Following on from four past single disc collections of hits collections, Cliff Richard's first ever U.K. double album offered a straightforward recounting of, not necessarily his 40 greatest hits, but certainly his 40 best known. No statistical ground rules set out its contents. Rather, the compilers went by instinct and, perhaps, a well-developed sense of the mystic point where musical immortality departs from commercial superiority. Of the artist's eight number ones to date, one, 1960s "I Love You," was absent. Of 12 Top Ten hits scored between 1966-79, three were replaced by lower ranking, but infinitely more memorable efforts. It seems incredible that such mid-1970s gems as "Miss You Nights" and "My Kinda Life" were outperformed by the likes of "Big Ship" and "It's All Over," but that's the mystery of the pop charts for you. The bulk of the album, of course, is concentrated on the years when Richard didn't simply dominate British rock, he epitomized it. The whole of the first album (the first disc on the CD reissue) is dedicated to the 1958-63 period; the remainder of the 1960s consume more than half the rest of the record -- 1970s "Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha," famously celebrated at the time as the artist's 50th single, doesn't arrive until the 33rd track, while the five years which divided that from his "Devil Woman"-led rebirth are summed up in just three songs. And that is precisely how it should have been. 40 Golden Greats
slammed to the top of the U.K. chart in November 1977, his first number one since 1963's Summer Holiday
, and was it mere chance -- or wry fate -- which decreed that when it was dislodged from that lofty peak, it was the Sex Pistols who did it. Twenty years earlier, after all, Richard himself had been Public Enemy #1, with "Move It," a blast of brutal punk rock as potently shocking to listeners of the time as all of Johnny Rotten
's patent outrage. The difference is, in 1977, "Move It" still bristled with all its original passion. One could not help but wonder whether the Pistols would prove so enduring.