Back in the mid 60s, two years into my teenage years, I was like most other teenagers of that era, and spending most of my pocket money on records. With the release of Cilla Black's previously unreleased single last week, recorded a decade later when rock music came of age, just as I did, I am reminded of when her first album hit the streets, which last year was celebrated with the release of an expanded edition on Cherry Red Records. It was recorded in the same studio as her mates, the Beatles recorded their first album, was produced by the same producer George Martin, and released on the same Parlophone label with a sleeve that was typical of the period with a full colour photo on the front, but above all, it showcased, somewhat surprisingly, a wide array of song material and musical styles. With an expanded edition already released as part of Cherry Red's original album series, that includes both the mono and stereo versions of the LP, I would say, it is arguably, Cilla's most iconic.
One of the joys of buying records in the 60s was looking through the racks of album sleeves in record stores, spotting them displayed in the window, listening to them in one of the listening booths that were common place in most record shops, or reading the sleeve notes on the back cover to find out more about the album! Some records you would come across by chance, and others you would know about from browsing through the pages of the NME (New Musical Express) for news of new releases and reading reviews.
GOIN’ OUT OF MY HEAD Just right for Cilla. Originally recorded by America’s Little Anthony and The Imperials.
EVERY LITTLE BIT HURTS Soulful, dramatic. Featured previously by one of Cilla favourite American songstresses.
BABY IT’S YOU Cilla said about this one: “It brings back memories of the Beatles in their Liverpool days. John used to sing it. Call it one of my all time favourites”.
DANCING IN THE STREET Often used with great success in Cilla’s stage act. Another of her personal favourites.
COME TO ME Music by George Martin; lyrics by Bobby Willis. Lots of words to just a few notes.
OL’ MAN RIVER Surprised to find this one here? A great old standard.
ONE LITTLE VOICE Italian origin. Beautiful lyrics.
I’M NOT ALONE ANYMORE A new song composed by Clive Westlake and singer Kenny Lynch. Brilliant orchestral arrangement.
WHAT’CHA GONNA DO ABOUT IT Cilla harmonises with herself.
LOVE LETTERS Accompaniment by Cilla’s favourite backing group. Another song used in her stage performances.
THIS EMPTY PLACE Lovely tender ballad. Showcases Cilla’s considerable range.
YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO A Cole Porter evergreen which Cilla has always admired.
This is Cilla Black’s first LP. Making an album gives any artiste a wonderful freedom of choice which is not readily available in the restricted field of singles. Cilla has taken full advantage of this occasion by selecting twelve songs from a very wide range of material. Among there is a new number, Come To Me, which was written by Cilla’s road manager, Bobby Willis, in collaboration with her producer, George Martin. Normally a new album can be produced at four of five lengthy recording sessions. This one was months in the making. The main reason was that Cilla’s studio activities were limited to a series of short afternoon sessions during a seven-month run of the London Palladium production STARTIME in which she appeared between May and December of 1964. There was one other reason for the delay. Cilla is a meticulous songstress and until everyone was around her was totally happy about each title, she would never pass on to another number.
Cilla was was born in Scotland Road, Liverpool on 27th May 1943, a year or so after the enemy bombing on Merseyside’s nearby dockland came to an end. She made her stage debut nine years later in a school production of LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, and when she was twelve she played in an end-of-term interpretation of JULIUS CEASER. She left school in July, 1958, to begin a secretarial college course, and it led to her engagement as a typist with a Liverpool firm of cable manufacturers at the end of the following year.
By now Cilla was taking an active interest in Merseyside’s thriving beat scene. She was a regular visitor to the city’s network of cellar clubs where folk like The Beatles, and Gerry and The Pacemakers, were making their first impact. In time she became friendly with many of the young musicians and she was asked up to the microphone at a number of their after-hours jam sessions. For a spell she made regular club appearances with two different groups and was billed as Swinging Cilla.
By the end of 1961, Brian Epstein had signed his first artists and was becoming a familiar figure in Liverpool’s clubland. Inevitably, Brian heard Cilla’s name and her singing.
Meantime, despite approaches from several enthusiastic managers, Cilla had to decide to shelve any ideas of a professional show-business career. She was making good progress in the office and was a part-time cloakroom attendant at a city beat club in her lunch hours and during her free evenings.
Although Brian was convinced of her potential as a performer, he realised the wisdom of postponing any formal approach until Cilla was ready to welcome his proposals.
In September, 1963, Cilla’s first single, Love of the Loved, was issued. Under Brian's guidance she set out on the road which has led her so swiftly and so triumphantly towards the top of her profession. The following year brought a series of entertainment-world accolades, not the least of which were the extended London Palladium season, and her appearance in the 1964 Royal Variety Show. Before the end of the year she topped several popularity polls. 1965 began splendidly with an announcement that Cilla had collected far more votes than any her Top Twenty contemporaries (male or female) in the poll organised by FABULOUS magazine.
The release of this album is, in itself, another noteworthy landmark in her remarkable career. For the vivacious young lady who was christened Priscilla Maria Veronica White (and who switched to Cilla Back because she was persuaded that the darker shade suited her style of singing), the future looks good. Very good.