A fraction over two years since we last heard from him, Cliff’s back. What’s changed in his absence? Well… There’s been Merseybeat, for a start. The Beatles, The Pacemakers, The Searchers reinvented pop music, then The Animals and the Stones brought the blues and The Kinks brought the rock, and recently we’ve started going all jazzy, folky and a touch Baroque…
The Minute You’re Gone, by Cliff Richard (his 8th of fourteen #1s)
1 week, from 15th – 22nd April 1965
So, has Cliff emerged from the most fertile and fast-moving period in popular music history, and taken anything from it? Has he borrowed a funky new sound from all those new kids on the block? Has he bollocks.
If anything he’s regressed. He sounded old-fashioned before; now he sounds positively pre-historic. For this latest chart-topper, Cliff’s gone… brace yourselves… country. Lilting guitars, a tinkling saloon-bar piano, backing singers last heard on a Frankie Laine record. That weird, uber-C & W whale-noise guitar in the background, last heard in ‘Rose Marie’. In 1955. ‘The Minute You’re Gone’ was recorded in Nashville, and it’s clear that Cliff dived whole-heartedly into the scene over there. I can imagine him buying his own Stetson and spurs just for the occasion, and throwing the odd ‘Howdy’ into conversation.
The minute you’re gone I cry, The minute you’re gone I die… To be honest, it took me several listens before I actually paid attention to the words… Before you walk out of sight, I’m like a child all alone at night… And I’m not sure it was worth bothering… I stare into emptiness… So on and so forth.
It’s not a terrible song. The chords are in the right place, there are verses, a bridge, a chorus… In the hands of a different singer I might have enjoyed this much more. The original singer, Sonny James, put a bit more OTT emotion into it. The very first UK chart-topper – the one and only Al Martino – lent it some of his customary gravitas. The only thing that stops Cliff’s version from finishing bottom of the ‘The Minute You’re Gone’ league table, is a sub-karaoke version by Irish grannies’ favourite Daniel O’Donnell.
Back in 1963, I described the Mersybeat invasion as a comet that slammed into the musical landscape. A comet that killed off all the musical dinosaurs that had clogged up the charts of the early sixties. Only the very strongest would survive its sudden impact – Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Sir Cliff. Britain’s very own musical cockroach…
Harsh? A bit, maybe. It was an exaggeration to claim in my intro that Cliff had been ‘absent’ in recent years. He may not have scored a #1 since ‘Summer Holiday’, but every one of his singles, both with The Shadows and, like this one, without them, had gone Top 10. Don’t look at this record as a comeback; Cliff hadn’t been anywhere.
Who was buying his records, though? Surely not the same kids that were going wild for The Beatles and The Stones? Their mums, maybe? Their grans? I always complained about how seldom Cliff, Britain’s first rock ‘n’ roll star, actually rocked. Even as far back as his first chart-topper: the cheesy and insipid ‘Living Doll’. But maybe that was a masterstroke of foresight by him and his management. You can’t lose something you never had. Sell out from the very start…
Since starting this countdown, I’ve changed my opinion on many things. I now know that pre-rock music was far from boring, that Elvis didn’t actually invent sex, that ‘Rock Around the Clock’ didn’t open the floodgates, that instrumentals can actually be great… And yet I can’t say I’ve heard anything to convince me that Sir Clifford of Richard isn’t one of the blandest, squarest, middle-of-the-roadest artists in history…
8 thoughts on “192. ‘The Minute You’re Gone’, by Cliff Richard”
Sounds like Cliff ran back to the 50s or early 60s for this one… He just doesn’t have any grit, does he? No rawness at all.
Growing up with him as he is now – the epitome of uncool – it’s been interesting to discover that he actually was always like that. I assumed he might have been a real rock star for more than two minutes… but no…
Cliff’s position in pop music is a decades-old debate…
Nobody thought you could sustain a UK rock career in those days, the management was all about stressing family entertainer and TV/movies all-rounder. Dreadful record though, even given that aim!
(I think he was cool-ish from 1976 through 1981, Miss You Nights to Wired For Sound)
What gets me is that I grew up with uncool, MOR, ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, singing in the rain at Wimbledon Cliff, and just assumed that at some point he had been ‘cool’ and ‘dangerous’ (whatever that means) but it seems he really wasn’t… Maybe for a couple of singles in 1958, and then he settled into his bland groove. Fair play to him, though – he’s lasted twice as long as his more dangerous contemporaries
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