Cliff Richard and The Shadows were undoubtedly the biggest influence on my musical preferences. I first heard them sometime in 1961. At the time I was 14 years old. Of course I heard many other kinds of music before that. My musical memory begins with my mother’s voice – it was amazing. She had a fantastic soprano and she used to sing around the house all the time. Unfortunately, she had a very melancholy disposition, so all the songs she sang were very depressing. The one that I remember the most, is called Gloomy Sunday. As my parents were both from Transylvania, she would sing it in the original Hungarian. At the time, we were living in Bucharest, the city where I was actually born. I remember asking her to stop singing that song because it was breaking my heart. I was 5 years old. Between Gloomy Sunday and Cliff Richard, there were 9 or so years filled with French, Italian, Romanian, Russian and various other Eastern Bloc, types of music.
When I was 14, we moved to Israel. Our radio started playing all kinds of different music. It took a short while for my ears to re-adjust, but I was still not quite prepared for Cliff Richard’s movie The Young Ones. There is no way, that I could explain how that hit me. I should just say, that I somehow managed to acquire the necessary funds to buy a super cheap portable turn-table on which I could then play my very first vinyl treasure. It was a 10” compilation of some of Cliff’s hits. I have tried to Google it lately and I cannot find any traces of it. I’m pretty pissed that I do not have my original copy. When I moved to NYC in 1975, I brought about 200 of my most important LP’s with me. Somehow, this one that in retrospect, was so important, did not make it. Or else, it is possible that in the 51 years since, it vanished together with some of my other treasured items. Anyway, if I remember correctly, some of the tracks were:
- Move It!
- Gee Whizz It’s You!
- Theme for a Dream
- Lessons in Love
Move It and Dynamite were amazing and I still love to sing Dynamite once in a while. There may have been a couple of other songs on my 10” but they are lost to my memory. I eventually got to hear some other rocking bits like Livin’ Lovin’ Doll, High Class Baby and Rip It Up. Just imagine if you can, that I had previously not heard of Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holley, Chuck Berry, or any of their contemporaries. It was like I’d been knocked out in a boxing match and I was coming back thinking ‘what’d just happen?’
In retrospect, I have to admit that I did not think about who wrote what and who was playing behind this amazing voice. I did research that later on, after I started playing myself. Move It, widely accepted as the very first British rock’n’roll song, was written by the Drifters’ guitar player, Ian Samwell. He also wrote some of the other Cliff rocking scorchers, like High Class Baby and Dynamite. Ian did quite well for himself as a producer, eventually working with Frank Zappa, The Small Faces, America, Joni Mitchell, The Grateful Dead and many other well-known musical acts. The (British) Drifters eventually had to change their name because of the American Drifters. They became The Shadows. The Shadows went through some personnel changes in their early years, but throughout their lengthy career, the three main members were Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch and Brian Bennett. Besides backing Cliff Richard on a lot of his albums, they were also a major act credited as being the third most successful in British music history. Hank Marvin is single-handedly responsible for influencing the majority of European guitar players in the latter half of the twentieth century. He is the reason they chose the guitar over all other instruments. I find it hard to understand how their greatest instrumental, Apache was ignored by the American listeners. Instead, it got ripped off by some mediocre Danish guitar player who made it to number 2 on the charts.
I got to see Cliff Richard and The Shadows in concert in 1963. By that time he was not really such a bad boy anymore, but still, I enjoyed the show very much. Cliff has since become a major Christian and a huge pop star, but that does not concern me very much. I have a picture of him that I will always cherish and I like to pretend that he had become possessed by some evil spirit that turned him to mush. Cliff and his Drifters that later turned into Shadows, are the ones who made me fall in love with rock ‘n’ roll and for that I will forever be thankful.
https://youtu.be/bLba5Ld4VhE – Move It!
https://youtu.be/BqylJ9A2s8s – High Class Baby
https://youtu.be/SKnP4nupj3A – Danny
https://youtu.be/EzgbcyfJgfQ – Apache
https://youtu.be/0kaVxgey9w4 – Hank Marvin