Last Monday, the Cliff Richard Fan Club's charity CD single was released, one day after Cliff's 78th birthday and he had been presented with a copy by the fan club, during a soundcheck at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The strictly limited CD edition of the single had been available on pre-order since 24 September from Leo's Den, but had sold out in less than a week. For those unlucky enough not to have got a copy, here are the liner notes that I wrote for the CD version, but not available with the MP3 download that is currently available on Amazon...
The story of how this very unique CD single came about started long before it was decided to green light the project and turn it from an almost impossible dream into a reality. It really started with an email in November 2017 which Carol Hall, the president of the London and Surrey Cliff Richard Fan Club received from Susanne Fritsch, one of the club members, asking if there were any plans to present a gift for Cliff from his fans to celebrate his 78th birthday on 14 October 2018, and to mark his 60 years in show business. Carol decided to raise Susanne’s suggestion with the club’s Facebook page members and run a poll to establish if the members would be interested in donating to such an idea. It soon became apparent that they were! Everyone it seemed loved the idea of a Birthday and anniversary song, but the reality of making it happen was the part that needed careful planning and execution. If this could be pulled off, then it would be a fan club first that no other artist fan club had even got close to! Far more important than that was the sentiment of the project. To have a professionally written and produced song inspired by lyrics and sentiments donated by fans, which would be an extraordinary and unprecedented personal gift to Cliff. The big question was how to go about it and make it happen?
By her own admission Carol knew nothing about the record industry or even how one would go about producing a song, let alone getting it recorded. After commandeering the help of industry veteran Steve Carroll, it became clear that the fund would have to cover the cost of recording, studio time, mixing, mastering, artwork, packaging, manufacturing costs, digital distribution, producer, vocalist, musicians, and a load of other incidentals that Carol probably hadn’t even thought of. In other words, a ton of money. Initial enquiries came up with a ball park figure of around £4.5k to realise Susanne’s idea for a song for Cliff, but what an achievement it would be! What better way to thank Cliff for all the years of enjoyment he had given his fans than through a specially written song in which every fan had the opportunity to express their love and dedication! Carol launched a fund raising campaign on Facebook and through her club magazine, but little could she or Steve have imagined how fast and furiously the money would start flowing in to what was now called “The Diamond Song Project”.
The idea was to raise the budget needed for a song to be professionally written, recorded and produced, made available to download as an MP3 to be released on 15th October, and to produce the limited edition CD you now hold in your hands. This in turn would give the project the added bonus of giving proceeds from its sale to one of Cliff’s favourite charities, Tearfund, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary during this same year as Cliff was celebrating his 60th. Cliff had announced a new concert tour, and that could just provide the ideal opportunity to present the fan club’s gift to him, either on or off stage, on his birthday at the RAH in London, but by no means was this guaranteed. The presentation to Cliff would include a copy of the CD, plus a specially framed ‘scroll of honour’, which would include the name of everyone who had donated and contributed to the project. In addition to offering fans the chance to donate to the project, it also offered them the chance to submit up to two lines of lyrics that might have been incorporated into the finished song. Another Facebook poll meant that they could also vote on whether the song should be an up-tempo number or ballad. They decided it should be a ballad. When you think of the project in those terms and just how complex it was, and what was involved in making it happen, it was, without question, one of the most ambitious ever launched by a fan club of any artist. Many would regard it impossible, a farfetched dream, and above all, simply not feasible. 43 days after the idea was put to fans though, enough money had been raised to make it happen, so now the real work began to turn the dream into a reality.
From January onwards, Carol kept raising money through the fan club Facebook page, and started to collate the lyrics that fans were sending in with their donations. By the end of February, Carol had contacted the UK Songwriters Guild and eventually found Paul Whitfield who agreed to write the song, both music and words, based on the lyrics Carol had collected from fans. Paul produced a demo two months later in April. During this same period Carol was thinking over who should sing the song, and agreed with her partner-in-crime, Steve Carroll, that it should be a female. She got in touch with Suzie Furlonger and Helen Hobson who were both honorary members of the fan club. Suzie and her husband were expecting their first child so declined the offer, but Helen, was delighted to become involved, offering her professional services for free. It had been some years since she had seen Cliff and had played Cathy to his highly acclaimed portrayal of Heathcliff from 1996 to 1997, and so, the idea of being able to sing a song dedicated to someone she admired, loved and had worked with, simply delighted and thrilled her. Carol, of course, was equally thrilled to have found her voice.
Steve was busy pursuing more donations for the project, including a sponsor for the presentation frame. Both Carol and Steve were busy trying to improve every aspect of the project. Then in early June, another unbelievable surprise happened, when Carol received a message from none other than Alan Tarney who after being told about the project had expressed an interest and was keen to come on board to produce the track, also agreeing to offer his professional services for free as it was a charity single. It was Carol’s icing on the cake, the answer to her dreams to find someone to produce the song. She was completely, as she put it, “beyond excited!” Alan, probably best known for his production of Cliff’s ‘Wired For Sound’ and ‘Always Guaranteed’ Top 5 albums was the perfect choice to undertake producing duties. On the 17th June, Helen laid down her vocals at Alan’s studio, with Alan at the helm and John Brant engineering the sound. The competed track was sent a few days later to Cliff’s regular sound engineer, Keith Bessey, who Alan had in mind from the start for mixing and mastering the track ready for MP3 download and CD production. Once again Carol was literally blown away that she had managed to secure three major players for her project that at one time or another, had and still do, play a role in Cliff’s own recording career. What a literally astounding result for a project that had started out as just an idea. It was now happening for real and with three people she could have only hoped for. When she broke the news on Facebook, the fans were equally ecstatic, and who wouldn’t be? There was even more exciting news around the corner for her to share with the fans. The project has come in under the budget thanks to so many for giving their time and expertise for free. Carol had collected - at the time of writing this - a staggering £8.5k which meant the club’s donation to Tearfund far exceeded what she hoped for, that anybody could hope for. When she broke that news to Tearfund, they too were very excited. No one had raised money for them in this way. A very unique CD project!
When Keith Bessey sent Carol the finished, fully mixed and mastered song, she was suddenly and quite unexpectedly hit by the enormity and emotion of everything she and the fans had achieved. You’ve bought this song, and you have contributed to it. It is, as the cover suggests, the perfect gift to Cliff from his fans to thank him for all the fabulous years of pleasure he has given us through music, movies, TV performances and concerts. This song... a specially written, produced and beautifully crafted song, really says it all.
From us to you!
Thank you Cliff, Happy Birthday and huge congratulations on your 60th anniversary!