A dream sequence starring Sir Cliff Richard & The Shadows, taken from the 1966 “Supermarionation” sci-fi film classic Thunderbirds Are Go, is being rediscovered at an opportune time for the legendary British pop star, who turns 71 on Oct. 14.
Richard’s latest album Soulicious comes out in the U.K. next week. The disc features Richard’s duets with soul music greats including Freda Payne, Brenda Holloway, Candi Staton, Roberta Flack, Deniece Williams, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., Valerie Simpson, Percy Sledge and Peabo Bryson.
Richard’s Thunderbirds Are Go sequence, meanwhile, is getting new views via YouTube and Facebook.
It began when Elvis Costello & The Imposters snuck in a snippet from the opening theme to Sting Ray during his Oct. 1 show in New York.
Sting Ray was the Supermarionation TV series that ran from 1964-65 and directly preceded the TV version of Thunderbirds. It was an underwater sci-fi adventure series that was also the first British TV series to be filmed entirely in color.
Conceived by the prolific producer Gerry Anderson, Supermarionation involved super-sophisticated marionettes that were filmed in futuristic sets in a succession of mostly action/sci-fi children’s TV series created by Anderson starting in 1959 with the fantasy/adventure western Four Feather Falls. It reached its height with Thunderbirds, which ran from 1964-66 and concerned a secret family organization (International Rescue) operating out of a remote island headquarters and employing state-of-the-art aerospace vehicles in saving the world from various catastrophes.
The success of Thunderbirds in the U.K. spawned two full-length feature films–neither of which were very successful at the time. The first, Thunderbirds Are Go, was about the evil sabotage of the first manned space expedition to Mars, followed by International Rescue’s security arrangements during the second attempt on the spacecraft Zero X.
According to the The Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society’s Fanderson Web site, Anderson and then-wife Sylvia Anderson (the sultry voice of Thunderbirds‘ undercover agent Lady Penelope) had a vacation home in Portugal near Richard’s. They asked him one day if he’d be interested in making an “appearance” in Thunderbirds Are Go.
Sure enough, Richard, along with Shadows Hank Marvin, Brian Bennett, Bruce Welch and John Rostill, were given Supermarionette facsimiles, which performed a new song, “Shooting Star,” for the film. As it takes place in the future, the singer is identified as Cliff Richard, Jr. at the band’s dream sequence gig at an outer space nightclub.
The group also performed an instrumental, “Lady Penelope.”
Following the Costello performance, Tennessee Thomas, daughter of Imposters drummer Pete Thomas (and herself former drummer of acclaimed girl rock group The Like and now a popular club D.J. in New York), learned of Richard’s segment in Thunderbirds Are Go and embedded a YouTube clip of it on her Facebook page.
Pete Thomas, incidentally, represents himself on Facebook via a profile picture of lookalike Mike Mercury, Supermarionette star of Supercar, the Anderson series that ran from 1961-62 and centered around a flying car.
Anderson later gave Dire Straits the Richard/Shadows Supermarionation treatment with that band’s “Calling Elvis” video, in which the band likewise became part of a Thunderbirds intrigue.
By the way, Richard’s Soulicious album, in addition to the duet with Valerie Simpson, has two new Ashford & Simpson songs: “When I Was Your Baby,” co-written with Michael McDonald and performed by Richard and Roberta Flack, and “Birds of A Feather,” by Richard and Peabo Bryson. Simpson also produced the tracks with her late husband and legendary songwriting/performing partner Nick Ashford.
Subscribe to my knotmove.com pages and follow me on Twitter!