It makes a whole lot of sonic sense that the 3-part ITV docudrama about legendary British chanteuse, Cilla – premiering Wednesdays, June 17, 24 and July 1 at 9pm ET – would be jam packed with great music. Set in Liverpool in 1960, the first episode of the series opens on a time when the club scene was exploding with talented musicians including a little known band called The Beatles.
All of the bands who perform in the series are based on real bands from the era. All of the songs performed are actual songs those bands would have played. While watching, if you hear something that you enjoyed and want to hear it again, our Cilla Music Playlist has you covered. Take a walk down Mersey memory lane with us and this comprehensive catch up of the music performed in the first episode of Cilla.
WHAT’D I SAY
The episode opens with The Big Three covering What’d I Say. Originally written by Ray Charles and released in 1959, it was the hit that broke Charles into mainstream pop music stardom. “What’d I Say” was also one of the most popular covers played by Liverpool bands in the early ’60s, including The Beatles, who rocked it out at almost every gig while they were developing their sound in Hamburg.
Ray Charles’ Version
The Big Three’s Version
After tearing through “What’d I Say”, The Big Three ask their audience if any women want to sing a song. Cilla is too shy to volunteer but a woman named Susan heads to the mic and sings Fever. A classic, slow burner originally recorded by American R&B singer and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Little Willie John in 1956, it was later made famous by Peggy Lee, becoming the signature song of her lengthy career. Another interesting did-you-know about Fever is that none other than Madonna recorded it for her 1992 album, Erotica, giving it a house music-style spin.
ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN
At Liverpool’s legendary Iron Door Club, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes rock the crowd with their rendition of Roll Over Beethoven. The song is a Chuck Berry original, released in 1956 and coming in at #97 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. About this classic’s origins, Berry once told the magazine, “I wanted to play the blues, but I wasn’t blue enough. We always had food on the table.”
A SHOT OF RHYTHM AND BLUES
Later in the episode, Ringo Starr arranges for Cilla to sing with the band. She nails a version of A Shot of Rhythm and Blues, written by Terry Thompson and originally released by American soul singer Arthur Alexander in 1961 in both the U.S. and the U.K. The Beatles were greatly influenced by Alexander and recorded the song not once, but three separate times for BBC Radio.
The next time Cilla hits the stage in episode 1, she trades in The Hurricanes for The Beatles. When she asks if they know the song Boys John Lennon says ‘You hum it, luv, we’ll play it.’ This is a joke from Lennon as the song was a standard for the band with Ringo on lead vocals. The original was released by The Shirelles in 1960.
The Shirelles’ Version
The Beatles’ Version
LET IT BE ME
Although not performed live the show, Bobby’s brother Kenny’s wedding song is quite prominent in episode 1. Let It Be Me was first released and became a hit in France in 1955 as Je t’appartiens but it was internationally popularized, with new English lyrics, by The Everly Brothers in 1960.
SOMEONE’S ALWAYS TRYING
Next, Cilla joins Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. She sings Someone’s Always Trying which seems to actually belong to Kingsize Taylor. Cilla became an unofficial fifth member of the band due to her many guest appearances. She sang often enough with Kingsize that his business cards included “with Swinging Cilla” on them. It would make sense for her to know songs written by them. The song was released in 1964.
Cilla auditions for mega-manager Brian Epstein with the moody Gershwin song Summertime. Singing the atmospheric, low key number Billie Holiday made a hit in 1936 was a risky move for Cilla but, did it pay off?
LOVE OF THE LOVED
Following Cilla’s audition, Beryl Marsden is introduced as Liverpool’s ‘number one girl singer’. She launches into Love of the Loved which is a song that belongs to her backing bandmates Lennon and McCartney.
The pair used the song in their Quarrymen repertoire but in 1963 discussed the possibility of giving the song to Marsden. Brian Epstein vetoed the decision and gave it to Liverpool’s number two girl singer, Cilla Black.
The Beatles’ Version:
Watch Cilla Wednesdays, June 17, 24 & July 1 at 9pm ET/6pm PT