by William Shears
The music world has been rocked by news that Cliff Richard is joining John, Paul George and Ringo for a tour of Australia.
A reliable source close to the band revealed former manager Brian Epstein as becoming increasingly concerned at bickering between Paul and John and had been searching for ways to split the two while keeping the band together. Witnesses at the NME Poll Winners Concert at Wembley in 1967, say Epstein enthusiastically applauded Cliff’s act. It is understood he saw Cliff as the perfect foil for the two talented protagonists but his reported suicide in August 1967 meant his dream remained unfulfilled.
Since news broke of Cliff‘s split with the Shadows, rumours have been rife of a potential move for the pretty boy rocker to fulfill Epstein’s wish. It seems a chance encounter between Paul and Cliff at Abbey Road studios has provided the impetus. Paul and George had been working on a few ideas for the band’s new album when Cliff walked in. Apparently a jam session between the three legends ensued. As co-recording tenants at Abbey Road, the rock rivals have become good friends. John has also been quoted as saying “Before Cliff & the Shadows there had been nothing worth listening to.”
The early 60’s saw the Beatles move to Hamburg to hone their skills. Whilst there George & John wrote the only Beatle composition to be credited to Harrison & Lennon. ‘Cry for a Shadow’ and Harrison’s lead guitar work suggests the influence of The Shadows. Although largely dismissive of The Shadows style, their hit Apache was occasionally a feature of the Beatles’ German shows.
In the early days The Beatles were taken to Cliff and the Shadows concerts by Epstein and instructed about clothes/stage presence and various other things. The Beatles very cleverly ‘homed in’ on Cliff and the Shadows (the biggest pop stars in Britain at the time). John Lennon took the Hank Marvin role in the group, (black-framed glasses and acting the fool). Paul McCartney was the handsome one standing where Bruce Welch did on stage.
To celebrate the success of Cliff’s ‘Summer Holiday’ and The Shadows’ ‘Foot Tapper’, both No.1 in March 1963, Bruce Welch threw a party with Cliff, the Shadows and the Beatles. An eye witness says the Beatles played their ‘new’ single ‘From Me to You’, while the Shads played ‘Atlantis’, followed by Cliff and Shads singing ‘Please Please Me’. This turned into a friendly impromptu battle of the bands. The Beatles did a Shadows impression complete with wildly exaggerated leg-kicking cross-over step. Cliff, the Shads and the Beatles all joined in singing and playing rhythm and blues.
April ‘68’ saw Cliff’s ‘The Minute You’re Gone’ knocked off the top of the charts by the Beatles ‘Lady Madonna’. A source close to Cliff says the rocker has expressed a fear the band might overtake him in the charts. Richard can now rest easy as it has become a case of ‘if you can’t beat em, join em.’
The spies are out everywhere to see who can make the first sighting of Cliff and the Beatles together. It is reported that the London tabloid News of the World is even offering a King’s ransom for an exclusive sighting of the group’s first rehearsal together but rumour has it the band and Cliff will tour Australia first because of their mutual affection for the land down under.
Up till now there has been a lack of animosity or jealously between the two groups; it has been mutual respect, both personal and musical but this latest development may change all that.
The Shadows were asked to comment but apparently all declined but one is said to have quipped caustically that Cliff & the Shadows would never ever perform on stage together again. Only time will tell.