The production on ‘Living Doll’ is pretty special – impeccably polite but amazingly intimate, Cliff sings like his lips are almost brushing your ear but Cliff being Cliff he wouldn’t so much as ruffle your hair without a chaperone’s permission. In fact the remarkable thing about ‘Living Doll’ is how fully-formed Cliff’s Cliff-ness is on his fifth ever single. It’s hackneyed because it’s true: cuts don’t come much cleaner than Cliff, the thoughtful delivery and spick-and-span production the perfected essence of ‘good English boy’. The persona is so solid it’s survived almost fifty years – the occasional changes of style barely impact, though the moralising has gradually become more overt. Cliff Richard has made much better and much worse records than ‘Living Doll’ but this is his Rosetta Stone.
For all that I can’t say it works well today. It sounds marvellous but Lionel Bart’s queasy lyric has aged badly ‘ Cliff smirking over his doll, showing her off before locking her away; it’s not offensive so much as just tiresome. It reminds me of some religious couples I’ve met ‘ terribly well-turned-out, him telling everyone how marvellous she is and her never so much as speaking.