Page last updated at 07:47 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 08:47 UK

Sir Cliff defiant at 50 not out

By Kevin Young
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Sir Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff says his critics in the media have "no power" over him at all

Fifty years ago this Friday, 17-year-old Cliff Richard first entered the British chart, appearing with the Shadows on the single Move It.

Still looking sprightly, and with a tan which suggests a summer spent in a sunnier land than the UK, the star is promoting his autobiography, a compilation album plus a single, which is vying to be number one on Sunday.

Sir Cliff - he received his knighthood in 1995 - has spent the past few days signing books for thousands of fans who had queued for a chance to meet their idol.

And a weekend of newspaper headlines and speculation about his sexuality accompanied the serialisation of the book, particularly his description of a "companion", a male former priest with whom he shares a home.

I've spent two or three days now correcting the crap that some of the media have done
Sir Cliff Richard
While he describes the press as "uncontrollable", he admits he is "so grateful that after 50 years, they still find me interesting enough to write things".

"They still purposely make things sound wrong. By taking paragraphs on one topic and putting them together with paragraphs on another topic, they're lying by omission.

"But I don't fear them," Sir Cliff insists. "They have no control over me. In a way I don't care what they say as long as they keep on saying it.

"I can always correct it. I've spent two or three days now correcting the crap that some of the media have done."

Cliff Richard in 1968
Congratulations came second in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest
But the publicity has done no harm in terms of sales for My Life, My Way - it has gone straight in at number one on the non-fiction book chart.

And debuting in the top spot is something he hopes to do in the singles chart on Sunday, with Thank You For a Lifetime.

If he can knock Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl from the summit, Sir Cliff will have had number ones in six consecutive decades.

"I think fans will receive it well because it's really a song for them. It's really me saying - as the title suggests - thank you for a lifetime."

Being number one would be "nice", he says, but he reckons no act will ever overtake his five-decade haul of chart-toppers anyway.

"Who's going to do that?" he asks. "Many of them barely make five years."

'Terrific ingenuity'

Looking back at his career, he remembers the 1960s as "a fantastic time".

"Everything was new and fresh. Technology had arrived in about the mid-'50s and by the time the Beatles came in, we could link four-track machines instead of performing in mono.

Cliff Richard and the Shadows in 1962
Sir Cliff's early hits, including Living Doll, were with the Shadows
"The Beatles could be very creative and the ingenuity they showed was terrific; absolutely fantastic sounds and great songs."

He came second in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1968 with Congratulations - in May it was claimed the vote was rigged and Sir Cliff should have won - but he says times have changed since that performance, and his subsequent appearance in 1973.

"I watch Eurovision when I can, but I watch it mostly to find out what Terry is going to say, because some of that music doesn't rate at all for me."

The Terry to whom he refers is Irish broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan, who indicated he would quit as a BBC commentator after a "debacle" regarding the voting in this year's event.

Can you imagine if Elton [John] had done Candle in the Wind? He'd have walked away with it
Sir Cliff Richard on the early days of Eurovision

The presenter was unhappy that several ex-Soviet states all backed the eventual winner, Russia, and described the show as "no longer a music contest" after the British entry came last.

"If there's a group of countries who like a similar type of music, they're going to vote for each other," says Sir Cliff. "They probably don't like what we do."

Would he return to the stage if asked to salvage the UK's wounded pride?

"I have no desire to go back on it," he replies.

Ernie Wise, Cliff Richard and Eric Morecambe in 1973
Sir Cliff (centre) has never been far from TV sets during his 50-year career
"When I did it, I thought it could become a fantastic platform for European rock 'n' roll. I thought we could all have internationally-known artists performing.

"Can you imagine if Elton [John] had done Candle in the Wind? He'd have walked away with it.

"If [Paul] McCartney and [John] Lennon had done things with their songs, we could have won it many, many times."

And so to Sir Cliff's sixth decade in the record business - and a defiant promise that he will always be his own man.

"I've spent my life doing things that I want to do and feel like doing. When I decide to do them, I do them as best I can."

He acknowledges "not everyone is going to like the things I do" - but at 67, it appears nothing is going to change him now.

Sir Cliff Richard's single Thank You For a Lifetime and his book - My Life, My Way - are both out now in the UK.

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