Cliff Richard – I Love You

16th May 2021 · 1960s, 1961, Music

The first time I heard or saw Cliff Richard was when he sang Congratulations in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. But he had been having hit singles since the year I was born. This one was top of the Hit Parade on my third birthday.

Remarkably, his was his 15th hit and fourth No.1 in just two years and three months since he made his TV debut on Oh Boy! singing the B-side of his debut single – turning Move It into Britain’s first ‘rock’ hit.

I Love You, which I don’t think I’ve knowingly heard before, was written by Bruce Welch of The Shadows. The band backed him for the first decade of his career (initially as The Drifters), although they were also a band in their own right, releasing their own instrumental records.

The Shadows had a unique business relationship with Cliff. On the one hand they backed him on all his singles for nearly a decade, but received no royalties for them, and had their own separate record contract.

More than once one of their own singles actually replaced one of Cliff’s songs (on which they had also played) at the top of the charts.

Initially marketed as an “English Elvis” – like other home-grown pop singers like Marty Wilde and Tommy Steele – Harry Webb was not even a contemporary of Presley. In fact he was still at school in 1956, the year that Elvis was having his first hits with Heartbreak Hotel and Blue Suede Shoes.

Harry did not pick up an instrument until he was 16, when his father gave him his first guitar. By 17 he was singing in a school vocal harmony group, The Quintones, and then joined a skiffle group.

It was not until 1958 that he started playing rock and roll, fronting The Drifters (no relation of the popular American vocal group).

Stardom soon followed the arrival of Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, giving them their signature twang, the band’s name change to The Shadows (to avoid confusion with the black American vocal group), and Harry’s name change to Cliff.

Watching him sing this cute little song – just 98 seconds long – it’s clear to see how much he modelled his look and stagecraft on Presley: the black quiff, the curled lip, the insouciant pose.

It’s not exactly Elvis but it’s a far cry from the God-bothering straight-edge tennis-loving national treasure we know and mock these days.