Following the release of his landmark 100th album, Cliff Richard talks to The Wireless about his happiest memories, selling in excess of 250 million records and why retirement isn't in his vocabulary.
Cliff Richard has enjoyed many successes throughout his long and celebrated career, such as having over 130 UK top 20 hits and global record sales of beyond 250 million. However, the personal achievement he’s most proud of came in 1995 when he became the first rock singer to be awarded a knighthood in recognition for his services to music and charity.
Speaking to The Wireless, Cliff said: ‘it was so off the wall; it wasn’t in my radar… you know if you make a record you think it could be gold, you know, it may not, but it could. It never crossed my mind that I might be invited to be a knight… I still enjoy being a knight; it’s fabulous.’
55 years of storming the charts
Cliff is currently promoting his latest top-10 hit, The Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll Songbook, which is his 100th album - an incredible feat, and he says he would ‘never have dreamed’ that he’d still be storming the charts 55 years on from the release of Move It. Neither does he have an answer for those hoping to discover the secret behind his success: ‘Join the queue, I’m at the head of the queue; I have no idea why.’
On his new album, Cliff covers classics songs from the early years of rock ‘n’ roll, such as Little Richard’s Rip It Up and Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode. He calls it a ‘fantastically productive time’ that we're unlikely to see again.
He explains: ‘Yeah, people say what’s the difference between then and now... Nowadays you can be number 1 in Britain and sell 35,000 or 40,000 copies of something or downloads of something in a week. When we were selling our million sellers we were selling up to 80,000 in a day and on those weekends would be 120,000 a day.’
If he had the chance to relive one of those years, it would be his breakthrough year in 1958 He says: ‘There’s so many good years I’ve had, but if I was going to live it again, I’d love to go back and have that year, where we went to Norrie Paramours for an audition.
‘Ian Samwell happened on the bus to write Move It. We played it in the audition, it got us our contract, we did the studio stuff, did Move It and it was number 2 by 14 October 1958. So I would go back to ’58 and just live that again. It was so unbelievable – that’s why it was fantastic.’
‘I don’t want to start all over again’
That doesn’t mean Cliff wants to ‘be younger’ or ‘start all over again’. In his view, he’s already had the best parts of the industry: ‘I’ve sold in excess – they keep saying I’ve sold 250 million records – but that figure was got to 30 years ago when they’d checked out how much I’d sold around the planet, and so I’ve got to have sold… 5 million more! So those were wonderful days and I’ve lived through that…'
He also enjoys being older and wiser, being able to look back on past achievements: ‘It means that I can now look back and say I did that, that’s happened to me. And also by being older, and you are definitely wiser if you’re older, because you’ve been through everything - you’ve experienced all sorts of emotions.’
At 73, Cliff still insists that retirement isn’t part of his vocabulary, but he is open to having a break: ‘If I say I retire, I’d have to come back out of retirement. I don’t want to come back.
‘I’d rather just stop and maybe 2 years later I’ll phone up my office and say: “Now listen, I want to build a new extension. How many concerts can I do to earn the money to make that?” Then I can have fun, because I do like… I mean recording is fabulous. Going live is so much fun.’
At the moment, Cliff is enjoying his continued success and considering a follow-up to The Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll Songbook. He says: ‘If this album sells well enough for the record company to have made money, and for me to have made some money and have enough money to make another album, I can’t wait to get back to Nashville. If I can get the same 5 musicians, I would and just do another volume 2.’
Listen to The Wireless
*Photographer: Michelle Kloboucnik