Sir Cliff Richard wore a white jacket, black slacks and a handful of Brylcreem in his hair for his first Blackpool gig
By Barry Band
‘Now, when did we first see Cliff Richard in Blackpool?”
It may have been a question discussed by generations of fans, whether or not they were able to have been at the Opera House last Sunday.
I wonder how many fans were able to date his first visit - October 6, 1958, at the Odeon, Dickson Road, Blackpool.
It was eight days before Cliff’s 18th birthday and his first recording, Move It, was moving up the charts. It reached the second spot.
But Cliff didn’t top the bill in that 1958 concert tour. The honour went to American brothers the Kalin Twins, who had just topped the UK charts with a song titled When.
It was their only hit. Cliff went on to have 14 chart-toppers, 68 Top Tens and with his current album, The Air That I Breathe, he has had a Top Five album in eight consecutive decades.
But back to his first Blackpool appearance at the Odeon 63 years ago this month. It was his first tour since making his TV debut a few weeks earlier as a mean and moody rocker on ITV’s pop show Oh, Boy.
On the tour Cliff is said to have worn a white jacket, black slacks and a handful of Brylcreem in his hair.
If you weren’t there on the night but have a memory of seeing the young Cliff in Blackpool, here are a few possible dates, which I’m linking with Cliff’s coinciding hits.
On Easter Sunday, 1960, Cliff and the Shadows starred in two concerts at the Opera House. Two Number One hits of the previous year were Living Doll and Travellin’ Light, while two releases of the early weeks of 1960 - A Voice in the Wilderness and Fall In Love With You - touched second base in the charts.
Cliff and the Shadows had three more Opera House Sunday concert dates that summer, when Please Don’t Tease became their third Number One hit. Those three dates were July 24, August 14 and September 11.
Cliff and the Shadows were back at the Opera House for eight weeks of twice nightly shows in the summer season of 1961, with their fourth chart-topper, I Love You, in the bank.
This was the year the Opera House had a split season. For the first six weeks the bill-topper was Shirley Bassey. But the main supporting acts in both segments were Richard “Mr Pastry” Hearne, Welsh singer Ivor Emmanuel and comedian Tommy Fields.
As fans well know, two film hits, The Young Ones and Summer Holiday, were behind Cliff and the Shadows when they opened Blackpool’s new ABC Theatre on May 31 1963 with a summer season of twice nightly shows under the title Holiday Carnival.
Indeed the ABC was top of the pops that summer with the Summer Holiday record at number one (their seventh top) and the Beatles starring on five Sunday nights.
Cliff and the Shadows returned to Blackpool for two Sunday concerts at the Opera House on July 25, 1965, with their recent chart-topper The Minute You’re Gone closing their set.
After Cliff went solo he starred in an Opera House concert in 1977 and played two nights at the theatre in his 20th anniversary tour in 1978.
Sir Cliff’s visit to the Fylde last Sunday put Blackpool back on the starry way with the backdrop of the Illuminations and Lightpool.
A hit all round!