In 1961, Cliff Richard had most of the world at his feet. Easily Britain’s most successful performer, he had just picked up his fifth gold disc (for A Girl Like You), was playing to packed houses worldwide, and had Britain’s most popular group – The Shadows – as his backing band.
Cliff had broadened his appeal from his early days as an Elvis copy to all-round entertainer and was now looking for a film career to complement his role as a recording star, which came with The Young Ones.
This was not his first movie role. He appeared briefly in a 1959 film called Serious Charge (from whence came the million-seller Living Doll) and he played a supporting role in Expresso Bongo (1960).
The Young Ones was a musical produced by Kenneth Harper and directed by Canadian Sidney J Furie and starred Cliff as Nicky Black, the leader of a Paddington (London) youth club.
When their meeting place is bought out from under them by millionaire property developer Robert Morley, the youth club gang stages a tuneful fund-raiser to buy the lease of a run-down theatre which they could convert.
Once the show had been prepared, the gang faces the task of attracting customers, one they solve by rigging up a pirate transmitter and plugging the event on TV.
Not to be outdone, Morley promptly buys the theatre.
On the night of the show, the youngsters learn that Morley is on his way and kidnap him.
At this point, Cliff reveals that he is, in fact, the millionaire’s son and has been pretending all along to be just another ordinary hard-up teenager so that his friends would accept him. A reunion takes place between son and father, with the latter finally relenting.
Cliff’s leading lady was South African dancer/actress Carol Grey, who joined the cast at the last minute when the film was already a week into its shooting.
The film was a tremendous success, as was the soundtrack album. Released in December 1961, it spent six months in the top three best-selling albums and 39 weeks in the Melody Maker LP top 10, also spawning the #1 single The Young Ones, and a top ten hit for The Shadows (Peace Pipe).
This was Cliff’s third album of 1961 and his most successful to date.
In America, the film was re-titled It’s Wonderful To Be Young and the new title, written by Bacharach/David and performed by Cliff, The Shadows and The Norrie Paramor Strings, was added to the soundtrack album.
Despite the repackaging and subsequent promotion, Cliff failed to find the same success in America and the record was not a hit.
Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Black
Sidney J. Furie