I know, I know. It’s Cliff Richard so it’s probably not going to be very good. But hang on! There’s more than a modicum of interest here.
It’s my sister’s birthday today and she’s a very private person so I’m not going to write anything about her apart from the fact that I followed her tastes when I first started listening to music. She loved Cliff Richard, so I did. She moved on to the Beatles so I did. It was when she moved on to The Rolling Stones in 1964 that I thought enough was enough. At 10 years old I vowed to remain loyal to The Beatles. It was only with the obviously superior Moody Blues in 1969 that my loyalty was tested.
Apart from listening to “Beep Beep” by The Playmates and the first three Helen Shapiro singles, it was Cliff Richard that made me first fall in love with music. “The Next Time” and “Bachelor Boy” were big favourites at the time along with “Summer Holiday”, “The Young Ones”, “It’ll Be Me”, “Theme For A Dream” and “I’m Looking Out The Window”. Recently, I’ve come to re assess some of the earlier songs. In particular, it’s worth analysing “Mumblin’ Mosie”, “Nine Times Out Of Ten” and “D In Love”.
Keep reading! It’s much more interesting than you might think.
Let’s take “Mumblin’ Mosie”. This was the B side of “Theme For A Dream” which was released in 1961 and got to Number 3 in the charts. The guitar work of Hank B. Marvin is excellent and it’s important to remember that he was a big influence on Neil Young. When he released “Harvest Moon”, Neil Young explained that the opening song “From Hank to Hendrix” referred to Hank B. Marvin, not Hank Williams as most people had assumed. This is a good rocking song and nothing like the later schmaltzy middle of the road stuff that Cliff Richard would release later. I think the words to this song are possibly the most disgusting and disgraceful ever released. I’m not sure that a song which pokes fun at a disability should ever be released. This song ridicules a girl who has a stutter. Cliff openly laughs at “Mumbling Mosie” during the choruses. Some of the lyrics are “I got a gal and she’s so sweet. She’s the cutest little thing you did ever meet. That’s the craziest chick I ever had. Ah, just one thing, she stutters like mad.” The Shadows then go on to impersonate someone stammering while Cliff laughs over them. Cliff takes her for a meal and the waitress asks them what they want. “She said I’ll have a h-h-h-h-hot d-d-d-d-dog please” and Cliff laughs, gloatingly. (This second verse is replaced in the live version below). The moral of the story is that anyone with a stammer will never be lucky enough to marry someone as good as Cliff. Here is how the song ends. “I got weak and asked for her hand. I even bought a wedding band. And though I’m not the marrying type. I said c’mon and be my wife. And she said mumblin’, mumblin’, mum-mum. Ninety-nine, nighty-nine-nine. A good thing that she stuttered so long. When she finally said ‘yes’, I was gone.” No wonder. Why would Cliff want to spend any time with a girl with a disability. Perish the thought. The song was written and first released by Johnny Otis and Cliff Richard’s version is very faithful to the original. Both versions are irresistibly terrible. This video is really funny.
This was not just a one-off. “Nine Times Out Of Ten” is equally abusive. Although the girl that Cliff is singing to doesn’t want to go out with him, he is going to keep asking and keep asking until she agrees. “Well, don’t try to fight it. Come, baby, it ain’t no use. You’re gonna find that I’m stubborn as a doggone mule. Nine times out of ten I’ve tried to kiss you and I ain’t trying just nine times again. Well, if I missed the nine times that I’ve tried, baby, I’ll bet my life, I’ll get you on number ten.” Again, musically it’s great. Lyrically it’s terrible. This was a single that got to Number 3 in the charts in 1960. The video is really Interesting – there’s a blistering guitar solo from Hank B. and the audience is completely motionless – are they cardboard cut outs?
Finally, having ridiculed a girl with a stammer and a girl that knows she doesn’t want to go out with him, Cliff decides it’s time to tell intelligent girls that they can’t be brainy if they want to get a real man. “D In Love” was the B side of “I’m In Love” which got to Number 1 in 1960. It starts in a quite complimentary way. “You get A, in Biology. You get A, in Psychology. You’re a whizz in your Science class. In a quiz, you’re a cinch to pass.” That’s nice. Cliff recognises that this is a clever girl. But that’s not enough because “But when you’re out with me, baby, you get D, D in Love.” The song was written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett who wrote over 20 songs for Cliff Richard, including “The Young Ones” They also wrote over 40 songs for Elvis Presley including “G.I. Blues” and “Hawaiian Sunset”. The second verse isn’t much better, to be honest. “Smarty cat, you’re the teachers pet. You got brains that you ain’t used yet. You can name, every President. Yes in school, you’re a hundred percent, but when the lights are low, zero. You get D, D in love.” ‘Smarty cat’ and ‘teacher’s pet’ are certainly abusive terms. Obviously, it was fine for a British act to sing a song about how his girl can name every President. I suppose “you can name every prime minister” didn’t scan so well. “Here’s your Report Card. Kissing: you gotta practise nightly. Hugging: You gotta squeeze more tightly. I recommend this remedy. Lots and lots and lots and lots of homework with me.” I’m not sure that the homework that Cliff is thinking of is going to get his girl a good education and secure her future. I don’t suppose it will matter if she’s going to spend a lifetime with Cliff. My favourite line is “You’re an Encyclopedia” because he sings it as “You’re an N-cyclopedia” and the alphabet theme is developed: “Baby I, can’t get near to you.” He emphasises ‘I’ in the same way he emphasised ‘N’ in the previous line. “I know you know your A-B-C. but you flunk, in L-O-V-E. You gotta high IQ, shame on you, you get D, D in Love, Yeah.” Shame on you? Really? Shame for not kissing Cliff more passionately. The YouTube clip is taken from the 1981 BBC Documentary on Cliff Richard’s career. Cliff performs with The Fantoms, acting as The Shadows. Watch out for a then unknown Jonathan Ross at 0:05 in the checked jacket. Enjoy another brilliant guitar solo from Hank B.
The definition of a “Guilty Pleasure” is “something, such as a film, television programme, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.” These three Cliff Richard songs are guilty pleasures for me. The lyrics are remarkably awful and/but the music is great.