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Aug 06

CLIFF RICHARD – “Congratulations”

FT + Popular23 comments • 4,000 views

#248, 13th April 1968

Rare is the Eurovision winning country that doesn’t play safe on the follow-up. “Puppet On A String” had given Britain its first victory, and “Congratulations” keeps things unflinchingly upbeat. (It pulled in a very close second on the night). The pull of “Puppet”‘s strings actually harm “Congratulations” as a record, though. The body of the song trundles along agreeably on a rhythm track straight out of Cliff’s beat group days, but the trilling orchestral flourishes – more typically Eurovision, and successful for Sandie – don’t really mesh with it. They seem fancy and intrusive, and the arranger loses me completely for the big slowdown behind the final chorus. Cliff does a professional job though, even on the somewhat obnoxious chorus that the song is remembered for. His Eurovision experience was obviously a happy one, as he had another go five years later, and the appearances cemented his position as a family favourite and helped extend his career to remarkable length.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 15 Aug 2006 #

    The uncommentable song!

    You are all scared of Sir Cliff.

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 15 Aug 2006 #

    Not worth commenting on, really.

    Now if “Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha” had made it to the top…

  3. 3
    Pete on 15 Aug 2006 #

    Not scared. Bored. This was light entertainment Cliff, the Cliff I don’t really remember. As a kid I’d seen movie star Cliff (Espresso Bongo is still a terrific film), and new “sexy” leather jacketed Wired For Sound Cliff, but Eurovision Cliff always seemed wrong to me.

    Actually it always seemed wrong to put establish acts in Eurovision, but only cos of the string of no-hopers foisted upon Eurovision in the 80’s* and some ridiculous belief in fair play.

    *Not Bardo obv.

  4. 4
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 15 Aug 2006 #

    for some reason pete’s post has reminded me that did a weird and scary dance with his legs while performing this song, so i think ph34r (and/or repression) are at the root of the silence

  5. 5
    Erithian on 15 Aug 2006 #

    OK Marcello, new game – which other Cliff song should have reached Number 1 instead of this? My vote is for “The Day I Met Marie”.

  6. 6
    Steve Mannion on 15 Aug 2006 #

    I am scared of Cliff. If he tried to hug me I would run away.

  7. 7
    JohnneyB on 15 Aug 2006 #

    The scariest thing about cliff is his sincerity. He really really means everything he says, and he only says nice things, which is by itself terrifying. He’s like the saintly twin of Johnney Rotton.

  8. 8
    Tim Hopkins on 15 Aug 2006 #

    I don’t think that’s true, Johnney. For example, I have ot on good authority that Cliff only likes small speakers, and thinks tall speakers are rubbish.

  9. 9
    Marcello Carlin on 16 Aug 2006 #

    “Throw Down A Line” would have been an immense Cliff number one.

  10. 10
    intothefireuk on 16 Aug 2006 #

    Fluff but still should have won Eurovision and I actually like the ruffled dandy look that predates his role in Heathcliff years later. He’s a nice clean boy as my Mum would say.

  11. 11
    Doctor Mod on 17 Aug 2006 #

    Who’s afraid of Cliff Richard?? Not I.

    Rather, for me the song is really quite “uncommentable.” I have no memory chip marked Cliff Richard, as he didn’t even exist as far as the US was concerned until “Devil Woman,” which I thought was quite an ironic breakthrough title for one reputedly so godly.

  12. 12
    koganbot on 20 Aug 2006 #

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Cliff Richard.

  13. 13
    koganbot on 20 Aug 2006 #

    OK, now I have. In the middle, when he goes “I was afraid think you thought you were above me/I was only fooling myself to think you love me/But then tonight you said you couldn’t live without me/That ’round about me (?) you wanted to stay,” he actually puts a rolling Elvis lift in his voice that shows he can probably sing the hell out of a song if he wants to. But this performance is pathologically chipper, isn’t it? Roy Orbison or Bobby Darin could have put something – menace? slyness? – into this. Maybe Cliff could have, too, but he didn’t.

  14. 14
    Eva on 12 Sep 2006 #

    GREAT TO SEE YOU CLIFF. YOUR SONGS ARE ALL GREAT. HAVE A GOOD ONE.

  15. 15
    richard thompson on 23 Jun 2008 #

    This could have been seen by Cliff as a gospel song, when in record collector the writers thought of it as a more trippy tune.

  16. 16
    Mark G on 23 Jun 2008 #

    They both bonkers.

  17. 17
    Matthew on 16 Jan 2009 #

    I didn’t comment on Lady Madonna on the grounds that, if you don’t have anything much nice to say, say nothing at all, but now I’m thinking come back Beatles, all is forgiven! I like a bunch of (by democratic acclaim) real stinkers from the 50s and 60s, but I can’t find any love for Cliff at any stage.

    I guess he does here invent Austin Powers’ sexy sixties look, so that’s something.

  18. 18
    wichita lineman on 16 Jan 2009 #

    In the same way that some intros take a split second to make you feel physically and mentally uplifted (Da Doo Ron Ron, Anarchy In The UK, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun), the sharp parp that kicks Congratulations into your ears makes me feel immediately depressed and anxious. As low point follows low point, the ‘oompah’ time change towards the end – probably nicked from DDDBM&T’s sly and saucy, neo-Weimar Bend It – is the crassest moment of all. A 2 for me.

    Maybe Cliff would have beaten Massiel in the Eurovision if the public had voted for The Sound Of The Candyman’s Trumpet instead of Congratulations (anyone out there heard it?).

    Re 5: The Day I Met Marie and Throw Down A Line both very good calls. In The Country shows Cliff could turn out a gem while in uber-chipper mode. Miss You Nights and When Two Worlds Drift Apart are both extraordinary, Anglo-Jimmy Webb, very grown-up pop records.

  19. 19
    Waldo on 29 Oct 2009 #

    Cliff was famously devestated when he lost Eurovision, the judging for which he spent in Trap 2. There’s a snap of him “admiring” the trophy in the hands of Massiel who had just pipped him with the ludicrous “La La La”. He later admitted that he would have been quite happy to imbed it in her skull, not very Christian really. The girl who beat him in 1973, Anne Marie David, was for me one of the lovliest visions ever to have won the contest and her song (in the original French) was actually extremely good. As for “Congrats”, it’s an excellent pop song and suited Cliff down to the ground.

    Re # 5 – My vote goes to the sublime “Big Ship”.

  20. 20
    Jungman Jansson on 30 Oct 2009 #

    I remember singing “Congratulations” with various home-made lyrics (with varying degrees of decency and silliness) as a child. I don’t know exactly why I picked that particular song – possibly because it’s easy to remember and sing, or because the chirpy melody was very effective at annoying whichever adults were around to hear it. But this means the song must have had a fair amount of staying power, as I did it almost 20 years after its ESC appearance.

    Cliff’s performance has more or less the same effect on me now as my interpretations had on my poor mother. I never realised until today that it’s Cliff who’s being congratulated (obviously I haven’t listened very closely before). To leave out both the subject and the object (well, and the verb) like that comes across as a particularly obnoxious, egocentric way to tell a story, creating an extremely self-satisfied effect. And as for the slowdown at the end… well, it’s been said already. Massiel was a worthy winner, at least compared just to Cliff. I honestly don’t feel like trawling through the entire starting grid, there are limits even to my madness.

    SwedenWatch Eurovision ’68 special: Finishing in 5th place, Claes-Göran Hederströms “Det börjar verka kärlek, banne mej” is a fairly well-loved song (mainly due to the earnest clumsiness of the lyrics, I believe) that tends to get trotted out here whenever the need arises to represent the “old skool” (ie. pre-ABBA) days of Eurovision.

  21. 21
    Martin F. on 26 Sep 2012 #

    @18 Heard it? It’s a key component of Olden Days Eurovision 101!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGBX2sMOCEU

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 23 May 2016 #

    I quite liked this when I was a kid as it was cheery and easy to sing along to. I still hold some residual affection for it now despite its shortcomings

  23. 23
    Lazarus on 23 May 2016 #

    #18 ‘In the same way that some intros take a split second to make you feel physically and mentally uplifted’ – yes! Add ‘Sir Duke’ and ‘Jackie Wilson Said’
    to that, won’t you! Literally can’t resist doo doo doodling along to those if they come on in the car. About late-60s Cliff I have nothing to say I’m afraid, I quite like ‘Living in Harmony’ but I think that was a bit later.

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