Friday, November 13, 2009

To Be True To One Woman: Cliff Richard and The Shadows: "A Voice In The Wilderness"

And now, the 60s. Specifically January 1960, which happens to be when my parents got married, when Plath and Hughes were back in London, and when young Cliff Richard was busy being the number one pop star in the UK.

Every decade begins tentatively, with a kind of happy apprehension - things may get better, will definitely change, hope for all the best. And yet decades rarely 'end' right at their chronological end; it takes a while for any decade to really find itself, so to speak. (Though some might argue, and I'd agree with them, that the 30s and the 90s were pretty definite from the start - and of course with the change of the millennium, the 00s have been fairly separate as well.) Being caught between two sides is far more the usual in these '0' years, and 1960 is no exception, and this song, which I expected from its title to be fairly straightforward, fits right in.

"A Voice In The Wilderness": it comes from the Bible, to be sure. But it also comes from a movie called Expresso Bongo and already you can sense something's up. The song starts out in a descending and vaguely sultry way (I can't help but think of Hank Marvin in this manner, especially after seeing a certain cover of his), and then the heartaches begin - his heart is heavy, his arms are blue, he is all alone thinking of you - you the girl who has left him in what can only be called 'lover's quarrel' circumstances. Except this may be more than just a quarrel...

"Have faith in your darling, the voice seemed to say
Be true to her memory, she'll come back one day
And though there was no-one, nobody to see
A voice in the wilderness brought comfort to me"

How odd that someone who is missing someone isn't either looking for her or being consoled by an actual human being, or even a dog. This voice is, by the way, "the voice of true love" so at least he's not, well, crazy; but the phrase "her memory" made me think of how maybe in this quarrel he was more than just "unkind"; maybe this quarrel led to the poor girl's death. I see Cliff sitting in an empty room, desperate with loneliness, not unlike Heathcliff (who he would portray on stage in the 90s), blank with grief and arrogant with heavenly consolation. She will come back, she will; in a song I don't get to write about directly so I'll have to mention it here. Meanwhile the song's sultry despair and late-night aura carry on, and Cliff is happy to wait and be attended on by...somebody.

(I should also note at this time Cliff realized he could have a girlfriend or he could have lots of female fans. Being ever-industrious, he chose his fans, a choice he has yet to reverse.)

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