John Lennon claimed Cliff Richard was the best thing to happen to British music

5 August 2022, 14:01

The Beatles and Cliff Richard both changed the face of British music in the 1960s.
The Beatles and Cliff Richard both changed the face of British music in the 1960s. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

They were undoubtedly the biggest British pop sensations of the 1960s.

But The Beatles and Cliff Richard didn't always see eye to eye as they continually battled each other in the pop charts.

They often exchanged cutting remarks about each other to the media too.

When Cliff was asked whether he thought the Fab Four would “be huge”, he replied: “Their name just sounds like something you tread on!"

Of course, Beatlemania swiftly followed which made Cliff eat humble pie, as he envied their ground-breaking success in America.

The Beatles made themselves household names after performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, and Sir Cliff wasn't best pleased.

"It’s ridiculous! Has everyone forgotten me? What’s going on?" he famously ranted when asked about the reception they received.

Cliff Richard performing with The Shadows in 1959. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Cliff Richard performing with The Shadows in 1959. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images). Picture: Getty
The Beatles pose for a portrait in 1963. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The Beatles pose for a portrait in 1963. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Competition aside however, Cliff and The Beatles both had enormous respect for one another.

John Lennon even claimed at one time that British music would not have been the same if Cliff hadn't come along.

Due to their immense popularity, The Beatles principal songwriters Lennon and Paul McCartney were regularly quizzed on what were their inspirations and who they thought were music greats.

Lennon famously answered one journalist with: "Before Elvis, there was nothing ... Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles."

But the man behind some of the iconic songs in music history was also effusive in his praise for Cliff.

"Before Cliff Richard and 'Move It' [his song with The Shadows, there was nothing worth listening to in England" he claimed.

He had a point, given that rock 'n' roll hadn't made it to British shores yet, and Sir Cliff arguably opened the door on the British Isles to a new world of music in 1959.

Cliff had met the Liverpudlians on several occasions during their early years and the latter were also quick to heap praises on Cliff's impact.

Sir Paul McCartney would reveal years later that The Beatles relocated to Hamburg, Germany in the early 1960s because Sir Cliff had “everything sewn up in Britain”.

After their first number one single 'From Me To You', John Lennon had a cheeky request that Cliff shared in his 2020 autobiography The Dreamer.

He wrote: "John Lennon was very funny and asked me to delay releasing my next single to give their follow-up 'Please Please Me' a chance."

As history tells us, the song never actually made it to No.1 so Cliff didn't have to intervene.

When promoting his autobiography on The One Show just after his 80th birthday, Cliff was asked about the compliments he'd received from the legendary group.

"I can remember somebody saying something wonderful about it and he was one of the Beatles" Sir Cliff wryly said.

The evergreen singer continued: "John Lennon, bless his soul, said ‘Before Cliff and 'Move It', there was really nothing worth listening to in Britain.'"

"I’ve always loved that because the press that talk to me nowadays say, ‘Well, you’re not really cool anymore.'"

"I say to them, ‘Well John Lennon thought I was pretty damn cool!'"

It's always heartwarming when talent recognises talent, and both The Beatles and Cliff Richard are some of the most tremendously talented artists in British music history.