Sir Cliff begs for chance to sing in the Dome

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The Independent Online
HE MAY BE pop music's last word in longevity, with a new album about to be released and a European tour lined up, but Sir Cliff Richard has been spurned by Peter Mandelson and the organisers of the Millennium Dome celebrations.

In an interview with The Independent yesterday, Sir Cliff expressed astonishment that there were no arrangements for inviting Britain's rock and pop stars to perform at the dome. And he warned it was fast becoming too late for them to find space in their diaries.

"I sit here before you a totally stunned man," he said. "I think, `They have got to ask me'. I've been around during five decades. I've kept New Year's Eve 1999 free, but I gather no rock stars have been asked.

"There doesn't seem to be anyone planning ahead. They should be getting any star who will be passing through London to commit to a date, with the proceeds going to charity. It wouldn't even have to be New Year's Eve (1999). Surely there should be an entertainment zone in the dome, be it Pavarotti or Cliff Richard. If I wasn't asked, I would be really disappointed. I've had a number one record in each of five decades."

Sir Cliff said he would be taking part early in the year 2000 in a Christian event in the Dome's Spiritual Zone. "But that was organised by the churches a year and a half ago," he added.

Events at the Dome are being organised by the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), with Peter Mandelson answerable to Parliament for arrangements. A NMEC spokesman said: "We haven't decided in the organisation yet what the programme will be for the opening night, but we are thinking of having rock and other performances in the 5,000-seat Baby Dome Theatre during the year."

In a wide ranging interview Sir Cliff, 57, went on to tell me about the resentment he felt in not being played on "rock and roll radio stations", and revealed a rarely seen, frustrated side to his normally ultra-equable character. "It's unfair," he said. "Steffi Graf is near the end of her career, yet she is allowed to compete with 18-year-olds. Why can't I? I would just like to be allowed to compete. But you won't hear anything from me played between Blur and Oasis. It's very unfair.

"Why should I be satisfied with 150,000 sales for my new album, Real As I Wanna Be when it deserves one and a half million. I'm not very different from the Spice Girls. I mean, of course I'm different, they wear tarty skirts and I don't, but they record nice songs and put them together well in a pop-rock style. And so do I. Yet we have to spend thousands of pounds marketing my new album because it won't be played on rock and roll radio stations."

Anger, he said, was something he felt, but it was a feeling he tried to subjugate, as "it saps emotion and energy".

Sir Cliff said record companies were no longer investing money in young talent that would last. "People like myself, Elton, Clapton and Tina Turner, we are the bread and butter for the record companies. What will they do when we pop off? You will have to wait ten years to see if Oasis will still be here. Personally, I'm not a fan. Their music isn't very innovative."

Sir Cliff revealed that, in spite of his 40 years in the pop world, he did not have one close friend in it. "My friends are the people I play tennis with, a professor, teachers, accountants."

And he spoke of how he and his sisters were being affected by the illness of his 78-year-old mother who is suffering from dementia. "My mother doesn't actually suffer, she is in her own little world. We are the ones who suffer, but as a family we have to deal with it," he said.