Appearing on a 3rd Xmas #1 in a row, and going full in on the nu-folk sound of the time: the one, the only, Sir Clifford of Richard.
Saviour’s Day, by Cliff Richard (his 13th of fourteen #1s)
1 week, from 23rd – 30th December 1990
It’s a Christmas tune, and yet it’s not really. No references to decking the halls or Santa Claus here, and not a sleigh bell in sight. I mentioned that, two years ago, despite ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ being unashamedly religious in tone, Cliff still kept the little secular touches that people expect from a festive chart hit. For ‘Saviour’s Day’, though, he’s gone full-on Christian contemporary.
Open your eyes on Saviour’s Day, Don’t look back or turn away… It’s proper judgement day stuff – some hardcore preaching. Life can be yours if you’ll only stay… Songs like this are usually tucked away on a niche Christian chart, so that regular people don’t have to hear them. But, because Cliff is the biggest solo star this island has ever produced (a bold statement, but I’m sticking to it!) he manages to take it to number one.
However actually, by the end, I’m pretty sure he’s toasting several different gods: the God of the Present, the God of the Past… Maybe he was going all Dickensian – rather than for a pagan, Earth-mother sort of vibe – but I’m not sure the Bible allows that kind of blasphemy. Though maybe God himself would think twice before disagreeing with Cliff.
I was expecting to dislike this. And there are certainly aspects of it that I can’t get behind. The lyrics, for a start. The electronic pan-pipes are also an acquired taste, while there are some horrible synth flourishes that make my hair stand on end. Plus, the video is ridiculously cheesy (or is that cheesily ridiculous?), featuring Cliff striking messianic poses on the chalk cliffs of Dorset. And yet, ‘Saviour’s Day’ has a corker of a chorus. And people who know much more about song writing than I do really rate it.
It’s probably better than ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ – though that too has a tacky charm – and it’s certainly better than Cliff’s fourteenth and final number one. (Thankfully we have some way to go before we meet that one.) What’s not up for debate is that this record gave him a chart-topper in every decade that the UK singles chart had been in existence: two in the fifties, seven in the sixties, one in the seventies, two in the eighties, and now one in nineties (plus one to come). It’s a feat that has never been matched, and perhaps never will.