Random Runners-Up: ‘Move It’, by Cliff Richard & The Drifters

Our final #2 of the week, and it’s back to the fifties. To a man we’ve met plenty of times before on these very pages…

‘Move It’, by Cliff Richard & The Drifters

#2 for 1 week, from 24th-31st Oct 1958, behind ‘Stupid Cupid’ / ‘Carolina Moon’

Cliff Richard, in 1958, was Britain’s answer to Elvis. That’s both true, and unfair. True, because he was young, good-looking, and extravagantly quiffed. And unfair, because nobody comes out well from a comparison with Elvis.

This was Cliff’s debut single, his first of sixty-eight (68!) Top 10 hits in the UK, over the course of fifty years. And if you are of a slightly snide disposition – and aren’t we all, sometimes – one could argue that this was the only true rock ‘n’ roll record from Britain’s great rock ‘n’ roll hope.

And it does rock. The opening refrain is great, reminiscent of Buddy Holly, and the purring, driving riff that succeeds it sounds genuinely exciting, almost punk-ish in its simplicity. In the autumn of 1958, it must have been thrilling to hear this growling out of some jukebox speakers, and knowing that the singer was from a London suburb, rather than Memphis.

The lyrics are pretty nonsensical, as all the best rock ‘n’ roll lyrics are… C’mon pretty baby let’s a-move it and a-groove it… while The Drifters sound the equal of any American group. (They wouldn’t become The Shadows until 1959, by which point they had accompanied Cliff on his first of many easy-listening #1s, ‘Living Doll’.)

The one thing that doesn’t quite sell this for me is Cliff himself… He just sounds a bit too nice. And I don’t know if that’s because I can’t seperate the goody-goody, God-bothering, Centre Court-serenading Cliff Richard from the eighteen-year-old version. Still, imagine Elvis mumbling and grunting his way through this…

As I referred to above, Cliff would go on to enjoy some reasonable success over the ensuing decades… I wonder if anyone who bought ‘Move It’ in October 1958 imagined that this hot young rocker would still be touring and recording in 2022, well into his ninth decade… As uncool as he is, I can’t bring myself to dislike Sir Clifford of Richard: he’s a bona-fide pop legend. I can’t say I’m looking forward to reviewing any of his three remaining #1s, though, but that’s a story for another day…

I hope you’ve enjoyed random runners-up week. The regular countdown will resume over the weekend, picking up in the summer of ’86…

9 thoughts on “Random Runners-Up: ‘Move It’, by Cliff Richard & The Drifters

  1. I like it but he went to the middle of the road pretty quick in his career right? Elvis did the same thing after the army…he lost his danger element.

    Speaking as an American…he had a strange career… over here anyway…he didn’t really hit here until the seventies.

    • He went to the middle almost instantly… 😃 His first number one in 1959 was already very safe and grandma friendly.

      I think any British rock and rollers in the fifties were almost like tribute acts to the real thing… because rock n roll, r and b, bluegrass etc are all so American.

      Skiffle was probably the most ‘British’ form of rock music, and that’s where the Beatles started… though they too did plenty of rock n roll covers, well into their recording career

      • I love Skiffle…because no one was excluded…if you had a tea chest you were in the band plus it’s good training for keeping rhythm.
        Like I’ve said…I know him through what the Beatles said…and they weren’t too friendly at the beginning about him…because of the planned moves by the band and no danger.

      • I’m sure there’s a quote from John or Paul about hearing ‘Move It’ for the first time, and being amazed that he was British… But certainly by the time they broke through Cliff was old hat (though still very successful…)

      • They would say that many people wanted them to act like the Shadows some… but they said no…never.
        Yea I wouldn’t have known he was British from that song.

      • Like Elvis, he did go to the middle, as did Buddy Holly – ‘That’ll Be The Day’ to ‘Raining in my Heart’ and ‘True Love Ways’? Slade – from ‘Get Down And Get With It’ to ‘Everyday’? The Stranglers – from ‘Go Buddy Go’ to ‘Golden Brown’, anyone? It’s where the money is, folks…

  2. …well, ‘Golden Brown’ was still pretty subversive as regards subject matter, but that never stopped Radio 2 fro doing it in their more MOR days.

    • Haha yes, I don’t remeber Cliff having a heroin phase… I know what you mean, of course, as you can pick out a moment in most artists’ back catalogue where they perhaps sold out a little… Cliff though seemed to embrace it a bit more readily than others. Though bearing in mind that most in the 50s thought rock n roll a passing fad, and that branching out into other genres, as well as into light entertainment on TV, was a sensible career move.

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