Sunday, 8 June 2014

Cliff Richard 'Summer Holiday'

Chart Peak: 1
Cliff's 7th British Chart-Topper, 'Summer Holiday' was No.1 in March 1963 for two weeks and again for a week in April the same year.
A few weeks ago now I was listening to this album and starting to get the idea of blogging about it. My wife was in the room (don't worry, I didn't inflict Bobby Goldsboro on her) and asked whether this song was from the austerity era, as its ambitions seem so modest - just going on holiday and having some fun "for a week or two", not even promising that life after the holiday will be better. And crucially, it's not complaining about that fact, seeming merely grateful for any possible fun at all.

To be completely honest, I'm not totally sure when the standard definition of Austerity Britain ends, though it goes without saying that this was a (financially) poorer country in 1963 than it is now, and that British teens could look with some envy to the sort of wealth claimed by protagonists of hits from US acts like The Everly Brothers. Spring 1963 was certainly a significant time in British pop though. At least according to the Record Retailer chart used in modern-day reference books (and the sleevenote I've quoted above), 'Summer Holiday' deposed Frank Ifield's 'Wayward Wind', which had infamously kept the Beatles' 'Please Please Me' at Number 2 on that chart. This song's run was interrupted by a week at the top for the Shadows with 'Foot Tapper' (their last Number One without Cliff) and then finally ended by 'How Do You Do It' by Gerry & The Pacemakers, the first undisputed Merseybeat Number One and effectively the end of Cliff and the Shadows' reign as the dominant force in British pop. Needless to say, both acts remained popular for decades after this: we all know Cliff was still able to top the singles chart right to the end of the century, and Hank Marvin has a solo album in the Top 10 right now. But the imperial phase was over. Nowadays, whilst this is clearly somewhat scrubbed up from the early days of rock and roll (and of course even the early recordings in that genre were toned down from what might have been happening on stage) the distinction between this and a lot of what was to follow isn't so clear, but it's permanently set the image for Cliff's subsequent career as staid and safe. Of course he's been happy to play up to the image himself most of the time and has done well out of it financially but it makes it slightly harder to praise this for the good two-minute song it is.

(NB, this post has been backdated to fit all the album's tracks into one month. Since I've actually finished writing about Cliff on the 9th of June, RIP Rik Mayall)

Available on: Summer Holiday

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