Monday, November 23, 2009

We Love You Cliff, Oh Yes We Do: Cliff Richard And The Shadows: "Fall In Love With You"

If there is one dynamic in popular culture that can always be relied upon, it is that of the teen idol. Young, shiny, handsome/pretty, unthreatening - a teen idol is by necessity accessible (yet slightly mysterious), humble and obliging, one of those obligations being that they take up only so much time and trouble in popular culture. Teen idols can grow up and continue to be successful in what they do, mainly because they change as their audience changes; or they can break up (if a band) or wander off into other things, such as politics, business or other arts. However I am guessing many teen idols either go on as they believe they can serve the industry or they are a little tired of being screamed at and retreat and are able to reinvent themselves.

Cliff Richard was a genuine teen idol in the UK in '60, singing directly to the girls in the audience here about how this was his first romance and how easily he could fall in love - though of course the song was objectively about young longings and hopes in general, especially on that crucial first date. I don't want to say that Richard was directly courting his audience here, but his coolness and silkiness - a kind of cat's eyes sound to his voice - certainly doesn't hurt.

My one question here is about teen idols in general - why did so many spring up at this time? Was it just because of sheer generational pressure - all the baby boomers hitting those crucial Tiger Beat times of lots of wall/locker space with so much room for posters? I suppose so - that mass media makes celebrities sounds like such an obvious answer that I am almost suspicious of it. Young people, girls in particular, have always had adolescent crushes of all kinds: royalty, movie stars, characters in books, portraits...all standing in for the real thing, helping them get to the stage where they are, in fact, ready for the real thing.

I guess my real question is: why Cliff? It comes down to the UK sensibility I suppose (at this time he was trying to break the US but didn't spend enough time there to really have an impact), the UK preferring their own nice boy to the rougher types, including one man I have yet to reach who was simply The Man when it came to rock 'n' roll at this time, a man so legendary that the Beatles (then called the Silver Beatles) tried and failed to be his backing band. Once you hear him, the original man in gold lame, the unfairness of Richard's success compared to his (at least on this blog) is inexplicable. But that is the teen idol business for you: the girls want who they want, and a pleasant vanilla milkshake was preferred over the crunchy tin roof sundae nearly every time.

1 comment:

David Belbin said...

Cliff was, of course, impossibly good looking, as recent repeated visits to Nottingham's new contemporary art gallery have reminded me. David Hockney's obsession with Cliff in the very early 60's is all over his art. Billy Fury (who I once saw play to a small crowd in Nottingham's market square, just before his death, a sad figure) was much rougher.