Friday, December 27, 2013

Cliff Richard's Wild Concerts in Coventry

From the prolific pen of Pete Clemons - his latest article for Coventry Telegraph - Cliff's Wild Concerts in Coventry.

Cliff's Wild Concerts in Coventry 
Pete Clemons 

CLIFF Richard has just released his latest album 'The Fabulous Rock 'n' Roll Songbook' where, as the title suggests, he has gone full circle and has revisited his musical roots from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

By all accounts this is Cliff's 100th album release which, by any stretch of the imagination is a remarkable achievement, and the songs on it see him pay tribute to the greats of rock 'n' roll who inspired and influenced him, such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.

During his early days Cliff and backing group the Shadows, who before that had been known as The Drifters, were regular visitors to Coventry.

Cliff, it seems, has always been a local favourite.

In 1959 it was reported that a 500 strong mob of screaming teenage girls stormed a Coventry cinema when Cliff performed one of his early concerts there. Staff at the Gaumont Cinema - later to become the Odeon and nowadays known as the Ellen Terry Centre - had their uniforms torn and ripped from their backs as they struggled to stop fans getting backstage.

Another story from the late 1950s involved Cliff and the band having to be smuggled out of the Granada Cinema in Rugby to avoid being mobbed by young fans.

Cliff also used to perform regularly at the Coventry Theatre, both solo and with his backing group The Shadows. Each and every one of those gigs would be sell outs. Tickets for all of those visits would be snapped up very quickly. In fact The Shadows have, several times, sold out the venue while touring in their own right.

He would quite often use those gigs at the theatre as an opportunity to drop in at various schools and sports centres around Coventry. Such as the time in 1976 when he even paid a surprise visit to pupils at Binley Park School and took part in a question and answer session.

Other visits have seen Cliff play tennis at the AT7 Centre and give a talk at Finham Park School about his beliefs and has always been ready to help local charities and good causes.

His Christian life has seen Cliff deliver a service and attend a mission at Coventry Cathedral during 1968 where, apparently, upwards of 15,000 saw him perform. He also performed gospel music at both Queens Road Baptist Church during 1971 and Central Methodist Hall during 1973 and also at St Paul's Church, Leamington, in 1974.

Needless to say the congregation, at each of these events, was huge. More than 1,400 people attended the Queens Road service. A thousand people had packed into the main church and 400 sat in overflow seating and watched the event on closed circuit television.

By coincidence this was held during the same weekend that The Rolling Stones were appearing at Coventry Theatre. At the Central Methodist Hall concerts Cliff played two shows to more than 2,000 people.

Proceeds from the concerts went to the TEAR fund who bought a Land Rover for missionary agriculturalists in Tanzania. And, along with 299 others, Cliff has had his name etched into the ornate millennium screen housed within the Cathedral. This honour was paid for by his official fan club who pledged the money to mark his sixtieth birthday back in the year 2000.

The following review, from April 1960, was written when Cliff and The Shadows starred during a week's residency at the Coventry Theatre. This had not been Cliff's first visit to the city but it was the first time he had appeared since his backing group had changed their name to The Shadows: 'The Coventry Theatre is the home of mass hysteria for a week for 'Mr Cliff Richard', complete with white suit, black shirt and his musical group 'The Shadows' is performing before a seething, writhing, shrieking audience of teenagers.

Monday night saw my initiation into the bewildering world of inaudible word, crashing chords and body movements that so easily transform normal healthy youngsters into hysterical hero worshippers. I am still in a state of mild shock by it all.

Cliff Richard is top of the bill in a show that caters for the young. He is the man who gives them what they really want and, judging by the reception he received, he must give it to them well. It isn't often you get flowers thrown on stage.

It doesn't really matter that words are unintelligible in the fast numbers.

Just let him stab out his white shoed foot in the general direction of the audience and, judging by the screams, they react in much the same way as if they had been kicked in the seat of their pants.

Mr Richard is a rock 'n' roll general who skilfully marshalls his stage army around him and he pays great attention to the battle campaign in hand. His act opens with a string of fast bouncy numbers that whip the audience up into the required state of semi-consciousness.

His musical group, three guitars and drums, never keep still going through simple semi-dance routines that keep the performance at ecstatic level. They are a well drilled squad.

All the acts that precede the entry of the idol into the ritualistic arena play very minor parts in the nights proceedings but two are worthy of mention - one particularly so.

The Four Jones Boys give a polished punchy display presenting themselves as a singing group who are different. Good harmony, nice touches of humour and a friendly manner make them well worth their number two billing. And in Roger Mistin, the Coventry Theatre have introduced us to one of the best xylophonists I have heard for a long time.

If you are a Cliff Richard fan and, let's face it - who under the age of twenty isn't, then this is a show for you.' Who would ever have guessed after reading that review that Cliff Richard would go on to be knighted for his services to music and would still be very much around, more than fifty years later, in 2013.


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