White Label Wednesday: Cliff Richard, “We Don’t Talk Anymore”

Written by Music, White Label

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Everyone seemed to have so much fun jumping into the wayback machine with Nicolette Larson – and really, who wouldn’t want to jump into a wayback machine with Nicolette Larson? – that I thought I’d write up another song from the same era, though from a completely different universe than the one that birthed “Lotta Love.” I bring you, Sir Cliff Richard.

Cliff Richard was the Kylie Minogue of his time – and a lot of other people’s times – in that he racked up hit after hit after hit in his native UK (born in India to British parents, technically), while scratching and clawing his way into the American Top 40 a mere nine times. Nine times, compared to…wait for it…one hundred and twenty-five Top 40 hits on the UK charts (number spelled out for dramatic effect), including a staggering 70 Top 10 hits. Wow. Just…wow. That’s insane. And it will never happen again.

By the time “We Don’t Talk Anymore” reared its mellow disco head in late 1979, Richard had already cracked the UK Top 40 sixty-seven times. To establish a point of reference, the Beatles have notched 52 Top 40 hits in the States to date. No wonder he was knighted in 1995. The man is a national treasure, and not even a 1985 remake of his 1959 hit “Living Doll,” performed with the cast of BBC cult show “The Young Ones” (resident douchebag Rick, “spelled with a silent ‘P’,” was a big fan of the Cliff), would change that. If he were an X-Man, he’d be Juggernaut. Unstoppable, that Harry Rodger Webb.

“We Don’t Talk Anymore,” the second of his three Top 10 singles in America, is not exactly what one would call a rug cutter. Yes, it has that cheery keyboard riff in the chorus, and those handclaps are big, big, big. But take a closer look at the lyrics, and this is a kiss-off wrapped in disco Technicolor. (“Don’t come crying to me when you’re the lonely one / Remember what you’ve done.”) Not exactly the subject matter that boy and girl are going to playfully sing to each other on the dance floor. And what’s this…the song was written by Alan Tarney? Owners of A-ha’s 1985 debut Hunting High and Low just blinked in astonishment.

There are two things about this song that I absolutely love. The first is the back half of the chorus, the “I ain’t losing sleep, and I’m not counting sheep” part. Listen to that chord progression, shifting to a key change: they don’t write ‘em like that anymore, kids. Do you think that Green Gartside and David Gamson used this as their inspiration for the pre-chorus to their hit “Perfect Way”? Both bits are so odd in such a delightful way. The other thing I love about this song is that Cliff Richard was about to turn 40 when it became a hit. Would you buy dance music from a 40-year-old now? Of course you wouldn’t. Ask Moby, he’ll tell you.

Actually, there is a third thing I like about this song. In the second chorus, during the “losing sleep/counting sheep” part, Cliff tries a little improv riff with the “Nah nah nah naaaaaaaah” part…and I’m not sure a single note of it is in key. And that’s the best version of that vocal riff that they were able to get. Another thing that would never happen today. I kind of miss the days when musicians and singers were allowed to make mistakes.

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Cliff Richard – We Don’t Talk Anymore (Extended Mix)