Surprise Surprise ~ it’s Cilla’s Birthday

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I would think it fairly uncontroversial to state, as I have in the past on these very pages, that Dusty is the Queen of Pop; a singer of pop, soul and ballads without equal. Sandie Shaw can lay claim to be a closeish second, but I am not the only Pop Junkie writer whose vote will always go to Cilla.

When I were a nipper we had proper light entertainment on a Saturday night. Variety shows hosted by a clean cut singer, Lulu, Cliff or Cilla, who would don their best clobber and sing a number (or a medley god forbid) accompanied by the energetic young Nigel Lythgoe Dancers and special guests such as comedian Les Dawson or Roger De Courcey or pop acts such as Paper Lace, Guys & Dolls or Gilbert O’Sullivan. That was the 70s. A few years earlier, however, and the guests were likely to be The Hollies, The Who or the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

That format and, it seemed, the careers of the hosts, appeared to have been washed away with punk rock, yet just as Elton, Rod, Floyd and the like emerged stronger than ever in the mid 1980s so did Cilla. Not as a singer, however, but as the UKs Queen of Light Entertainment via the phenomenally successful Blind Date & Surprise Surprise. That she emerged as a less scary version of Mrs Thatcher has not sullied my love of her 60s material.

Granted, having Paul McCartney as a surrogate older brother, who then writes you some songs and gets uncle George Martin to produce them, as a career leg-up that takes some beating. But her best stuff has an enduring charm from the zestful Mersey beat of her debut Love of the Loved (Lennon-McCartney) through her wistful monster hit ballads (You’re my World, Anyone Who Had a Heart, Alfie) and on to her late 60s/early 70s string of Cook-Greenaway belters.

EMI plan to mark her 45th year in showbiz by remastering her classic 60s albums on download in the autumn (why not stick ’em out on vinyl or CD?) plus, in an attempt to attract a new following, is going to have some club mixes issued (oh dear!).

Anyway, happy birthday luv, and have a lorra lorra fun. Here’s a Pop Junkie Top 10 Salute to Cilla.

1. Step Inside Love ~ As good as anything done in the decade, yes, including The Beatles, Stones, Otis, Aretha, Love or the Beach Boys. It is that good. I’ve always wanted to hear The Fall cover it, I can hear Mark E Smith howling “Step inside, love” in my head. It sounds great! This is an early demo version which is very nice, as I can’t find a decent clip of this 1968 classic.

2. It’s For You ~ Another McCartney song, her fourth hit, it followed her two big number ones You’re My World & Anyone who had a Heart. Little known, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t recognise this as a forgotten gem when they hear it.

3. Work is a Four Letter Word ~ 1968 film theme covered by none other than The Smiths. Two versions appear on the excellent 3-disc Abbey Road Decade compilation.

4. Conversations ~ 1969 Top 10 Cook-Greenaway hit. Will have to do a Pop Junkie Salute to the magic of C-G sometime.

5. Surround Yourself with Sorrow. Another 1969 Top 10 hit.

6. Love of the Loved ~ Aforementioned perky debut with the Scouseometer turned up to 11. Lovely brass. Clip introduced by the great Brian Matthew ~ Still going strong wuth his excellent Saturday morning Radio 2 show.

7. Abyssinian Secret ~ Lovely whimsical oddity recorded early in ’67 but not released until a year later.

8. Anyone who had a Heart ~ As good as the Dionne Warwick version and she sings Bacharach-David better than Dusty!

9. Liverpool Lullaby ~ Haunting sad little ditty from ’69.

10. Day by Day ~ Title track from a 1973 album. Great song from Godspell and great version.

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