#523: Wired For Sound by Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard was born Harry Roger Webb on October 14, 1940, in the city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, India. In 1940 Lucknow was part of the British Raj, as India was not yet an independent country. Webb’s father worked on as a catering manager for the Indian Railways. His mother raised Harry and his three sisters. In 1948, when India had become independent, the Webb family took a boat to Essex, England, and began a new chapter. At the age of 16 Harry Webb was given a guitar by his father. Harry then formed a vocal group called the Quintones. Webb was interested in skiffle music, a type of jug band music, popularized by “The King of Skiffle,” Scottish singer Lonnie Donegan who had an international hit in 1955 called “Rock Island Line”.
In 1958 Webb became the lead singer of a British rock group named the Drifters. It was during this time that Harry Greatorex, who was promoting the band, gave Harry Webb the stage name, “Cliff Richard.”As rock and roll made some people think of rocks, Greatorex reasoned that “Cliff” would be a rock solid name for the young 18 year old Harry Webb. Cliff Richard would go on to record nearly 150 singles that made it onto the UK charts. While his popularity in the USA was erratic, he was a big seller in Vancouver. On this survey of 1,130 songs he appears on 20 occasions.
At the age of 16 Harry Webb was given a guitar by his father. Harry then formed a vocal group called the Quintones. Webb was interested in skiffle music, a type of jug band music, popularized by “The King of Skiffle,” Scottish singer Lonnie Donegan who had an international hit in 1955 called “Rock Island Line.” In 1958 Webb became the lead singer of a British rock group named the Drifters. It was during this time that Harry Greatorex, who was promoting the band, gave Harry Webb the stage name, Cliff Richard. As rock and roll made some people think of rocks, Greatorex reasoned that “Cliff” would be a rock solid name for the young 18 year old Harry Webb. Cliff Richard would go on to record nearly 150 singles that made it onto the UK charts.
Cliff Richard had his first single on the Vancouver charts peak at number one in the fall of 1959. “Living Doll” became an auspicious beginning for a recording artist. Fans in Vancouver were wild about Richards. He had a string of hits between 1959 and 1966, and again in the late 70s onward. Of 26 singles that charted on the Vancouver pop charts, only two didn’t climb into the Top 20. His sixth Top Ten charting song was “Summer Holiday”, in the spring of 1963.
From March 1963 to May 1966 Cliff Richard had 15 hit singles in the Top 20 on CFUN. Of these 12 made the Top Ten and three peaked at #1. In 1963 Richard won the Best UK Male Singer in the NME (New Musical Express) Reader Poll. In Vancouver, Cliff Richard’s follow up hit to “Summer Holiday” was “Lucky Lips” and simultaneously “It’ll Be Me”. This was a #2 hit in the UK in 1962 and #7 in Vancouver in the summer of ’63. While “Lucky Lips” climbed to #1 in Vancouver and #4 in the UK in the summer of ’63.
Of the next eight singles after “It’ll Be Me”, seven made the Top Ten in Vancouver. The last of this particular string of hits into the fall of 1964 was “On The Beach”. He also had a Top Ten hit in Vancouver in 1966 with a cover of the Rolling Stones “Blue Turns To Grey“.
In the UK Cliff Richard had 26 of his first 28 singles, from 1958 reach the Top Ten, which included a record of 23 Top Ten singles in a row, ending in the middle of 1965. Of these 15 singles were non-album singles. It would seem with the coming of the British Invasion that Cliff Richard would be discovered by the American record-buying public. However, it was not to be. He remained almost completely off the radar in the USA until his Top Ten hit in 1976 on the Billboard Hot 100 called “Devil Woman.”
In the late ’70s into the early ’80s he scored again with “We Don’t Talk Anymore” and “Dreamin’.” A third hit in the early ’80’s did well in Vancouver titled “Wired For Sound”.
“Wired For Sound” was written by Brian Alexander Robertson and Alan Tarney. Robertson was born in Glasgow in 1956. He had three Top Ten hits on the UK charts between 1979 and 1980. He co-wrote “Carrie” for Cliff Richard in 1980 and the song became a Top Ten hit that year in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. In 1982 he wrote “We Have A Dream” for the Scottish national football team. It became a Top Ten hit in the UK in 1982 and again in 2008. In 1988 Robertson co-wrote “The Living Years”, a #1 hit for Mike and The Mechanics in 1989. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of The Year in 1990.
“Wired For Sound” co-writer Alan Tarney was born in 1945. From 1973 to 1977 he became a bass player for Cliff Richards’ backing band The Shadows. In 1979 he wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore” for Cliff Richard and in 1980 he wrote “Dreamin'”, also for Cliff Richard. Over the years Tarney has produced many hit records. These include “More Than I Can Say” for Leo Sayer, “Take On Me” by A-ha and “The Love Parade” by The Dream Academy. Over the years Alan Tarney produced nine songs by A-ha in the 1980s and nine singles for Cliff Richard. He has also produced records for Bow Wow Wow, Oliva Newton-John, The Hollies and Squeeze.
“Wired For Sound” is a song about a boy who grows up loving music. His girlfriend likes the love they share to be amplified. As an adult he doesn’t care where he gets his music: record player, cassette, AM, FM. “Wired For Sound” was a hit before CDs came on the market. “Wired For Sound” climbed to #4 in Edmonton (AB), #7 in Vancouver (BC) and #10 in Halifax (NS).
The compact cassette first came on the market in 1963. In 1970, the Advent Corporation combined Dolby B noise reduction system with chromium dioxide (CrO2) tape to create the first high-fidelity cassette deck. But it didn’t become a standard part of stereo systems until tape recorded audio quality improved in the mid-’70s. Single recordings were first released on 78 RPM records. After the introduction of the 45 RPM in 1949 by RCA Victor, the smaller 7-inch discs overtook 78 RPM record sales by the mid-’50s. Most record players through to the end of the 1960s had speeds to play a 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM and 78 RPM, In 1968 FM radio stations gained a license to play adult oriented rock music. But it wasn’t until 1978 that FM listenership exceeded AM radio ratings.
Cliff Richard was among the performers at the Diamond Jubilee concert held outside Buckingham Palace in June 2012. Then, on June 30, 2012, he helped to carry the Olympic torch from Derby to Birmingham as part of the torch relay for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Cliff Richard has also been active as a philanthropist. In October 2015 he went on tour at the age of 75. Over the course of his recording career, Cliff Richard has had 68 singles reach the Top Ten on the UK singles chart between 1958 and 2008. In late June and early July, 2019, Cliff Richard celebrated his 60th year as a recording artist with his Diamond Encore Tour. He performed in the village of Cartmel in Cumbria, just south of Scotland. He gave a concert in Scarborough by the North Sea, and in Greenwich, London.
September 6, 2019
“Cliff’s Career,” Cliff Richard.org.
Robert Collins, “LIVING THE DREAM: B.A. Robertson opens up on nose holding competitions with Rod Stewart, Re-making Hamlet with Billy Connolly and We Have a Dream,” The Scottish Sun, May 12, 2017.
Richard Buskin, “A-ha ‘Take On Me’: Production,” Soundonsound.com, March 2011.
“B.A. Robertson Biography,” barobertsongs.com.
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