We’ve covered 210 chart-toppers so far in this countdown, going from the very first chart through to Nancy Sinatra and her boots in early 1966. And it’s only fair that we turn our attention to the man that, up to now, has been involved in more of these #1 singles than anybody else, more than Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Bacharach and David…! Norrie Paramor.
Born in 1913, Paramor had worked as a pianist and arranger through the thirties and forties, before being appointed recording director at EMI in 1952 – the very year that the singles chart he was to help shape began. Having developed his sound during the light-programme, easy listening days, Paramor was perfectly positioned to help the pre-rock stars sway (albeit gently). He was responsible for trumpeter Eddie Calvert’s hits, and the Northern-Irish warbler Ruby Murray’s ‘Softly, Softly’. Then there was Michael Holliday. Already a pretty impressive body of chart-topping work… And it was about to become all the more impressive, because along came Cliff.
Cliff Richard has had eight number ones so far in our countdown, all of which have been produced by Norrie Paramor. And each time I’ve complained that ‘rock ‘n’ roll Cliff’ was nowhere to be seen… Britain’s answer to Elvis etc. etc. Yeah right. He had a handful of truly rocking singles in ’58, but by the time he’d gotten down to the business of topping the charts the rock had become more of a gentle toe-tap. And a lot of that was probably down to Paramor. He wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll producer; he was a light-entertainment, easy listening kind of guy. I get the feeling he wasn’t convinced by rock and roll, probably saw it as a fad, and was willing to allow it as long as it was successful. Still, he moulded Cliff’s sound. One wonders how Cliff would have turned out had he had someone else’s hands on the tiller…
(An early pic of Paramor, Cliff and The Shadows)
Of course, wherever Cliff went The Shadows weren’t far off. Paramor produced all of their chart-toppers too. Which makes for a more interesting comparison of styles, as discs like ‘Kon-Tiki’ and ‘Dance On!’ were actually pretty rocking little numbers. Perhaps it’s unfair, then, to write Paramor off as a dinosaur. Add to this the fact that he also oversaw Helen Shapiro’s wonderful 1961 chart-topping double – the bubbly ‘Walkin’ Back to Happiness’ and the melodramatic ‘You Don’t Know’ – and it’s clear that he wasn’t all bad…
(Paramor with Cliff, again, and Helen Shapiro in the early sixties)
Wait, though… On the flip side of this particular coin lies one Frank Ifield. Yep, Norrie Paramor produced all four #1s from ‘The Year of Ifield’, pre-rock’s final hurrah before The Beatles and The Pacemakers saved us all… The yodelling horror that is ‘Lovesick Blues’ remains, for me, far worse than anything that Cliff has inflicted.
A mixed bag, then, from Norrie Paramor, prolific producer of the chart’s early years. In total (I think, it’s hard to keep track) he put his name to around twenty five chart-topping singles before the seventies arrived. He also acted as musical director for the Eurovision Song Contest, and wrote multiple film scores, before passing away in 1979. And, in a sentimental twist, the artist that was sitting at #1 in the UK as Paramor drew his final breath, with his first chart-topper in over a decade, was… Cliff!