Ever since my book on Cliff Richard’s recording sessions was written with my Cliff cohort Peter Lewry and published 20 years ago, we have, between us, often been bombarded with questions about how the book came about, how we went about writing and researching it, and most of all, how did we encourage Cliff and EMI Records to co-operate and participate in the book’s preparation. As it is the 20th anniversary of its publication today, I thought it would be fitting to write a post on the story behind the book, to celebrate what Peter and me are still very proud of to this day... and how it led us to become recognised as the Cliff catalogue experts by EMI and also to the publication of another two books on Cliff in 1993 and 1996.
For the purpose of writing this piece, Peter and me have spent the last few weeks looking back at the project so that we could write an article as accurate as possible on the sequence of events that led up to publication from the moment we thought up the idea, which was really inspired by a booklet that Peter had produced for his sister, on Cliff’s recordings. He showed me the finished booklet he had made one evening in December 1989, when we had got together for a few Christmas drinks. That’s really when we came up with the idea to turn Peter’s booklet into a fully fledged book on Cliff’s recording sessions. Or at least we were going to try.
It soon became very clear to both of us, that if we were gonna get a publisher attached, then we would need to obtain the co-operation of Cliff, EMI, Abbey Road and other studios Cliff had recorded at, and to talk with as many of the key personnel that played an important role in Cliff’s recording history! We remember Cliff’s manager in charge of public relations at that time, Bill Latham, asking us how on earth we were going to achieve such a task, as something so complicated as writing a book on Cliff’s recording sessions, and looking back on it, we probably wondered much the same.
At that time, we were both very inexperienced about publishing and researching and writing as we had never done it before apart from a few articles we had written for fan magazines of other artists. We were pretty naive I guess on how we would get access to the informaion we needed, and for a very short time, I can recall how we must of thought of doing the book without any involvment from Cliff or EMI, but that thinking quickly changed!
Our initial idea was to give our book on Cliff’s sessions the same treatment as Mark Lewisohn had given to The Beatles. But as one reviewer pointed out, we had one major drawback, we couldn’t listen to any of the session tapes, so rather than attempt a session by session account of Cliff’s development in the studio, we decided to divide it into 12 stages, wrote an introduction to each era and then presented all the hard information of each session, like where, when and how and who was there and what resulted, and then added a fascinating array of illustrative material throughout to give what we hoped would be an accurate perspective on Cliff’s recordings over the years.