Friday, 20 March 2015

What The Cluck?

I was directed towards this particular ghastly recording by our old friend The Squire – a man whose taste in music is possibly even more eclectic than my own – so you can blame him for my inflicting My Little Chicken by Cliff Wade on you. 

Cliff Wade is one of those obscure figures in British pop music who has somehow managed to maintain a career since the 60s without ever becoming a household name. As a songwriter he’s provided hits for Pat Benatar (Heartbreaker), Tina Turner (The Woman I'm Supposed To Be) and others and as a member of Fickle Pickle he scored a sizeable European hit with a cover of Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed but, although he has issued several singles and written countless songs he’s never managed to score a hit under his own name.

Originally from York, he played with several groups during the mid- 60s before forming the Roll Movement in 1965 (their first gig took place in December of that year), who beat The Soft Machine into the finals of a 1966 Melody Maker-sponsored competition, (they finished second) and scored support spots with the Who and Cream. Cliff was also asked to audition for the Spencer Davis Group following Steve Winwood’s departure. Unfortunately the sole single issued by the Roll Movement, I’m Out on My Own (written by Cliff) failed to chart and the band split soon after its release. Wade joined a new outfit — Cucumber — although they didn’t last long and, in 1968, he went to work for independent producer Monty Babson and his Morgan Studios set up. Cliff would spend his day as a music copier, transcribing every part of the orchestral arrangements, but he also used the well-equipped Morgan studio at night, recording his own material and often sleeping there. Morgan would become the place to record, with acts including Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Kinks, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones all spending time there.

Wade first recorded under his own name in 1969, issuing the Mellotron-drenched pop single You’ve Never Been To My House/Sister on the Morgan Blue Town label. It sank without a trace, but over the next couple of years he cut more three more sides (and recorded a load of unreleased material which would not see the light of day until 2004). He also started singing for the group Fickle Pickle, who scored a hit in Holland with Maybe I’m Amazed and released several other sides for Philips, and had a minor role in later recordings by The Smoke (of My Friend Jack fame).

Very little changed for the next decade: Cliff continued to work, writing songs and performing with various different groups until 1979 when at last he got his big break, co-writing Heartbreaker, Pat Benatar's first major hit.  In 2004 Edsel/Demon Records collected together 21 tracks from the Morgan vaults - both sides of his two singles plus 17 previously unissued recordings -  and released it as Looking For ShirleyCliff Wade continues to write and record: actor Kevin Kennedy (Curly Watts in Coronation Street) had a minor hit with Cliff's song Bulldog Nation in 2000.

Which brings us to today's horror. My Little Chicken is unrepresentative of Cliff Wade's other recordings which are, for the most part, in a sunshine pop/psych vein. It's an almost unfathomable aberration, and you can understand why it remained unissued for more than three decades. Did he intend this as a demo, offering the song to another act, was it a bit of fun during some free studio time or was he totally off his nut? Who knows. It is what it is - and for that I am truly grateful. 


1 comment:

  1. The song was just bearable until the chicken impersonations started!


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