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Classic album: cliff

Released in April 1959, Cliff Richard’s debut long-player was a thrilling introduction to one of the UK’s first ever rock’n’roll stars and proved that we could rock just as hard as those across the pond…


Cliff and The Drifters larking about. From left to right: Hank Marvin, Tony Meehan, Cliff Richard, Bruce Welch
everly Lebarrow/Redferns/Getty

On the evening of 9 February 1959 Cliff Richard arrived at EMI Recording Studios on Abbey Road in London to record his first album. With three hit singles and sold-out concert halls across Britain, Richard was one of the most successful homegrown rock’n’roll stars to date. The album would cap a whirlwind seven months of his rise through a string of hits and electrifying TV appearances.

With Richard’s initial rise to fame rooted in live performances, Columbia Records producer Norrie Paramor insisted on live recordings for the singer’s first album. Remote concert recording was an iffy proposition at best, and therefore staging a concert in Abbey Road’s largest recording room, Studio 2, seemed the best option.

With over 198 square metres of floor space and a ceiling two storeys high, Studio 2 was one of the largest recording studios in the world, more than adequate to host a sizable concert. For the album sessions, a stage was constructed against one wall of the studio, directly below the large glass window of the second story control room overlooking the recording area. Requiring an enthusiastic audience, Columbia sent invitations to London-area members of Richard’s fan club. Several hundred teenagers secured tickets for the two nights of recording.


Also on hand were Richard’s band, The Drifters. While the group backed Richard on all of his live appearances, Paramor generally preferred to work with more experienced musicians for recording sessions. That had been the case for Richard’s first session with Columbia in July 1958 where half of The Drifters were replaced by session players. By the time of the album sessions, the line-up of The Drifters had changed. All of the group’s original members had been replaced for various reasons over the previous seven months. The current line-up — Hank Marvin on lead guitar, Bruce Welch on rhythm guitar, Jet Harris on bass and Tony Meehan on drums — was a powerful group of young musicians whose talent made up for their lack of experience. In just a few months, the group would change its name to The Shadows (due to a lawsuit from the US vocal group, The Drifters) and would gain a reputation as one of Britain’s greatest rock’n’roll bands with a string of instrumental hits. Furthermore, Paramor knew the chemistry between the singer and the band was a vital element in capturing the excitement he wanted on the album.

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About Vintage Rock

In this issue of Vintage Rock we enter the riotous world of Wanda Jackson. She's finally just hung up her touring boots this year aged 81, so we decided it was time to honour the Queen Of Rockabilly's tenure at the top from her incredible rise to glory as both a country and rockabilly star to her greatest ever performances – "It's been a wild ride!" Little Miss Dynamite goes out with a bang! We got the exclusive on Brenda Jackson's retirement too! In our candid interview Brenda remembers her spectacular career, from rubbing shoulders with Elvis to surviving the British Invasion intact. It's been 60 years since the storming debut album that positioned Cliff Richard as the UK's own Elvis – with The Drifters in support – we remember a raw classic. It's also been 60 years since rock'n'roll was hit with it's first major scandal. Inside we get to the bottom of the infamous 'Payola Scandal', the real rock'n'roll swindle in which the scene's major players had to face the music. From villains to heroes, we talk to Memphis Mafia man Jerry Schilling about his days with Elvis and the upcoming 'Elvis In Concert' tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, plus we speak to instrumental hero Johnny Farina, one half of duo Santo & Johnny, about their timeless hit 'Sleepwalk'. Bringing things up to date, we chat with Darrel Higham about his new album Bop Machine, we met Nick Lowe, who tells about his new project with masked marauders Los Straitjackets, and we review Stray Cats long-awaited return to the London stage – and what a night it was! Plenty more besides from fresh talent and rockin' weekenders to news, reviews and more!