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The BBC's David Sillito
"Much of its success has been down to sending out free copies to churches"
 real 28k

Sir Cliff Richard
"This is not a Christmas record"
 real 28k

Friday, 26 November, 1999, 13:25 GMT
Sir Cliff heads for the top
Sir Cliff Richard: Will his prayers be answered?

Sir Cliff Richard could confound his critics again if early chart figures are proved right - and go to number one with his Millennium Prayer single.

The song is 6,000 sales ahead of the new Boyzone single, Every Day I Love You, in the midweek charts.

If his lead holds up, he will be top of the new chart on Sunday, delighting fans who have fought to have Millennium Prayer - The Lord's Prayer sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne - played on radio.

The 59-year-old singer joked: "I've got everything crossed for Sunday. I thought I ought to start looking for my own radio station."

Millennium Prayer is released on the tiny Papillion label
The pop charts tend to see singles come in very high in the charts on the back of frequent radio plays, then quickly drop out again.

But the lack of initial radio airplay has helped Sir Cliff defy this rule, as has promotion through the internet. The Christian Herald has also sent out free copies to churches, who played it to their congregations.

The huge publicity generated by fans, who were outraged when BBC Radio 2 left it off its playlist, will have also contributed to sales.

Sir Cliff was depicted as the victim of musical snobbery by newspapers such as the Daily Mail - and fans went into the record shops to see what the fuss was about.

Festive tradition: Cliff at Christmas
Gennarro Castaldo, from the HMV retail chain, said: "It looks like his devoted fanbase coupled with the push from the wider Christian community has helped him along."

The song - released on the tiny Papillon label rather than his usual company EMI - will receive further exposure on the BBC's Children In Need appeal on Friday night, when Sir Cliff makes a guest appearance.

Children In Need is one of the organisations making up Children's Promise, the charity which will benefit from sales of the single.

Sir Cliff has always insisted he was not aiming for the coveted Christmas number one slot with The Millennium Prayer - and is bemused by the controversy his record has stirred up.

The single has benefited from publicity rather than airplay
"This is not a Christmas record, why do you think I released this on 15 November? The Christmas rush can get very cluttered, and I wanted this to be a millennium prayer," he said.

"I don't understand where the fuss has come in. I can't use my usual criteria for judging rock 'n' roll as I would have done for [his 1979 hit] Devil Woman as I would have done for this song - it's completely different."

In contrast to Sir Cliff's modesty, Friday's Daily Mail trumpets the possibility of his return to number one as "a punch in the nose for the musical snobs who sneered" - comparing his 'exclusion' from Radio 2 with the BBC putting Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel on a restricted playlist in the 1950s.

Sir Cliff may feel in need of a rest when the publicity dies down - fortunately for him, he is already taking the year 2000 off to visit Australia.

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See also:
21 Nov 99 |  UK
Sir Cliff defies critics
08 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Christians call for Sir Cliff boycott
08 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Hope for snubbed Cliff track

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