 August
Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns – 5 August 

Deaths:

Poet Edgar Guest – 5 August
Sculptor Jacob Epstein – 19 August
Actress Kay Kendall – 6 September 

74. The Kalin Twins – When (1958)

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The Everly Brothers’ All I Have to Do is Dream/Claudette outsold every other single in 1958, but after seven weeks, Don and Phil were usurped by another brotherly double act.

The Kalin Twins, known to fans as Hal and Herbie, saw out most of the rest of the summer with five weeks at the top thanks to their one-hit wonder When.

Harold and Herbert were born in Port Jervis, New York on 16 February 1934. They were discovered by Clint Ballard, Jr, who among other things wrote number 1s Good Timin for Jimmy Jones and I’m Alive for The Hollies.

Their management hoped that twin brothers with Elvis-style quiffs would appeal to the youth, but were struggling to find decent material for them to record, until they came across When, written by Paul Evans and Jack Reardon. The Everly Brothers had already turned the song down, and producer Jack Pleis also rejected it, but was overruled. Evans went on to write for big stars like Elvis, and had recording success of his own.

I feel as though I’ve heard When before, but can’t be sure. It could be because it sounds so similar to so many uptempo hits of the time – particularly Runaround Sue, off the top of my head. That’s not necessarily a criticism – the song has a summery charm and energy (the castanets are a nice touch), and it’s easy to imagine teens in a dancehall going wild and dancing to this at the time. Despite five weeks at number 1 though, it seems to be largely forgotten now.

The Kalin Twins toured the UK with Cliff Richard as their support. However, they couldn’t follow up When. Hal and Herbie decided to pursue college degrees, and didn’t perform again until a mutual friend persuaded them to play his new nightclub in 1977.

They would occasionally perform with their younger brother, Jack, as The Kalin Brothers, but disappeared from public view again until 1989, when Cliff Richard returned the favour and asked them to support him as part of a televised concert from Wembley Stadium.

The twins would tour the cabaret circuit, now sporting beards, but sadly on 24 August 2005, Hal died of injuries from a car accident, and on 21 July 2006, Herbie died of a heart attack.

Written by: Jack Reardon & Paul Evans

Producer: Jack Pleis

Weeks at number 1: 5 (22 August-25 September)

Births:

Comedian Lenny Henry – 29 August
Comedian Bobby Davro – 13 September
Model Linda Lusardi – 18 September
Radio presenter Simon Mayo – 21 September

Deaths:

Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams – 26 August

Meanwhile…

29 August: Move It, the debut single of a young act named Cliff Richard and The Drifters, was released. Eventually reaching number two in the charts, it is widely considered to be one of the first true rock’n’roll singles released by an act from this country. With his heart-throb appearance, and permanent scowl, it’s hard to imagine now, but Richard was considered to be a dangerous threat with his rebellious demeanour, and overtook Tommy Steele as the UK’s answer to Elvis Presley. The Drifters were in danger of getting into trouble with the US group of the same name, but that’s another story for another time.

30 August: Riots broke out in Notting Hill. An argument between Jamaican Raymond Morrison and his Swedish wife Majbritt resulted in fights between hundreds of Teddy Boys and West Indians. The riots lasted until 5 September.

1 September: The first Cod War between the UK and Iceland began.