Cilla Black died, afew weekends ago , while I was in her home town, Liverpool. She was in Spain at her villa at the time of her demise.Apparently she’d fallen and subsequently had a stroke.I didn’t mind Cilla during the days of Beatlemania .She was a loud part of that whole excitement . My Liverpool cousins were full of that local explosion .They’d send my older sisters copies of “Merseybeat” just before the whole world was combusting with the madness of it all. Looking back on it ,it was a truly revolutionary social moment in time. It was as if the whole of the world decided to shake everything up and start all over again.
At least it felt that way if you happened to be eleven or twelve and were hustling your mother for a new pair of Italian elastic -sided chisel-toed Chelsea boots with low cuban heels. which she had no intention of buying for you . She was right in the end, of course.Against her better judgement , she relented.She was probably as entranced by the excitement as everyone else. They didn’t last a crack. The sole soon left the upper; the heels worn down to a stump and there was no fixing them. You might say that was the beginning of the throwaway culture , right there.
Cilla was a lucky girl to be in the Beatles’ orbit and she certainly was fortunate with her first hit singles .Oh, she had a bit of talent . It takes more than a bit of talent to get up in front of a baying crowd though. It takes a bit of nerve and chutzpah and a fair percentage of self-belief too.Her first songs were very emotionally dramatic and appealed to that angsty section of the listening teenage public deep in the throes of broken passions.They were catchy torch -songs that sailed into the charts on a fair breeze…”Anyone Who Had A Heart”, “Alfie”,”You’re My World”…. She could sing, even when she strained for those high notes when Burt Bacharach pushed her too hard and honked them through that soon -to-be -fixed nose, like a fire-siren, she still carried it off with a bit of sass and aplomb. She sounded like Liverpool; echoes of the ships’ foghorns down at the Mersey docks. She even had a successful television pop music series all to herself with special guests every week and Beatle McCartney wrote a catchy “Step Inside , Love ” toe-tappin’ tune to open the show. Anything with a Beatle attached to it was a sure-fire success back then. By some magic borrowed from their mentor Epstein, they’d managed to cross the grubby plank from their rock and roll roots to front-room acceptability.They carried a whole northern , half-Irish ,English city with them.
All the girls copied her hairstyle back then. It was her, Marianne Faithfull or Paul McCartney’s then girlfriend Jane Asher. They were the main ones. My older sister was very pleased that she shared that “strawberry blonde ” hair colour.Cilla did very well and she’d be featured in Fabulous 208 magazine pinups with the Zombies and the Stones, but she lost me long ago with all that awful “Blind Date “, “Surprise, Surprise!”…Wakey, wakey…come on down or whatever…. …awful populist Saturday -night television. Naw…that wasn’t for me at all..Still …It’s always strange when the news comes through that a front-room resident has dropped from the mortal coil. She got up from sun-bathing , fell and banged her head….and disappeared almost entirely from us , within a heartbeat.It’s an odd feeling that. It’s things like that which make you wonder is there any point to any of it at all.I really don’t think there actually is. That could happen to any one of us ….at any time….As the Stones might sing ..”It’s Just A Glass Of Wine Away”…..and then …bang!
Now George Cole died , too .You might remember George from his character in the television series “Minder”. The spivvy Arthur “Your world’s your lobster” Daly , small-time wheeler -dealer used -car “businessman” who still managed to charm us all onto his side with his wide-boy Trotterish ineptitude. He served it with a side-dish of Phil Silvers’ Sergeant Bilko hustle .Of course as in the best comedy the fun lay in his ineptitude.He was a long-established actor in British cinema though, doing all sorts of shady character parts and even some rollicking , romantic lead roles with the likes of the perpetually-embalmed Joan Collins . You might have thought of him in the same breath as Terry- Thomas who played a wonderful caddish upper-class roguish twit in many old films from the 1950s, but poor old Terry died in befuddled, Parkinson’s ,demented penury some twenty five years ago in 1990, a quietly forgotten hugely -talented anachronism . The lugubrious and very talented Alastair Sims was George’s mentor. You might have thought that George was dead already , mind, given that the original “Minder” has really been off our screens for many years. Not so. He acted in many television sit-com and stage roles and made it to ninety years of age before dying in bed, surrounded by his family .
I think he got a better deal than Cilla or Terry , in the end.