SONG: Move It!
ARTIST: Cliff Richard and the Drifters
Listen to it here:
Move It was written by Ian Samwell and recorded by Cliff Richard and the Drifters (eventually became the Shadows) in 1958. It was Richard’s debut single and his first ever hit – it was originally intended to be a B-side, but when producer Jack Good heard it, he had Richard perform the song on his show and made it the A-side. This decision helped launch Richard’s career for the next 6 decades.
Sir Cliff Richard was born Harry Rodger Webb on October 14th, 1940 in Lucknow, India. His family lived in relative comfort in India until civil unrest made them decide to move to England. When he was 16 he showed interest in music so his dad bought him a guitar, and he formed his first group – the Quitones.
In the 1950s Cliff became the lead singer of the Drifters, and an entrepreneur suggested he change his name – Cliff like a rock cliff, and Richard in a tribute to Little Richard. In 1958 Cliff Richard and the Drifters released their debut single Move It, and were launched into stardom. Richard was presented as the UK’s answer to Elvis – similar hairstyle and brooding appearance on stage. The Drifters saw several line up changes and had to change their name to the Shadows, due to complications with the American singing group the Drifters (of Under the Boardwalk and Up on the Roof fame). The Shadows had their own contract and recorded songs and albums on their own accord, but would still back Richard (although they did not receive royalties for any recordings they did with Richard). They were successful in the UK up to and including the emergence of the merseybeat sound in 1964, although with the Beatles gaining popularity, Richards’ waned. Richard made a hard right turn in 1965 and became an evangelical Christian, eschewing rock music for Christian songs. He also appeared in a few Billy Graham-produced movies. Richard saw an ebb and flow in his career throughout the next few decades, was knighted, and although he was a lifelong bachelor, was never really without a girlfriend. Richard continues to record and perform and released an album as recently as 2020.
Move It has been credited as the first rock ‘n roll song produced outside of the United States.
John Lennon was quoted as saying that before Cliff Ricahrd and the Shadows, there was nothing worth listening to in British music.
The first time I sat and listened to Move It, I was kind of underwhelmed. Another Elvis wannabe, more reverb-y guitars. But I listened again and it started to grow on me a little bit. Although Richard is English, you can really hear the birth and/or influence of surf music and surf guitar here. Richard’s voice and the guitar actually really reminded me of Eddie Cochrane, and I feel like you could easily blend the song with Summertime Blues. I feel like I can really hear the early Beatles influence here too. Richard’s voice is fine? I’m kind of ambivalent about it honestly. I feel like the real star of the song is the guitar work. I like all the riffs and adlibs – I feel like they’re clean and really add the rock feel, not cheesy or overworked like it could be with a song like this. The lyrics are ok, a rock and roll song about rock and roll. I don’t hate the song at all, but it’s just beige to me.
I have to say, I wasn’t familiar with this song at all before doing this review. Cliff Richard’s voice is nice and kind of pulls you in, and the back and forth between voice and guitar is kind of cool. I don’t know when producers stop putting so much reverb on guitars, but I’m looking forward to that point in pop music history. The introduction to this song is kind of surprising – just guitar, but with a very different vibe than Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode guitar intro. It sounds almost a little dark and ominous as if this could turn into a revenge ballad or something. But the guitar turns a corner when Cliff Richard comes in and almost sounds like blues surf guitar to me. We seem to have hit a time in history where rock and roll still has a lot in common with the blues, but then the lyrics talk about how it’s rock and roll. It’s kind of weird and self-referential in a way that really places it in the 50s. I listened to this song a few times, and I feel like all in all it’s fairly forgettable. I understand how it has an important place in British rock history, but it doesn’t really move me in any significant way.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
ROCK AND ROLLLLLLL with Suzi Quatro
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