About a year ago Cliff Richard and his famous group, The Shadows, recorded a ten-minute programme of pop music for ATV at their North London Studios. The shouts of approval from the teenage audience defied anything Cliff could do to quieten them — and almost got the better of the sound engineers.
Outside the studios hundreds of teenage fans waited to mob Cliff. This was only a ten minute programme, but they had come from far and wide, travelling countless miles, just for the chance of seeing their idol in action for a few minutes.
Some of those crowding outside did not even catch a glimpse of him. But still they were happy to be there; content just to be near where Cliff was.
Since then Cliff Richard has reached an even higher peak of success. And apart from being one of the few pop stars to have stayed high in the popularity stakes, he has even knocked on the door of the exclusive Presley hall of fame to challenge the almost legendary Elvis for the No. 1 position.
Pop singers come and go, their career governed by the restless tastes of the teenage record buyers. Some of them are one record wonders who cut a hit disc, climb high into the Top Ten and then slide off into obscurity. Others find themselves stars overnight. But unless they can continue to provide the type of music the teenage audience want, their popularity — like the moonlight kisses of the famous Nat King Cole song — “cools in the warmth of the sun”. Some are stars at 15 and has-beens at the ripe old age of 20.
But for all these, the vagaries of “pop” music life, there are those with obvious talent — an ability certain to keep them in favour with their capricious audience. Such artistes are Brenda Lee, Helen Shapiro, Bobby Vee and Bobby Rydell, not to mention those old timers Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Tommy Steele and Frankie Vaughan.
All of these favourites have featured in ATV shows during the past year.
Cliff Richard, for instance, has appeared frequently in Startime and Sunday Night at the London Palladium programmes. That Cliff is one of Britain’s hottest show business properties is undisputed. There was a time when this swarthy dark eyed twenty-two-year-old meant nothing. But by the time he was 19 Cliff had made the top. Today he can smile at the cynics who thought him to be just another guitar-strumming teenager when he made his early television appearances in the Oh Boy show.
But the teenagers had faith in him. Cliff justified that faith. Today he is mobbed wherever he goes. ‘You miss being able to walk about unmolested,’ he says. ‘It would be nice to be able to wander about. But I like what I am doing, and that is enough to make up for it.’
In addition to the year’s stage and television successes, 1962 saw Cliff’s film The Young Ones, on release. It was a tremendous box-office success. And while the teenage fans naturally flocked to see him, so did the mums and dads, and there were many who came away from the cinema with the feeling that the Cliff of 1962 appeals to a far wider audience.
Like Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, although he still has his youthful following, now appeals more to the family-type audience. Tommy was one of the pioneers of the business of disproving the cynics in their belief that his talent consisted only of an ability to strum a guitar and wiggle his hips.
Tommy gave a polished performance in Sunday Night at the London Palladium in January and offered a feast of entertainment later in the year when he appeared in his own show. When he made this appearance in Sunday Night at the London Palladium few people knew that he almost did not go on. When he arrived by cab for the afternoon rehearsal he discovered that he had left his music in the back of the taxi. A frantic search was begun and the police called in to help. Fortunately, the cabbie found the music, took it to a police station, and it was delivered to the Palladium by a constable.
‘Was I glad to see that policeman,’ said Tommy. ‘I wonder if that taxi driver knows that he probably saved the show that night.’ Tommy showed his appreciation by sending a reward to the police station for the driver.
Billy Fury, too, appeared in several ATV shows, including All That Jazz. Many people mistake Billy’s natural shyness for coldness. On a first meeting he is apt to appear quiet and serious. But once the ice is broken Billy quickly shows himself to be a warm, humorous person. His great love is fast cars — an interest he shares with many young pop singers, including Elvis Presley.
Of all the teenage stars to hit the headlines during the past year perhaps pert little Helen Shapiro has made the greatest impact. The latter half of 1961 found Helen an established star. And 1962 consolidated that success. Successive hit records brought fame to a poised 16-year-old girl who, when her first record was climbing high in the Top Ten, was still at a London school. Since then she has headlined Sunday Night at the London Palladium, appeared in Startime and starred in a two weeks’ season at the London Palladium Theatre.
In addition to these British successes, 1962 has witnessed another pop invasion from across the Atlantic. Brenda Lee, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Jimmy Dean, Connie Francis and Pat Boone all came to Britain to star in Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
Pat Boone, now a firm favourite with British disc fans, came to make a film at Shepperton Studios and stayed for six months. Connie Francis, of course, has been a frequent visitor to these shores for a number of years and, as one Press man jokingly put it: ‘Connie comes here so often that the airlines are giving her a season ticket!’
Four years ago a petite 15-year-old American girl set foot in Britain for the first time. Her name? Brenda Lee. She appeared in a television show and immediately set people talking. In April of this year she returned again, this time as a fully fledged star, to top the Sunday Night at the London Palladium bill. During these four years Brenda had set the American pop world alight with her powerful voice and extraordinary personality.
Her youthful zest earned her the title ‘Miss Dynamite’ and, backed by several hit records and her successful Palladium appearance, Brenda set out to conquer Britain with a hectic tour of one night stands. Unanimously, British pop artistes acclaimed her. ‘Brenda is great,’ said Cliff Richard. While Helen Shapiro, who can probably claim to be Britain’s counterpart of this dynamic American teenager, said: ‘I think Brenda Lee is the greatest female rock singer.’ Adam Faith used Norman Vaughan’s expression to describe her. ‘I think Brenda is swinging,’ he said.
Apart from teenage entertainers, television during 1962 has seen appearances from many established star singers, from both sides of the Atlantic — artistes like Eartha Kitt, Matt Monro, Shirley Bassey, Frankie Vaughan and Lonnie Donegan. Donegan, for example, starred in another successful series of Putting on the Donegan shows for ATV and proved himself to be a dab hand at comedy in addition to being one of our most popular recording stars.
Matt Monro, the former busman, found a ready market for his talents in American night-spots. It is not easy for a British artiste to win acclaim in the United States but Matt was able to do this quite emphatically.
Before leaving the pop scene, mention must be made of a young man who, through those fine recordings Moon River and Jeannie, found a place in the top echelon — Danny Williams. Danny, the quiet spoken South African-born singer, has a style reminiscent of the velvety tones of Johnny Mathis. Danny appeared in All That Jazz for ATV.
It would not be right to talk about Cliff Richard without mentioning the fabulous Shadows — Brian Locking, Bruce Welch, Hank B. Marvin and Brian Bennet, who took over as the group’s drummer from Tony Meehan in the latter part of last year. Although they still back Cliff Richard, they are now stars in their own right, and in the past year there has been a friendly battle between the Shadows and Cliff for the top chart positions.
It has been a good year in the ‘pop’ music world.