Feb 11

CLIFF RICHARD – “Saviour’s Day”

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#655, 29th December 1990

There was a great deal of talk about entryism in the 1980s – it was said of many excellent bands, and Hue And Cry too, that pop hooks would be a Trojan Horse for subversive notions of situationism, socialism and continental philosophy to slip into the charts. But man, all those groups were amateurs next to Sir Cliff! Having established himself in 1988 as a man who could deliver some cosy Yuletide jumper pop, he turns round this year and unloads God on us, close range, both barrels.

This is not actually a Christmas record. It doesn’t mention Christmas once. It is a record about a holiday Cliff Richard has made up called Saviour’s Day in which people do things like praise God and give thanks for the birth of Jesus Christ – between you and me I don’t think it’ll catch on, but Cliff sounds even more enthusiastic about it than he was when he mixed it with booze and snogging two years before. There’s a suggestion that Saviour’s Day isn’t just how Cliff would like Christmas to be but also how it was long ago – there’s something very old-timey about its references to harvest time, long journeys from hills and valleys, raising glasses to the King (even if that’s Jesus again). The folksy rhythms and pipes underline this, though it’s a shame they couldn’t have found slightly more authentic-sounding presets – the whole record has the air of a somewhat cranky demo which Cliff decided to put out himself.

Which is quite an apt feel for it, really. This isn’t a particularly good record – those wretched pipes could sink it alone – but it’s honest and heartfelt in a way that most Christmas records since the 70s aren’t. I am not a Christian and so the religious side of Christmas feels very distant to me, far from the centre of a long co-opted and compromised (and all the more wonderful for that) festival. But even though “Saviour’s Day” sometimes drfts towards finger-wagging, I can feel the joy and sincerity in it – more so than in the sugared pill of “Mistletoe And Wine”, for certain – and I can’t begrudge its showing up here.



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  1. 31
    wichita lineman on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Re 25: Cliff’s voice is undoubtedly creamy, some might say smarmy, and this is a potentially insurmountable stumbling block. But I can think of plenty of Proper Pop Stars whose emotional reach is limited – Kylie springs to mind – and it doesn’t stop me enjoying their work, or being able to differentiate between their good and their mediocre efforts. If I had to name one song in his defence I’d say Cliff makes a pretty good fist of Miss You Nights, given its very uncomfortable mid-life breakdown lyric.

    I see a lot of albums on the Myrrh label in charity shops and always think “maybe…? Nah…” Parchment records, too. Am I missing out? I know there are some impressively oddball Christian US psych albums, but I haven’t heard them either. I can’t even get into gospel. The church is a real stumbling block for me.

  2. 32
    Izzy on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Sharing the hate for ‘All Together Now’ here. That effing sample in the beat is sheer murder. I watched One Night In Turin recently and it was ruined (okay, just a teeny bit) by Hooton et al droning over the end credits.

  3. 33
    hardtogethits on 17 Feb 2011 #

    #32. That sounds like such an obvious anachronism – that a record released after the World Cup would be used in a film about it. I needn’t ask “Did it work?” as you’ve answered that by saying the music spoilt the film.

  4. 34
    weej on 17 Feb 2011 #

    I have to admit to being a little surprised at the overwhelmingly negative reaction of ‘All Together Now’ – I still remember it fairly fondly, and listening to it again it still sounds pleasant to my ears. Of course some parts of it are a little overcooked – they could take away those thudding guitar chords that come in every 20 seconds or so, and the transitions are a bit clumsy – but even the intro alone makes me feel a little nostalgic for this time.

  5. 35
    Ed on 17 Feb 2011 #

    @14, 25, 31: Why can’t we “do religion” in pop any more? There was a time when great popular music could be unashamedly religious: Al Green, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Johnny Cash, Van Morrison. The tension between the spirit and the flesh generates the intensity for many of the most thrilling songs of the 20th Century. But these days – since the 1970s, as Tom says – it has been impossible for great pop to be religious, or for religious music to be great, or even passable, pop.

    I wonder why that is. Western societies were already pretty secular by the seventies, the US maybe even more so than it is today. But the ability to draw on the churches’ wells of passion and inspiration, which was still alive 40 years ago, appears to have completely disappeared.

    U2 I guess was the last real outbreak of religious fervour in mainstream pop or rock. I loved their early God-bothering as a teenager, and I am still fond of it. Achtung Baby is probably the last great rock album about (loss of) faith. But none of their successors have picked up on that earnest spirituality.

    The last great religious songs that I can think of have are on ‘The College Dropout’. ‘Jesus Walks’ and ‘Never Let Me Down’ are both sincere and rapturous. But Kanye decided to take another route pretty quickly. The “Christian in Christian Dior” line always makes me cringe.

    It doesn’t seem to just be Christianity, either. Youssou N’Dour’s religious album is nice enough, but it’s a whole lot less fun than his pop stuff.

  6. 36
    Ed on 17 Feb 2011 #

    @35: OK, ‘Like a Prayer’ maybe an exception

  7. 37
    lonepilgrim on 17 Feb 2011 #

    re 35 & 36 I have a fondness for Gillian Welch’s faith infused songs on ‘Revival’

  8. 38
    punctum on 17 Feb 2011 #

    #35: Not so, but this is one of many reasons why we need to push on with our 2010 EoY list since we have proof to the contrary.

  9. 39
    Tom on 17 Feb 2011 #

    #35 i think one issue isn’t so much that pop got more secular but that many of the specific emotions religious music dealt with – questions of self-doubt, self-transcendence, a yearning for authentic experience – got so effectively secularised as part of rock.

  10. 40
    Rory on 17 Feb 2011 #

    “Effectively secularised as part of rock” – Exhibit A.

  11. 41
    Mark G on 17 Feb 2011 #

    Am I allowed to point out the Sid Vicious sample on “All Together Now” ?

  12. 42
    will on 17 Feb 2011 #

    Despite the fact 1990 was one of the last years when the race for the Christmas Number One genuinely felt exciting I was fairly ambivalent that this ultimately came out on top. It’s not quite as irksome as MAW, though that isn’t saying much.

    After this a Cliff Christmas single seemed to turn up every year. Most were completely forgettable, with perhaps the sole exception being the rather lovely I Still Believe In You from Xmas 92.

    By the way, I believe I’m right in saying that this was the first year the Christmas and New Year Number Ones were two different records.

  13. 43
    anto on 17 Feb 2011 #

    Re 34: I’m a bit taken aback by that myself. I know The Farm were never considered cool but I had assumed there was some goodwill
    towards All Together Now which I agree is a pleasent tune with a
    thoughtful anti-war message.

  14. 44
    Tom on 18 Feb 2011 #

    I didn’t mind The Farm – had “Stepping Stone” on a Beechwood comp and thought it was pretty good, and “Groovy Train”? Well, “Groovy Train” was a baggy record which came out in the summer of baggy, and so it matched everything else I was listening to. Don’t think I bought it but I didn’t dislike it. “All Together Now” I really disliked tho – like a really lumbering, even heavier-handed “Pipes Of Peace”. I think I felt – absurdly – a little bit betrayed by it, this music which was *just as music* speaking to me a lot about open-mindedness, tolerance, mixing stuff together. It didn’t NEED bringing out of the subtext. Maybe if I’d been a bit older I’d have been happier with it.

  15. 45
    George on 18 Feb 2011 #

    The Farm’s Greatest Hits is as omnipresent on the CD racks at motorway service stations up and down the land as ‘No Parlez’ is in the charity shops.

  16. 46
    DanielW on 18 Feb 2011 #

    Yikes, I find myself disagreeing with just about everything mentioned so far. Firstly, I absolutely detest “Saviour’s Day”, it’s almost the dictionary definition of bland. With those detestable pipes it sounds like it could be the theme tune to one of those wretchedly awful early-90’s Sunday evening BBC Drama’s like “Howard’s Way” or “Trainer”. Infact, if I remember correctly, Cliff did provide the theme tune to the latter and it was almost as awful as this one. For me, this is Cliff’s worst record – yes even worse than a record I cannot mention for fear of a bunnyslapping.

    Both the new singles Madonna released from The Immaculate Collection were rather weak I thought. “Justify My Love” was a dull, plodding affair which seemed to go absolutely nowhere. Yes it was moody and atmospheric but that was about it really.

    As for The Farm’s “All Together Now”, well I preferred “Groovy Train” but this single was OK and doesn’t really deserve the brickbats it’s received so far.

  17. 47
    Ed on 19 Feb 2011 #

    @37: Good point. Welch is wonderful, and even her ostensibly secular music is full of Christian imagery and sensibility. Exhibit A here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo-xdqz4ryc

    It is a bit different for her, though, because she is working in and around the only popular music tradition where overt religiosity is still allowed, and indeed encouraged, sometimes sublimely:


    and sometimes ridiculously:


    House, actually, is sometimes an exception to my rule, as well. Like this, for example:


    And ‘It’s Alright’ is a hymn, isn’t it, where “the music”=God.

    Also, I don’t know much about Jamaican music, but am I right in thinking that recently there has been a bit of a revival of “conscious” reggae and Rastafarian themes?

    @38: I was already looking forward to it keenly. Now I am even more intrigued…

  18. 48
    heather on 19 Feb 2011 #

    Gave this a reluctant 2 because, as you say, it’s better than ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, even though it’s less pagan. Also less popular, so I have the joy of hearing it less often.

    “Altogether now” is real baggy-by-numbers. It says a lot about indie marketing techniques that the awesomely groovy “Fools Gold” didn’t chart higher. That should have been a top 5 song.

  19. 49
    Ed on 21 Feb 2011 #

    @9, @44, etc: Surely the crucial thing about “All together now” was its timing. Released in November 1990, it accompanied the huge build-up of US-led coalition forces preparing to invade Kuwait. 43,000 British personnel were among the troops massing in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    At the time, no-one could be sure that the Iraqis would capitulate so quickly – the war lasted only about six weeks, from the launch of the first air strikes on January 17 – and there were predictions of a huge catastrophe. There was a real mood of impending dread in the air, of a kind we had probably not felt since the seventies.

    Just because the war was short, of course, does not mean those predictions of horrific consequences were unrealised. 20,000-plus Iraqis were killed, and no-one who has seen the pictures of the road to Basra will ever forget them. The war also inaugurated a new phase in the West’s imperial involvement in the Middle East, which we are still mired in today.

    In that context, ‘All Together Now’ seems much more potent than the sort of baggy/sentimental, loved-up lads’ footie anthem that many people remember.

    It explains Cliff’s more sombre mood, too. This year, of all years, he needs to make sure we understand that the spirit of Christmas is about more than booze and snogging.

    It also explains why my cassette version of ‘Blue Lines’ is by a group called Massive, their real name being judged too insensitively topical at the time of release.

    Also – groping here – wasn’t ‘All Together Now’ an old Farm song, from their pre-baggy days, that they dusted off and re-tooled as a comment on the impending war? If so, it might not be anachronistic to have used it in a film about Italia ’90.

  20. 50
    Mark G on 21 Feb 2011 #

    I believe it was called “No Man’s Land” and was part of a peel session (just checked: It’s on an album called “Pastures Old and New”, on good old “Fire” records.)

  21. 51
    Steve Mannion on 21 Feb 2011 #

    That Massive Attack name-change issue was always ridiculous (but great to see how MA would become among the most vocal critics of subsequent government approaches to the situation). IIRC Bomb The Bass also struggled to make playlists around this time.

    I remember the year ending gloomily on account of the war (and probably impending recession too) but being used to that sense of foreboding throughout the 80s – the dramatic upheaval at the end of that decade proving a brief respite. All of which made the escapist fantasy aspect of much rave music at that point (both on record and in flyer art) ever more appealing.

  22. 52
    Erithian on 21 Feb 2011 #

    Reading the Wikipedia entry to which Rory links above, one learns Durdle Door has been used as a video location by Tears for Fears, Billy Ocean and Bruce Dickinson as well as Cliff. Obvious gag, but imagine if they’d all turned up at the same time.

    Never afraid to go against the grain, although the music around him in the chart was decidedly secular, Cliff was there to promote the essential thing about his life and make it clear that it was something that gave him all the joy and the kicks he’d ever need, with no substances involved. As a sales pitch for his beliefs and lifestyle, and a non-hectoring invitation to join him in them, it’s hard to argue with it. And a good listen, on the whole, even for those who weren’t planning to join him.

    “Justify My Love”, on the other hand – unlike some of her other material, Madonna isn’t trying too hard on this one, just pushing the intensity – come to think of it, promoting the essential thing about her life and making it clear… etc etc as above. Funny how one can find similarities in the oddest pairings! And whereas she could be and often was plain sleazy, I find this one of the horniest records ever made: a hint of what it’s like in bed with Madonna without the tackiness of the film of the same name. Could do with a shower afterwards but I love it.

  23. 53
    hardtogethits on 21 Feb 2011 #

    #49, #50 – it is great to be alerted to an earlier version of the song. How I wish it was on Spotify.

    However, it is an “obvious anachronism”. I am surprised that the use of “anachronism” would be diluted as if it were a matter of opinion not fact. X cannot be the soundtrack to Y if X was not recorded before Y happened, but X can be the soundtrack to anything which occurred later than its own recording. So if X is applied to Y, it is an anachronism, and whether it works or not is a matter for value judgment.

    Now, there are people who are less bothered than I am about when records hit the charts; but still, there’s an association with “All Together Now” as a Christmas hit. Some of these people may or may not know anything about, say, football. But trust me, they are able (with thankfully little prompting) to declare that “All Together Now” must have come out after the 1990 World Cup. So, my use of the word “obvious” was opinionated but was briefly tested. I could have used a more pejorative word.

    All of which would not matter at all if, through whatever means, the anachronism functioned artistically – and whether it is ‘obvious’ or not is irrelevant. It could still work. Is it too crass to say if the audience don’t mind, it doesn’t matter? I’m not sure. However, if the audience object – even if they don’t notice the anachronism – then it certainly does matter.

    Izzy at #31 says it “ruined [it] (okay, just a teeny bit)”, without referring to the anachronism. I had already sought out the trailer for the film “One Night In Turin”, which I was more-than-ready to see, and when “All Together Now” came on the trailer I thought “Eh?” It really, really jarred. From “desperate to see” to “maybe not for me” in 80 seconds.

  24. 54
    Erithian on 21 Feb 2011 #

    But surely an anachronism can be more or less serious depending on the context? If, for instance, the Mods in “Quadrophenia” had been depicted dancing to “Israelites”, that’d be a jarring anachronism on the soundtrack. And yes I do get annoyed when events from, say, 1971 are shown in documentaries with accompanying music from 1973. But using the Farm to comment on an event which was so close in time to their record as to have been a possible influence on it (Hooton being a former Liverpool FC fanzine editor) is “applicable” to the same degree as linking footage of Apollo 11 to “Space Oddity” which came out a few months later. If it had been a drama about fans travelling to Turin and they were shown listening to the song, that indeed would have jarred, but as a soundtrack it conveys something of the atmosphere of the period.

    Incidentally, re the Gulf War: as Nick Hornby points out in “Fever Pitch”, football fans were the first people in the UK to know that the bombing of Baghdad had started, as a late-night ITV highlights package of League Cup ties was interrupted by what was the first live streaming of CNN most of us had seen, in which two CNN journalists stationed in Baghdad described what they were seeing from their hotel in a riveting commentary.

  25. 55
    Ed on 21 Feb 2011 #

    #53, #54:

    How about ‘A Knight’s Tale’, where Geoffrey Chaucer kicks off ‘We Will Rock You’?

    Or ‘Marie Antoinette’, where Versailles c1789 has the same soundtrack as a Brooklyn hipster bar c2004?

  26. 56
    enitharmon on 21 Feb 2011 #

    Erithian @ 54

    Nah! The first people in the UK to know that the Gulf War had begun in earnest were those sitting glued to the newly-opening-up internet waiting for the signal!

    It’s a bit early to mention that the morning after the shooting started I had a business appointment at Marconi Defence Systems in Portsmouth. Now that was an interesting experience. Bearing in mind that even on previous visits I was routinely escorted to the loo when I needed it. That day there was a tank in the car park…

  27. 57
    hardtogethits on 22 Feb 2011 #

    #54. I agree with your comments broadly, and perhaps even specifically . You may well be right in the specific context of the film, but if you are, the film’s not for me and it should be.

  28. 58
    Martin Skidmore on 11 Mar 2011 #

    I would like to imagine this song as a tribute to my Trident Comics output. I think the two titles I look back on with most pride are St Swithin’s Day by Grant Morrison and Paul Grist, and Mark Millar’s first ever comics work, Saviour. As a tribute, it’s not a terribly satisfactory one, but I like to think that Cliff meant well.

  29. 59
    punctum on 14 Aug 2014 #

    Given the news, I’m not so much throwing in the towel with TPL, but have removed all of the posts directly relating to albums by CR and edited all the other ones where he is mentioned. I’ll restore them depending on what happens. In the meantime I am extremely weary of the whole business and do not feel like pressing on any further – what’s the point spending time and effort listening to, researching and writing about somebody who might turn out to be dodgy (note my very careful wording there)? I think I have better things to do, and listen to, and write about.

  30. 60
    Mark G on 15 Aug 2014 #

    The BBC4 TOTP repeats are on hiatus at the moment because of the Proms. I can imagine a situation where the repeats become untenable …

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