Thursday, 24 July 2008
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Move It, the debut single by Cliff Richard and the Drifters. A grateful nation offers its congratulations to him and the boys, and its thanks for realizing the concept of British rock and roll.
Move It wasn’t actually the first British rock and roll record (that honour belonged to Tony Crombie and his Rockets with Teach You to Rock nearly two years earlier). Nor even was it the first great one: a couple of months before Cliff, Marty Wilde had released his version of Endless Sleep, a track that was actually better than the Jody Reynolds original.
But Move It was the first classic rock and roll performance to originate here – a song written by the Drifters’ guitarist Ian Samwell, not a cover of an American record.
It was an epoch-making moment in popular culture. ‘An exciting number with throbbing beat,’ enthused the NME reviewer. ‘If you’re an addict of the big beat, then this is a “must” for your collection.’
In later years Cliff was to say of the ‘50s: ‘We British never really competed.’ But he was being unduly modest; Move It proved that a rock record made in a London studio was capable of rivalling anything coming out of America, setting the tone for the next decade’s domination of the genre by Britain.
The following year, 1959, demonstrated that the track wasn’t a mere flash-in-the-pan, with a handful of classic records: Cliff and the Drifters released Livin’ Lovin’ Doll, Mean Streak and Dynamite; Wilde hit new heights on his self-penned Bad Boy; Vince Taylor and the Playboys launched a cult reputation with Brand New Cadillac; and Billy Fury debuted with his own song Maybe Tomorrow, while Johnnie Kidd and the Pirates did the same with Please Don’t Touch.
The originator, however, wasn’t an instant success, and it wasn’t until October 1958 that Move It finally broke into the top five, peaking at #2.
To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that event, I’ve got a book coming out this October. Titled Halfway To Paradise: The Birth of British Rock, it’s being published by the V&A, and it’s centred on the fabulous photographs taken during the period by British showbiz legend, Harry Hammond.
For those who can’t wait for publication, the slide-show at the beginning of this blog entry shows some of the photos of Cliff used in the book.
While this one shows some of the other images from the book: