RIP Phil Everly – A Forgotten 80s Top 10 Hit With Cliff Richard

Single sleeve, 1983.

Phil Everly – one half of pioneering rock ‘n’ roll duo The Everly Brothers – has died aged 74. My appreciation of The Everly Brothers initially came through the incredible artists they directly influenced – everyone from the Beatles to the Beach Boys to Simon and Garfunkel to Bob Dylan to the Bee Gees.

With news of Phil’s death (due to a “chronic, obstructive pulmonary disease”), most fans are probably returning to early classics like Bye Bye Love, All I Have To Do Is Dream, Wake Up Little Susie and Cathy’s Clown. But not just for the sake of being different, I’ve gone for a song more than 20 years after the brothers heyday, though still a UK top 10 hit.

Released in 1983, She Means Nothing To Me saw Phil Everly paired not with his brother (who he’d split with a decade before), but with the most successful chart-maker in British history, Cliff Richard.

Some of Cliff’s strongest 80s moments came in the form of collaborations, be it with Olivia Newton-John (Suddenly), Sara Brightman (All I Ask Of You) and this track with Phil Everly. One of several duets the two sang together over the years, Cliff’s resolutely uncool* image shouldn’t distract people from his underrated ability at singing harmony, nor his talent for finding strong material. Who better for him to be paired with than one of history’s most acclaimed harmonists? Click here to link to Cliff Richard’s Facebook page where he has recorded a video message in tribute to Phil.

Cliff Richard w/ Phil Everly, 1981.

She Means Nothing To Me has complex harmony lines – just listen to the pre-chorus, “All my dreams are depending on her and how good I’m pretending that…”, followed by the chorus of, “She means nothing to me,” and hear how the harmony parts alter subtly. Phil’s high harmony is sublime and Cliff’s low harmony anchors perfectly.

It’s a class piece of 80s pop/rock from two legends from opposing sides of the Atlantic who first found fame in the 50s. RIP Phil Everly.

*I’ve written in the past about why Cliff Richard is “cooler” than most people think. Ultimately who cares if an artist is cool or not, but I think even the man himself would be surprised to go back to some of his album tracks between 1976-1989 and hear just how good they were. More than that though, just how R&B influenced too.

Those years are bookended by two of Cliff’s most accomplished studio albums – I’m Nearly Famous in 1976 and Stronger in 1989 – and contain for me the greatest proportion of his best recordings. If you click here you can link to an article with my dozen favourite Cliff Richard songs from this period.

One Comment Add yours

  1. hazza harris says:

    they have been great mates a long time Tim. And you are so right about thier work on this track. harmonies brillant.

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