Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Turn A Deaf Ear: Cliff Richard and The Shadows: "Don't Talk To Him"

But not all UK pop is as benign as it might seem; in Liverpool, it's amplified nursery rhymes, but down in London...

...a certain paranoia is taking hold. Boyfriend and girlfriend must be apart (why? it's never explained) and he is telling her not to talk to "him." Just who is this man? Why is he so unreliable, so disruptive? Cliff all but says that he is a liar, a rogue, a man who simply cannot be trusted. Cliff's love is true, but "this guy" (strange for an era that liked names that he's not even named) is presumably telling our heroine that if he hears that he, the redoubtable Cliff, is going out with Sue or Jean that she isn't to believe him. So much drama, paranoia, all of it done with The Shadows' ease in the back (they are of course on Cliff's side in this triangle) that we might begin to wonder if Cliff isn't being a little bit unreliable himself - why doesn't he just go to the other guy and tell him off? Why can't he trust his own girl, to whom he is so (so he says) true? This song offers far more questions than it can answer and Cliff almost sings it as if he is singing not to a girl but to a wayward pet. He means well, you can hear that, but this insecurity (perhaps a more accurate word than paranoia) is edged here with condescension, as if this girl cannot be trusted to know truth from falsehood, has no intuition to know what is what. This is, however, the era of songs like "My Boyfriend's Back" wherein the girl who has been the unwanted object of another man's affections presumably scrams before said boyfriend returns to give him a black eye. A girl cannot tell him to get lost, as she is weak; all she can do is just hang up the phone or perhaps go to the bathroom to fix her make-up for a long time.

But the issue of mistrust here then widens into a world where a world leader was just assassinated, the Cold War has already polarized many and paranoia indeed is rampant, and a certain degree of innocence is lost, convictions are strengthened for some and for others they weaken. As for Cliff, when we return to him he will be trusting and even hapless once more, and by then pop and indeed music will have jumped fully into the multicolored flashy era known as the Swinging Sixties. But for now all is still beehives and pastels, twinsets and anxiety. A more innocent era, perhaps, but then again, maybe not.

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