My Abbey Road: Sir Cliff Richard #AbbeyRoad90

31st July 2021

Our 90th-anniversary My Abbey Road series continues with the legendary Sir Cliff Richard.

Sir Cliff recounts his tales of recording his debut single at Abbey Road, his favourite memories here and how one small corner in Studio Two became his musical birthplace.


Sir Cliff's Abbey Road


I was still 17 when I entered Abbey Road and of course was introduced to Studio Two right at the beginning. My first record MOVE IT was recorded right there in that studio and The Shadows and I just loved it there - it was so comfortable for us. It had that staircase that ran up the side of the building - good exercise for us as we’d go up and listen to the takes and then rush back down and do them again if they didn’t sound so good. 

It was a terrific time, and I can understand why the Beatles fell in love with it. But I just want to let everyone know (and I tend to do so all the time) the Shadows and I were there five years before the Beatles, so we were in love with it before they came. 

But of course, the Shadows and I were not making albums so much as making single after single after single, and it’s very clever that The Beatles actually recorded an album called Abbey Road which made it famous - God bless them for doing that. It is always exciting to record there, it was just wonderful for us, we just couldn’t believe our luck being in an actual studio.


Sir Cliff's Favourite Memory


If someone was to ask me what my favourite moment was, well, they were all great moments.  I find recording anywhere interesting and fascinating, because we were at the very beginnings of Rock & Roll, and we started at Abbey Road so it’s always going to be a place that is very special in our hearts.
The moment I am going to choose that I think I remember the most is that when we were recording Miss You Nights - Bruce Welch (The Shadows guitarist) was producing my album I’m Nearly Famous and he had found Miss You Nights, written by Dave Townsend, and both of us just loved it. Bruce said it has to have an orchestra, and I agreed. I arrived and walked into the studio and there was this orchestra, strings, everything was there.  We’re not talking about the London Philharmonic, but it was a big thing, it was fantastic for me to walk in with all these musicians – slightly nerve wracking! I sang it, thinking that once we’d recorded the track (after the musicians had left) I would then go down and re-do my voice.  But when they had all left, Bruce said to me “I don’t think we need to do your voice again”, so we played it and I agreed it sounded fine. Mind you, I was used to singing live with musicians at this stage, but this was such an important song for me that I thought maybe I should have done it again, but it didn’t need it, so I didn’t. 

Bruce had said to me in the second verse “midnight diamonds……” “ why don’t you do a harmony below and a harmony above, so I did. I then put a falsetto that was the octave up from the one below, and it had a magic feel to it. Then between the BV group of Tony Rivers, John Perry and Stu Calver and me, we did the BV’s for the rest of the track. That to me was a fab memory attached not only to just recording the track but recording at Abbey Road, Studio Two.


Sir Cliff's Favourite Recording


We weren’t into albums straight away, but there’s an album we made in 1960 called Me & My Shadows (for obvious reasons). It was the first album where we proved we could be a European band influenced by the fatherland of R&R (America) but making it our own sound. It was a thrill to do it like that and to listen back and think “we’re there, we’ve found out what Americans do and added a little something that makes it our own”. 

To me, that album will stand out because some years later backstage at Top of The Pops, Peter Green (the guitarist for Fleetwood Mac) said to me, - “the guys and I cut our teeth on Me & My Shadows – I was so thrilled! I couldn’t believe Fleetwood Mac were influenced in some minor way by what The Shadows and I had done, way back in 1960!


What does Abbey Road mean to Sir Cliff?

I was still 17 and unable to even think where I could find a studio to record in. When I look back, we didn’t even know where studios existed. I lived way out of town, and when I went in for my audition with Norrie Paramor and he said those magic words – “OK we’re going to record”, and he gave us a date and “we’re going to meet in the studio” -  I could not believe it!  Looking back now, it was such a wonderful place to be attached to, and it’s a famous studio now, was made so of course, by The Beatles, but it was ours as well.  When we got there, it felt like home.
One of the memories I have when I met Paul McCartney there years later at a function (we’d both sold millions of records each for EMI), he said to me, “we used to get really annoyed, every time we rang to get Studio Two, they said, no, Cliff & The Shadows have got It”, and they thought “oh, they’re EMI’s favourites”. I said, “isn’t it strange, Paul, whenever Bruce Welch would call to book the studio for us, guess what, they said, “sorry, The Beatles have got it” , and we said, “oh well, they’re EMI’s favourites”!  

Unknowingly, we disliked each other because we felt the other band was more important to EMI, but it turns out we were both just as important to them, and they of course were always very important to us.  Abbey Road Studio Two is going to be etched in all our memories that have ever recorded there - The Beatles, myself, and a whole bunch of other people too – a phenomenal place to be.  I’m so happy my career started there.

As you look down from the studio, the staircase ran down the right-hand wall. I sang in the left-hand corner - they put these things around me to keep the band sound out from my sound, that little corner of Studio Two is my birthplace!


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