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Cool 78 of the Month

February 2006

Cliff Richard and the Drifters
HMV Special Recording
7 June 1958
Reproduction Reissue Cruisin the 50's CASB 007
June 1998

This cool 78 is a piece of Cliff Richard pre-history. In 1956, a 16 year old Cliff, then known as Harry Webb, got a guitar as a birthday present. He twanged around for a bit before beginning his public music career in 1957 as a member of a skiffle group. This gig was short lived, and after a few months Cliff joined up with Terry Smart and Ken Payne to form the Drifters, playing at clubs around London. It was at a gig at the 2i's coffee bar in London W1 where they rounded out the group with the addition of song-writer/ guitarist Ian Samwell. That quartet proved to be a winning combination, going on to catch the eye of theatrical agent George Ganyou.

At the time, Cliff and the Drifters were represented by agent Johnny Foster. Bouyed by the encouragement of Ganyou, Johnny Foster borrowed £10 from his mum, Carol, and arranged a 1 hour recording session in the studios at the HMV record store in Oxford Street in London. During this one hour of studio time, the boys laid down covers of Lloyd Price's Lawdy Miss Clawdy, popularised at that time by Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis' Breathless.

Three acetates were cut from the reel-to-reel tape of the session, after which, the magnetic tape was no doubt wiped as the boys went on their way. All in all a normal day at HMV. One of the acetates made their way to Ganyou, who presented it to EMI's Norrie Paramour. The intensity of the quartet impressed Paramour so much that he arranged an audition for them. He was most impressed by Cliff himself however, and intended to record him solo with a full orchestra instead of his mates. Cliff would have none of this, insisting that the Drifters continue to back him. Three months after the HMV store session, Move It and Schoolboy Crush would be released on Columbia to begin its journey to number 2 in the UK charts.

Fast forward to 1998, to the digital era. Very few vinyl records are being released as the record industry is madly in love with the little laminated aluminum critters called CDs. The occasional 45 RPM single or 33 1/3 RPM LP would be released by the majors, but regular vinyl releases would come from small specialist labels. One such label was Cruisin' the 50's from Nottinghamshire in the UK. Cruisin' specialised in nostalgic re-issues of 1950's rock'n'roll records. These normally showed up as regular black vinyl releases. However, when the chance came up to give the public a listen to the recordings that launched Cliff's career, Cruisin' went all out.

Released as catalogue number CASB 007, Cruisin' accurately reproduced the look and feel of the original 1958 acetate. Dubbed from one of the original discs, they went so far as to reproduce the label, complete with Nipper and handwriting, that adorned this important recording. A lavish package was prepared with a cardboard sleeve touting it is --quote--The Most Important Recording of the U.K. Rock'n'Roll Era--unquote--. The package included various Cliff clippings and adverts, along with a vintage advert for Dansette gramophones in case you needed something to play it on. Lovingly pressed in heavy weight vinyl, this reproduction retailed for £19.99, somewhere between US$30 to $40 then, a part of which went to Cliff's charitable works and foundations. Today, you can expect to pay in the neighbourhood of £50 if you can find a copy.

And lest anyone ask, this reproduction is a 78 RPM record. It becomes one of at least three 78s issued in the late 20th century, the other two being We Hate It When Our Friends Become Sucessful by Morrisey and Millenium by Robbie Williams. Sonically, in spite of the less than hi-fi source, this 78 RPM vinyl record is one of the greatest sounding records you will ever hear. The images shown here are of this reissue.

B Side
Cliff Richard and the Drifters
Lawdy Miss Clawdy