SMOKE: Email To Cliff Richard
Originally published: 19 March 2004
Every so often in life someone comes along who somehow manages to fool the world into believing that they have something to offer - think Justin Timberlake, for example, or Tom Greene, any given MTV presenter, Paris Hilton, Brenda Fassie or Tony Sanderson.
And, naturally, Cliff Richard.
Anyone who can put the words "congratulations" and "jubilations" in the same sentence and flog the result for millions has to be accorded respect, no matter how grudgingly given. But forgiveness?
I dropped Sir Cliff an email to thrash the problem out.
Howzit hangin'? No - not that - I meant your face. Well - you know what they say, don't you? Course you do. But lemme tell you - I don't see how you can be 100 in the shade and not have a single wrinkle. Hey? Come on. There's no shame in paying to be beautiful.
Still - since I'm no bitch gossip queen I'll leave the FRD (Facial Reconstruction Debate) to Martin Bashir - he'll sort you out on that one smart quick.
I'm really mailing you out of curiosity, I guess - for the life of me I simply cannot understand how someone with such complete denial of reality can make such a vast fortune to go with a knighthood.
Or how said person could possibly be accorded one moment's success for a statement like: "Got myself a cryin', talkin', sleepin', walkin', livin' doll".
Try pull that one today, matey - whew. I tell ya...
I know that not everyone sees the world in the same shades of black that folks like Leonard Cohen do, say, or Nick Cave, but really - you put Louis Armstrong to shame when it comes to the rose-coloured specs bit, dude.
I suppose I'm questioning just how deep a look you've taken at life, y'know? It's hard to explain what I mean, so I'll use your very own lyrics to illustrate (from that timeless classic, Lucky Lips):
Dah dup dap dap dup dah dup dah dah
dup dah dup dah dah dup oh
When I was just a little baby
I didn't have many toys
But my momma used to say son, you got
more than other boys
I'm prepared to forgive the opening two lines, but only because most musicians fancy themselves something of a scatmeister and most try their hand at it at some stage of their careers. Yours is a little basic, if you'll forgive me for saying so, but that we can put down to personal taste.
However - the rest of it is sheer drivel, man. How are those lyrics possibly going to change anyone's life? What impact are they going to have, what insights do they hold, and don't you think that maybe - just maybe - there are bigger issues at stake in our short time on this Earth?
I know not everyone has to be Bono and take on every cause from nuclear disarmament to the rehabilitation of formerly displaced foreign nationals in Uttar Pradesh, but honestly - singing about being a little boy with your toys and what your mommy said shows a certain degree of mental retardation, wouldn't you think?
I mean - I don't know. Help me out here, man.
Or what about this one:
When I tell everyone that you're in love with me
I want the world to know I'm happy as can be.
Well bully for you, mate, but there's a shitstack of people - weighed down by vicious poverty, starvation, genocide, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance - who are tortured and murdered and raped and beaten at any given second of any given day of any given year.
Hearts and bodies are broken, disease cuts across the globe in a relentless swathe, wiping out thousands on a daily basis. Desperation, despair, loneliness and depression are rife across the world, and all you want is for the world to know how happy you are?
That's sick, man. I'm not saying you have to give a crap about the skinnies, or worry yourself to death about pestilence and drought, but for someone who holds a global audience to ransom you ought to consider the image your're portraying - a rich white boy with his head firmly up his squeaky-clean ass.
I just think you're lacking a little depth.
But I have a solution for you, which I know you probably won't make use of, but which if you did would reap fantastic rewards in terms of your future songwriting and contribution to society.
Get yourself a pair of leathers, stop at the liquor store for a pack of Camels and a sixpack, pick up a couple of broads and hit the road in a stolen Chevy, doing a hundred miles an hour all the way to Reno.
Load yourself to the gills, get into a fight, swing a cat by the tail in the graveyard at midnight. Smash a window, piss on Mrs McLeary's lawn, go drinking with a shylock on the other side of town.
Kiss someone you shouldn't, fidget widda midget, pick up someone else's tab and leave your coat behind the door.
You gotta live a little, Cliff, is the point I'm trying to make. I don't mean literally urinate on anybody's lawn - you're bound to cop one in the Sunday papers if you do. It's figurative. A figure of speech. A - look. Just forget it, man. I'm tired of trying to explain things to you.
I'd just like to see some commitment from you - you've been put in a position that very few people get put in and to duff it up as badly as you have is just unforgivable.
Still - the only reason you made your millions and fraternised with the Queen (no, Cliff - The Queen, not A queen) was because millions of people bought your records and happily played them over and over, imagining balmy summers of loving, holidays, birds and bees.
They remembered those summer holidays even though they'd never been on them and you touched a sense of false nostalgia in the many people like you who simply don't want to accept that the world is no longer populated with barrel organ operators and pierrots on piers in sunny Brighton.
There are people dying out there, man. Your toys be damned.
I sent my mail to Cliff and got back the following reply:
Dearest, dearest Luke
Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me, and God bless you for doing so. I wish I could accept the things you have to say, but you see - I don't want to. You can't make me. I won't. *Stamps foot petulantly and shakes head with wry smile, arms akimbo. LOL@Luke.*
You're a wild and crazy guy, Luke, but you'll learn one day that not all is as bad as it seems. My responsibility is to my fans and my "Master and Commander" (LOL - just showing that I can be as topical as the next guy), and I can't help it if you disagree.
I prefer to see the good in this world, and in my world - it's all good. I'm sorry you're having problems down there in Africa with the drought and stuff, but maybe your village elder can contact a food aid programme?
Well - chin up, and as I always sing (sing along now!):
We're all going on a summer holiday
No more working for a week or two
Fun and laughter on a summer holiday
No more worries for me and you.
All my love,
Sir Cliff Richard
I'm really grateful to Cliff for writing to me as he did, but I still don't have the faintest idea what he's talking about.
I need me a summer holiday.
All Smoked Out,