RIP Cilla Black 1943-2015
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
The week began with news that Cilla Black had passed away at 72 years young. She'd had an awesome career, considering she was a singer delivering a series of charting hits throughout the 60s, hosted a chat show in the '70s and fronted a dating game show for almost two decades from the mid-'80s. I wasn't a massive fan, but knew a number of her songs that still stand as classics, as enduring and recognisable as her ranga bob and prominent choppers.
The first time I was aware of Cilla was when she appeared on The Don Lane Show, the long-running Australian tonight show hosted by the 'lanky yank' of the title. During her appearance, she happened to refer back to her previous visit downunder.
"I'd just given birth, and was all poofy," she said, in her Liverpudlian accent.
"You mean 'puffy'," Don corrected her, in his American accent.
"Yeah, 'poofy'," she repeated. "What's the difference?"
"Oh, believe me," Don explained, "there's a difference."
It was still the '70s, and Australia, so if making fun of people who speak differently or are in same-sex relationships was neither funny nor inoffensive, who could tell? (Or, more to the point, who would tell?)
In time I'd learn more about Cilla Black in passing: contemporary - and friend! - of the Beatles, who helped get her noticed by their manager Brian Epstein; real name Priscilla White, gaining the stage name she kept as a result of a gig booker muddling her name.
Some of her enduring hits include fine Burt Bacharach songs like Alfie and Anyone Who Had A Heart (or, as Peter Sellers delivers it in the sketch A Right Bird, Anyone 'Oo 'Ad An 'Art); Lennon/McCartney songs like Love of the Loved, It's For You, and Step Inside Love (the latter, the theme to her chat show, Cilla), and You're My World.
At its height, her dating show Blind Date rated around 17 million (if you were ever a fan of Ben Elton's stand-up, you'll recall the phrase 'strictly for the birds, Cilla; strictly for the birdsâ¦'; I can't remember the context).
And she maintained the respect of the next generation(s) of viewers doing a sterling job of hosting episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks: "Hullo and welcome to the Boozcocksâ¦" (Thanks for the reminder, Cat!)
If I were a cartoonist, my tribute to Cilla would be a single panel with St Peter at the pearly gates, welcoming her with the words "step inside, love". Failing that, I figured I'd photoshop the same with some judiciously pilfered images.
However, in the process of locating suitable imagery, I cam a cross this lovely photo of Cilla hamming on the sofa as a guest of Jonathan Ross:
So I figured there might be a different 'tribute' to Cilla, a different song title:
You'll no doubt recognise the grim reaper from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. I think it's fitting, since my first glimpse of Cilla Black's Cilla was as a visual 'quote' in a season 4 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. It's an episode of Cilla featuring Ringo Starr as a guest, so fittingly, the graphic brings Cilla, Python and Beatles back together (It's For You being one of the Lennon/McCartney songs she recorded).
However, my search revealed this gem: Cilla, when she was smoking hot!
Finding a suitable St Peter was more difficult than finding a God, and there's an awesome God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail - so again Cilla, Python and the Beatles come together:
Admittedly, the Old Man n the Sky comes across as a Dirty Old Man in the Sky, butâ¦ well, can you blame him?!
I apologise for my efforts failing to do justice to Cilla Black. The best tribute to her, of course, is the miniseries Cilla. Made in 2014, it's utterly brilliant, not only for the presence of Sheridan Smith in the title role - she's a knock-out and, apparently, supplied the vocals herself. That's the facsimile - imagine how amazing the real thing must have been in her own time.