Cilla Black (cont.)

From the Mersey Beat archives: Cilla on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ in a dress designed for her by Brian EpsteinBrian’s press officer once stated that Epstein was “usually reluctant to use the bargaining power of his Beatles as a tool on his dealings of behalf of other NEMS artists.” Actually, it was the opposite. Brian used the power of the Beatles to promote all his signings whether putting them on Beatles bills or having them record Beatles numbers and so on.

When he attempted to promote his other acts in America he certainly used the Beatles as a lever, particularly in Cilla’s case. Brian was desperate to establish her in America, although she was only to have a single chart hit there. He instructed the Beatles’ New York agents to set up a cabaret season for Cilla at a major Manhattan showplace, using the association of the Beatles as a tool.

She initially appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ performing ‘Dancing In The Street’ and ‘You’re My World’ and also appeared on the pop TV show ‘Shindig’ performing ‘I’ve Been Wrong Before.’

The young singer was also to guest on ‘The Johnny Carson Show.’ Carson said, “Don’t think I’m being rude, but I’ve never heard of you.”

Quick as a whippet, Cilla replied, “Don’t worry, chuck, because I’ve never heard of you either.”

Obeying Brian’s instructions, his agents booked Cilla into the prestigious Persian Room of the five-star Plaza Hotel.

Discussing her first night, she recalled, “The room was full of millionaires, it scared me just to think how much it cost to eat there.”

Journal America was to report, “So infectious is her personality and so loud and clear her voice, she could easily become another Gracie Fields given the proper handling.

A report in Britain pointed out, “…there were almost as many waiters as there were customers” and “instead of ‘You’re My World’, she sings numbers like ‘Summertime,’ and ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ and, believe it or not, a medley from ‘My Fair Lady.’”

When the season was over, Cilla said, “These have been the most terrifying weeks of my life. I never thought American audiences would be so hard to please.”

Sadly, that was the end of Brian’s attempts to launch her in America and she simply became another one-hit-wonder over there with ‘You’re My World’ reaching No 26 on the Billboard chart on 25 July 1964.

Her career changed direction with a number Epstein picked for her, ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, which had been a big hit for Dionne Warwick in America. He heard the number while on a trip to the States and brought the record back with him, taking it to George Martin as a song for Cilla to record. George said it would be perfect for another of his artists, Shirley Bassey, and told Epstein that Cilla couldn’t cope with such a song and wouldn’t have a chance with it. Sticking to his guns, Epstein insisted and Cilla’s version of the song topped the British charts.

Brian was delighted at the opportunity of moulding a female artist and was able to continue placing her in concerts and TV shows with his other acts. She toured with Gerry & the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer, appeared on ‘Around The Beatles’ and ‘The Music of Lennon and McCartney’ TV specials and featured in the Pacemakers’ film ‘Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey’.

Gradually, however, her image was directed away from rock and pop music towards the conventional world of traditional show business, with appearances at the London Palladium, the Royal Variety Show and in cabaret and pantomime.

Cilla in the film ‘Work Is A Four-Letter Word’ By 1965, using his prestige and contacts, Epstein attempted to break the 22-year-old Cilla in America. She made her debut on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ on 4 April and her American cabaret debut at the Persian Room in the Plaza Hotel, New York from 26 July. However, American success was to elude her and her sole chart entry there was ‘You’re My World’, which reached No. 26 in the Billboard charts in July 1964.

Success on record in Britain continued throughout the decade. She followed ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ with her second consecutive No. I.: ‘You’re My World’, an adaptation of an Italian tune.

A Lennon and McCartney composition, ‘It’s For You’, was her fourth release, reaching No. 7 in the charts. John and Paul visited Cilla in the studio during the recording of the track, and Paul played piano on it.

Cilla covered the Righteous Brothers’ hit ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and looked like beating them to the top of the charts. There was controversy at the time because many people believed that the Righteous Brothers’ single was so good it should have been given a clear run. In fact, Andrew Loog Oldham, manager of the Rolling Stones, took out an advertisement in the New Musical Express imploring record buyers to pick the original version rather than Cilla’s. Cilla had been No. 2 in the chart and the Righteous Brothers No. 3. The following week the Righteous Brothers leap-frogged over her to the No. I position.

Her hits in the Sixties were: ‘Love of the Loved’ (Parlophone R5065) which reached No. 35 in October 1963. She reached No. 1 in February 1964 with ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ (Parlophone R5101) and also topped the charts with ‘You’re My World’ (Parlophone R5133) in May of the same year. ‘It’s For You’ (Parlophone R5162) reached No. 7 in August 1964. ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (Parlophone R5225) reached No. 2 in January 1965. ‘I’ve Been Wrong Before’ (Parlophone R5265) reached No. 17 in April 1965. ‘Love’s Just A Broken Heart’ (Parlophone R5395) Reached No. 5 in January 1966. ‘Alfie’ (Parlophone R5427) reached No. 9 in March 1966. 

‘Don’t Answer Me’ (Parlophone 5463) reached No. 6 in June 1966. ‘What Good Am I’ (Parlophone R5608) reached No. 24 in June 1967. ‘I Only Live To Love You’ (Parlophone R5652) reached No. 8 in March 1968. ‘Where Is Tomorrow?’ (Parlophone R5706) reached No 40 in June 1968. ‘Surround Yourself With Sorrow’ (Parlophone R5759) reached No 7 in July 1969 and ‘If I Thought You’d Change Your Mind’ (Parlophone R5820) reached No 20 in December 1969. Cilla had a few further hits in the Seventies.

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