Sep 04


Popular24 comments • 3,953 views

#132, 13th January 1962

It wouldn’t have been such a bad record if the arrangers had just let Hank Marvin and the band handle it. The bittersweet descent of Marvin’s intro captures the record’s point – and the listener’s spirit – far more surely than the words can. But as soon as Cliff appears, Marvin finds himself fighting a crude orchestral arrangement designed I assume to make the record sound ‘bigger’. The two styles simply don’t fit, with the bridge a particular shambles as Hank’s cool picking is overwhelmed by ridiculous waves of arpeggio. The song is doomed, not that it was really worth saving in the first place. Generally in 60s pop, lines like “why wait till tomorrow?” translate as “If you really love me you’d…”, but it’s not just Cliff’s latter-day image that makes “The Young Ones” sound chaste. This is hardly the hungry Apollonian youth-on-the-rise that later re-dreamings of the 60s would evoke – Cliff’s youth is circumspect and fleeting, his “young dreams” end naturally in domestic contentment.



  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 8 Jun 2009 #

    No bunny baiting here, but it might be an idea to have a think out this one now. I’ll Repopulate just to talk about Cliff’s movie career. The Young Ones as a film is neither his best turn as an actor (Espresso Bongo) or all that iconic (bus across Europe did that), but is a pretty rare UK version of the classic “let’s do the show right here” musical. I saw it mid-afternoon as a kid in the “its raining outside” slot, and found it on the whole quite unremarkable, however I liked the Shadows more because we had a copy of Foot Tapper in the satchel.

    I also twigged that the basic conceit (Cliff’s Dad being Robert Morley who wants to knock down the youth club – which Cliff wants to save) is the same plot as Herbie Rides Again, but without Stefanie Powers. Melvyn Hayes is no substitute.

  2. 2
    wichita lineman on 9 Jun 2009 #

    Come see Expresso Bongo at the Barbican tonight!! 8 30 start!!!

    Plugging done, I think Tom’s way too harsh. The lyric doesn’t suggest domestic contentment to me, more a recognition of realities of the pre-Beatles, pre-hippy British way of life that meant my parents were married in 1961, aged 19. At least they held out for 3 years of relative Young Ones-ishness til I came along.

    “Tomorrow sometimes never comes”.

    My sis got pregnant at 23. In the meantime I’d written a fanzine and plotted my escape from Knucklesville, East Anglia. But she was always smarter than me, and I wonder what on earth might have happened in her life had things been different.

    Cliff doesn’t have any answers, but I like the ‘now or never’ premise of The Young Ones quite a lot. And, arpeggio aside, the strings act as a bright-eyed kitten counterpoint to Hank’s moist-eyed, ninth-driven guitar lines.

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 9 Jun 2009 #

    I wonder if Tom’s score is influenced by its later appearance in pop culture, thus giving us a suggestion of its reappearances score.

    Hmm, I think I may join you for the Bongo, its been donkeys years since I’ve seen it. Ironic that you are screening it the day after the death of Om Bongo, long term leader of Gabon (nr Congo).

  4. 4
    wichita lineman on 9 Jun 2009 #

    Also ironic that I’m screening it when there’s a tube strike – oh, hang on, that’s the Alanis M definition of ironic.

    I think you might be right, though Tom’s problem seems largely to be with Norrie Paramor’s strings, which I don’t find intrusive. Widescreen and wide-eyed on the Shadows’ Wonderful Land, they have a bit of an ill wind feel on TYO. It’s basically a pretty pessimistic song.

    The odd thing about Expresso Bongo is how Cliff’s career barely differs from the storyline. What’s Bongo gonna do when he’s no longer a teenager? Records and films like The Young Ones.

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    wichita lineman on 9 Jun 2009 #

    No.2 watch for two rather different instrumentals: one of the famous ‘phantom’ no.1s, Mr Acker Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore (2 weeks at the top in NME and pretty much everywhere else, as far as I know), and Sandy Nelson’s unhinged pounder Let There Be Drums.

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    Erithian on 9 Jun 2009 #

    Wow, “Let There Be Drums” was one of the first half-dozen singles I ever owned, and it’s fantastic. Didn’t know anything about Sandy Nelson, but according to Wiki he’s still recording and might tour this year! And move over Rick Allen, he was the first amputee drummer (albeit losing a foot rather than an arm in his accident).

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 9 Jun 2009 #

    Sandy Nelson, playing Let There Be Drums in 2007 at a wedding!

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 9 Jun 2009 #

    Acker Bilk recorded possibly the very first UK reggae 45 – Dream Ska – in 1964, and it was arranged by… Norrie Paramor. I love it when things work out like that. Yes, it’s sweet. Rootsier than a lot of “UK reggae” entries to come on Popular, anyway.

    Sandy Nelson was schoolmates with Jan & Dean and Kim Fowley – Back-of-the-classroom freak zone! No wonder Let There Be Drums sounded so wild. He’s one of those people who probably made a lost psych/freak-out 45 or loner folk (when do you ever see pictures of him) album at some point, but I ain’t discovered it.

  9. 9
    Pete on 10 Jun 2009 #

    I had forgotten quite how funny Expresso Bongo was, so cheers for the screening tonight – excellent Serendipity. Though you may have inadvertently given me a stalker (tell you about that later).

    Does kind of make me itch to restage the original musical though, I can see how it really would have worked on stage. The film could have done with a fair few more songs – something Cliff’s later musicals (including The Young Ones) always supplied.

  10. 10
    wichita lineman on 10 Jun 2009 #

    Andrew Oldham and sidekick Tony Calder have been talking about remaking Expresso Bongo forevs.

    The songs in Expresso Bongo were meant to show how calculated and crass Denmark St was in the late 50s – one with shades of religion (Voice In The Wilderness) and another which mentioned religion AND Cliff’s dear old mum (The Shrine On The Second Floor). Maybe there were more in the play but they were too obviously parodies? Voice In The Wilderness stopped one place short of Popular, and nobody noticed it wasn’t entirely serious (some of Hank’s loveliest lines probably helped).

    Cheers for coming in spite of the strike! Sorry about the stalker : /

    As for the Young Ones soundtrack, I always get Friday Night in my head if I’m getting ready for a big night out:

    “‘ere come on mate, lend me your comb now
    I’m the one they’re gonna choose
    Shine up your winklepicker shoes
    See you at the dance tonight!”

  11. 11
    Pete on 10 Jun 2009 #

    From what I understand its a full on musical, which would make sense (its structure is a classic two act musical). But the film drop nearly all the songs, bar the Shrine On The Second Floor – which is much more satirical in the stage version. I imagine it beefs up the Maisie roll somewhat (I hadd also forgot how much near nudity there is in the film – bonus!).

    It reminded me a lot of the Budgie musical with Adam Faith which I was dragged to by my family in the late eighties which was VERY SOHO, and also had some terrific strip club chorus scenes which affected my fifteen year old mind in a prominent fashion.

  12. 12
    wichita lineman on 10 Jun 2009 #

    The only other Very Soho movie I can think of that compares to Expresso Bongo is The Small World Of Sammy Lee with Anthony Newley – more strip clubs, more pronounced violence, no R&R. If they turned it into a musical they could set it in Bolton and use He’s Fat He’s Round He Bounces On The Ground as a theme tune.

    Sylvia Sims in Expresso Bongo still affects me in a prominent fashion.

  13. 13
    Mark M on 10 Jun 2009 #

    Are we ruling out Beat Girl for the sheer insanity of the strip club scenes?

  14. 14
    Erithian on 10 Jun 2009 #

    Likewise Sylvia Sims in “Ice Cold in Alex”.

  15. 15
    wichita lineman on 10 Jun 2009 #

    The strip club scenes in Beat Girl are straight outta the fridge.

    Seconding Ice Cold In Alex, esp. the beer drinking scene. I was trying to explain to someone recently why a Popular entry from 2002 by C******** A******* is as unerotic a song as I’ve ever heard, and how much I miss subtlety in modern R&B. John Mills and Sylvia Sims could learn ’em.

  16. 16
    Conrad on 12 Jun 2009 #

    “Expresso Bongo” was directed by Val Guest wasn’t it?

    I’ve been enjoying his work in the luxurious, drowning-in-honey Shillingbury Tales recently, which I freely admit I was inspired to buy to add to my nascent Diane Keen dvd collection…but, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s idealised of course, a pastoral England that never existed, but made with enough charm and the odd little undercurrent of something amiss to demonstrate some real intelligence.

    And Robin Nedwell is always good value.

  17. 17
    mike on 3 Sep 2009 #

    This was Number One when I was born, so I’m hoping that the little Stork Boy badge duly shows up. Presumably Cliff & the Shads will play it on their upcoming 50th anniversary tour, which I’ll be attending on the last day of this month…

  18. 18
    Brooksie on 16 Feb 2010 #

    @ Wichita Lineman # 2: “My sis got pregnant at 23. In the meantime I’d written a fanzine and plotted my escape from Knucklesville, East Anglia. But she was always smarter than me, and I wonder what on earth might have happened in her life had things been different.”

    Same with my Sis, but when I got older I realised that she wasn’t smarter; I just though she was because she was girl and she ‘sounded’ smarter. She wasn’t as smart as I thought, which is possibly why she wound up pregnant.

    As for the song; it has ‘hit’ written all over it. It’s a fine effort from the period, if a little light. For what it was – a movie theme – 3 is harsh; 7 for me.

  19. 19
    Lena on 20 Jun 2011 #

    Cliff and The Man: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/06/dont-talk-to-me-about-love-cliff.html – thanks for reading!

  20. 20
    allan on 5 Jul 2011 #

    I would like to know (sir) cliff is going to release that movie he made not long after,EXPRESSO BONGO It was called SERIOUS CHARGE he star role alongside ROBERT MORELY The plot of the movie was to rob a bank! So they buy wrecked fire engine from a wrecking yard. Then stole one the same as it in some little country town, blew that fire station up.
    then committed a bank robber with the good fire engine that when the fun and games started along the road till the police caught up with them. by the way (SIR)ROBERT MORELY is the fat guy on t.v. add heinz big red tomato soup add and he also played (sir) cliff father in the young ones the movie

  21. 21
    richard thompson on 11 Aug 2011 #

    The record retailer chart wasn’t the chart used by everyone at this time, the nme charts seem more accurate at times in the 60s.
    The Young ones was better than Cliffs previous films, as a boy I used to think he was singing Old McDonald instead of Oh my darling

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 2 Nov 2014 #

    this seems as good a place as any to say R.I.P. to Acker Bilk, whose ‘Stranger on the Shore’ this record kept at Number 2 according to the chart of record – although other charts reversed the positions
    According to wikipedia ‘Stranger on the shore’ ‘was the UK’s biggest-selling single of 1962, [and] the biggest-selling instrumental single of all time.’ It also reached number 1 on the US chart

  23. 23
    lonepilgrim on 17 Jan 2015 #

    I found watching the youtube clip of Cliff performing this song in the movie quite affecting – like watching a Jane Austen adaptation that captures an age long gone. There’s a gentle optimism for the future which seems hard to imagine young people sharing today but perhaps that’s just me settling into crusty old geezerhood.
    The song may seem a little insipid at first hearing but there’s a toughness beneath the surface that meant it could be adapted for the punkier, later version

  24. 24
    Gareth Parker on 8 Jun 2021 #

    One of my favourite Cliff singles. 7/10 for me.

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