When you think of Sir Cliff Richard things that automatically spring to mind are Mistletoe and Wine, Wimbledon and those cheesy annual calendars he does for his loyal fans.
The last thing you think of are his rock star credentials. And the man himself says he lived through the crazy rock star years of the sixties without once being tempted to trash a hotel room or have a 24-hour booze binge.
“I lived through the day and age when popstars liked chucking TV sets out window,” says Cliff, 71. “My band used to laugh at me saying I wasn’t cool enough. They would joke that I’d never throw a television out the window, instead I’d get into a hotel room and get the hoover out to leave it looking nice. And my generation hardly even owned a TV set – they couldn’t afford it. The last thing I’d do was throw one out a window.”
Cliff, who’s about to take his annual holiday in America and Barbados following the success of his Souliscious UK tour, says he’s glad he never got persuaded to turn to the dark side of fame when it came to booze and drugs.
“It’s sad that youngsters nowadays can’t hold it together,” bachelor boy Cliff, who has sold in excess of 250 million albums, says. “There’s always been drugs in our industry since the very beginning. I just don’t get why people do it.
‘Put it this way I realised quickly early on that the herbal cigarettes everyone around me was smoking wasn’t just a cigarette. I never smoked and would have my windows open wide. It’s a piece of good fortune that I never started smoking. I had an aversion to it – my father smoked heavily and I couldn’t stand it. He’d get me to pass an ashtray to him and when I did I’d have to leave the room and wash my hands.”
He sounds genuinely upset by the passing of Amy Winehouse due to her alcohol addiction.
“There is a self destruct button in the industry and when you think about the people that have died too young in our business like Amy Winehouse it’s just sad,” he says. “Too many young talented lives. Amy was too talented to have lost so quickly. Amy obviously didn’t deal with her drinking habit. Having never had a problem like that I don’t know what it takes to pull out of that situation. I do have friends who have been addicts and have stopped. It is possible to stop – I’m just lucky to have never gone down that road. Somebody told me once that you can be a lush but not an alcoholic – and that’s me.”
He shows no signs of slowing down yet. And you get the impression he’d be working a whole lot more if his music was reaching a larger audience.
Cliff’s miffed radio stations across the UK have blanket banned his recent recordings and without his tracks getting played to a mass audience sees
little point in slogging his guts out on new material.
“Radio play is where I suffer,” explains, the star, who has never married. “There’s a new station coming out and they’ve made a point of saying they’re not going to play me. That’s just unfair. Whether these radio stations like it or not they’re essentially lying to their public. Outside of America there was nobody until I did it. This was five years before the Beatles were even around and I’d sold millions of records.
But yet still I’m ignored? It’s ridiculous. Over the years of the chart I’ve outsold every single artist. I’ve sold more single records than The Beatles,
Elvis or Sinatra or Elton. I was the real deal. It’s depressing working on an album project and at the end of it not getting the music to the people.”
He goes as far as saying not being played on the radio makes him consider a full time retirement. He says: “Retirement says you’re going to stop forever. I prefer the word stop. I can stop eating chocolates for a while. But it doesn’t mean I won’t eat chocolates ever again. So in some ways I think I’d like to stop. And then just phone up when I have an urge to record or tour. I won’t retire yet. But not being played on the radio makes me want to retire.”
Cliff does however say the opportunity to judge on one of the UK’s top TV talent shows would be something he would have loved to have done – but he’s
never been approached.
He says deadpan: “I don’t understand why nobody has ever approached me about being involved in a show like X Factor – I would have loved to have done it.
It’s something I’d definitely consider. The American one is the big one these days isn’t it? But we do have a UK X Factor here, don’t we? I would have validity here – after all I was the first person who kicked off British music around the globe.”
People are obsessed with Sir Cliff’s extraordinary toned physique these days. Despite being in his seventies he posed topless in his last calendar for fans. He puts it down to good genes, a healthy diet and lots of tennis.
“But let’s face it,” he laughs. “I’m never going to be Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Although it’s clear when it comes to using moisturiser and looking after his skin he’s definitely not shy. “I try every single moisturiser on the market,” he admits. “If I’m recommended a moisturiser then I immediately by an industrial lot of it and slather it on. I sit there for a show and a make-up artist recommends it and I buy a gallon and lash it on. Men have the same problem that women have with their skin. Men are out there in the wilderness being damaged all the time. I’ve got a feeling that if I wasn’t in this business I wouldn’t worry about my looks. I’d probably be incredibly fat with bad skin.”
There would be no topless shoots going on then!
Cliff’s Soulicious Tour, Live at the O2, DVD is out now