The British legend talks opening for Moz this June and explains why his global stardom never quite reached American shores
Cliff Richard was as surprised as anyone else that Morrissey wanted him to open his June 21 concert at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
"About a month ago, my agent called on the phone and said '(Morrissey) invited you to be on the show,' " Richard tells Billboard. "I said, 'Are you sure?' I mean, Morrissey and Cliff Richard? We're poles apart; I'm heavily pop-rock, and he's obviously more of a cerebral performance. I admire people like that, but we're not always in the same bag. So I definitely got them to check it out and see if there was any sort of ulterior motive. 'Why am I being asked?' And they came back and said, 'Morrissey has always been a fan.' 'You're kidding me!' I don't really believe that, but I'll accept it. It's an exciting opportunity. You never know what's going to happen in this life of rock 'n' roll."
Richard says that "it's been hard to keep (the news) secret" since he received the invitation, but he's happy now that it's been announced. He's checked out online footage of Morrissey performing and is hopeful that the former Smiths frontman's audience will be welcoming -- though Richard doesn't expect that the two will sing anything together.
"There's no hint of that at all, and I can probably understand why that would be," Richard says. "He probably wouldn't know much of my stuff, and I wouldn't know much of his. And to get together to rehearse another song, I don't now if that's feasible. I'm going to come prepared to do my show, and it will be good to see him in person, too."
Richard is also excited about the chance to perform again in the U.S. which, despite worldwide success to the tune of 250 million record sold, has never been a particularly fertile territory for him -- though Richards acknowledges that's somewhat by design.
"Back in (the 60s) my manager at the time, a very wise man, said, 'If you're going to make it there, you're gonna have to do what everybody does; you're gonna have to go over there and spend a good year there, working. Can you tell me which (other) territory you'd like to give up in order to go there?' And I said, 'I don't want to give anything up,' so he said, 'Well, just cool your heels, then. If it happens, it happens. If not, don't worry about it. You have a world to sing to.' So a lot of my frustration disappeared with that."
But, Richard adds, he's "still aware of America. It's where all the music I love came from. To scratch it one more time would be wonderful." His reps are, in fact, looking to book some more U.S. and Canadian dates around the Brooklyn show, though none have been announced of yet.
Richards released his 100th album (including compilations, live sets and soundtracks) in the U.K. during November (it peaked at No. 7 and was certified gold), and "The Fabulous Rock 'n' Roll Songbook" comes out Feb. 25 in the U.S. The set features 14 covers of Richards' favorite 50s rock hits by the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Ricky Nelson, the Everly Brothers and more, along with a lone new song, "One More Sunny Day."
"It just took me back to my Roots," Richard says. "I have a number of albums, including the Rod Stewart series, of the Great American Songbook, and I think my title may have coined a term that sums up rock 'n' roll as opposed to Cole Porter and others from that 30s, 40s period. I hope it catches on, and anybody who wants to record this (music) can call it the fabulous rock 'n' roll songbook."
And if Richard has his way, he'll be able to take another crack at that repertoire soon. "I've already got 14 tracks picked out for a second album when the time's right," he says. "I don't know if they'll want a Vol. 2; sometimes they don't sell as well. Maybe I'll do something else next and then do Vol. 2. We'll see, but I'd love to do it because I do love this music and I love recording."