You can probably name the top two selling artists in the UK simply because they also stand out in the US: the Beatles and Elvis. But can you name the third artist?
It’s Harry Webb. He sold over 250 million records worldwide. Just not very many in the US.
Harry was born in India in 1940. He and his family moved back to a small village near London in 1948. His interests wandered toward Skiffle music so in 1957 his father bought him a guitar. He sang in a harmony group in high school and he soon joined the Dick Teague Skiffle Group.
In 1958 he was fronting for a new rock and roll group. He adopted a new stage name: Cliff Richard.
The group became Cliff Richard and the Drifters. They immediately had a #2 record in the UK with the release of their first single, Move It.
After scoring a few more top twenty records, in 1959 they released Living Doll, their first #1 single in the UK. The record even charted in the US, reaching #30. That same year the American group the Drifters had a number 2 hit in the US with There Goes My Baby. Cliff’s backup band went through some line-up changes and was renamed the Shadows.
The hits kept coming in the UK, but it was several years before they reached the US charts again. Cliff has had 14 number one records, an additional 53 top ten records, and countless other hits in the UK.
Cliff had only three top ten singles in the US:
- Devil Woman reached #6 in 1976
- We Don’t Talk Anymore reached #7 in 1979
- Dreaming reached #10 in 1980
In 1980, Olivia Newton-John starred in the film Xanadu. The film was a complete bomb and is probably best avoided, but the soundtrack did well in spite of the film’s poor performance. Olivia had a number one hit with Magic and Olivia and ELO had a top ten record with the film’s title song. The third charting single from the film was Suddenly, a duet she recorded with Cliff that only reached #20 in early 1981.
The record did better on the Adult Contemporary chart, easily reaching the top five. Appearances on shows like The Midnight Special probably helped on that chart more than the movie soundtrack since roller disco was already over by the time the film came out. Maybe even before they filmed the movie. Maybe roller disco was never a thing.
Cliff continues to perform in public and record. His most recent recording was singing with Bonnie Tyler on her 2019 release of In Control.