A Fan Recalls the First Time 
By
Dave Stubbs
 Birmingham

This letter was sent to, and subsequently appeared in  'Waves - The Clifford T Ward Fanzine' (July 1997 edition):
 
I started buying records in the Sixties, mostly singles The Hollies, Searchers, Bee Gees, Beatles etc. Although I bought many records by many artists, I never had a really favourite band or solo singer. I usually found on rare occasions when I did buy an album that I would only like a couple of tracks. Then one day I heard a song on the radio which I thought was called Carrie but I only caught the tail end of it. No one said who the artist was. However, I wrote the title down so as not to forget it.

Shortly after, I heard the song Coathanger and the name Clifford T. Ward. Sounds like the same chap who did Carrie, I thought. It was obvious to me that the man had a sense of humour with Lyrics like, 'If you share my coathanger I'll be hung on you'. I soon found out that the two songs were from Singer Songwriter and decided to buy the album rather than two singles. What a good choice what a great album. I played it many times and particularly liked The Cause Is Good and Circus Girl.

My local record shop later told me of a forthcoming single and album which I ordered before their release. I thought Gaye was great but the B side Home Thoughts was fantastic.

Then Cliff was on Top Of The Pops and the Home Thoughts album was released to rave reviews. It was even advertised on TV in a commercial break. One music paper described him as, 'The new master of melody' which is perfectly correct as far as I'm concerned. I loved this album so much. This man had me crying one minute and tapping my feet the next. I would sometimes play it half a dozen times on the trot driving every one crazy. I even bought several copies in case I wore one out or it became scratched. This holds true today I always buy at least two copies of Cliff's records and CD's and I will never part with them. Home Thoughts changed my whole outlook on music and artists. For the first time I was interested in who wrote the music, who produced it and who played on it. It made me realise that there was a common factor in all the records I had liked over the years - orchestration. I'm sure that if Cliff had had the money he would have used orchestras on his later albums.

I often studied the Home Thoughts cover and one day decided to visit Hartlebury Museum where the pictures were taken. In fact I visited the museum several times and spoke to people who remembered Cliff. The place seemed magical to me knowing Cliff had been there; it made me feel closer to the music.

I couldn't wait for Cliffs next album, Mantle Pieces. I loved it, not as much as Home Thoughts but he was still the Master ! I am a shy person but one day I resolved to try and meet Cliff to shake his hand and thank him for the pleasure his music had given to me. Luckily I saw an article in a local paper which said that Cliff had just moved into a bungalow in Pensax. I looked it up on the map and decided to try and find the bungalow by using the photo from the paper. A nearby shop confirmed my find and said that as his car was parked outside he'd surely be in. There was a Reliant Scimitar car there but I didn't have the nerve to go up the path.

They told me he was a nice quiet man and they hardly noticed him except for music playing occasionally. Back at home I wrote him a letter instead and took it to the shop a week later, asking them to give it to him and back home again I went !  Eventually I realised that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't try to see him. The worst he could do was to tell me to clear off !  So along with his albums, a big Home Thoughts poster, and a friend for moral support, I set off again. Just my luck, there was no car parked outside when I got there. Luckily I decided to wait for a short while, then suddenly a car came around the corner and pulled into the drive. Cliff saw me get out of my car and asked if I was wanting to see him. I was shaking like a leaf and couldn't believe it when he asked me in and introduced me to Pat, Martin and Sam. We had coffee and smoked Piccadilly cigarettes (Cliff's !) and talked for hours. We were shown around the house and garden and I saw THE piano on which all those great songs had been composed ! Sam played a joke on me. He asked me to open a mustard jar he was having difficulty with and when I did so a spring loaded snake jumped out. Cliff signed all my albums and the poster I treasure them to this day. It was a great day for me, I will never forget it or the hospitality we were shown by Cliff and his family.

We were invited back and Cliff played us his new album, Escalator. We were the first in the country to hear it except for his family and the people he'd recorded it with. We heard the studio tape which was fantastic. When I heard The Way Of Love I thought it was the most beautiful song ever written. Cliff explained each track and made sure that I was standing in the correct place in the room to get the full impact of the orchestra. It was wonderful. I was asked my opinion of each track and the album as a whole.

Apparently he'd had a lot of problems making this album, had heard it so many times that he couldn't judge it afresh any more. Hearing it for the first time I could give him my honest impressions. Naturally, this album is very special to me and although I may be biased, I still think it's one of his best with some of the best songs he's ever written.

After a while Cliff moved further down the road to a big farmhouse. I visited him there a couple of times. I remember mentioning to him about starting a fan club but he didn't seem overkeen at the time. He played the Jim Dale LP once when I was there on which there are two cover versions of Cliff's songs. He told me he thought it was diabolical or words to that effect ! He was thinking of having his own studio built at this house. I don't know if he ever did before he then moved again to a much bigger house in Lyonshall. I never visited this new house although I have seen it from the road. He eventually moved on yet again.

These days I don't listen to the radio much or buy music papers except for Record Collector. I personally feel that most of the so called 'music' scene today is utter crap !  Listening to some of today's hits how on earth can these records be praised and be successful ?  Cliff never really had the success he so richly deserved. Of course I have other favourites in particular the 70's classical folk rock band Renaissance. At one time I did own some 2,000 singles, 200 albums and 200 CD's. This interest in music is thanks to Cliff.

Anyone reading this is probably a Clifford T. Ward fan which means they are nice people and have very good taste in music !

Dave Stubbs,
Birmingham.

 

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