Legendary singer and TV host Cilla Black presents a new documentary Cilla's Unswung Sixties. It will reveal how the era that was celebrated for its new fashions, music and freedoms, didn't really mean much change for the majority of people in Britain. Cilla chats to What's on TV about the decade she rose to fame as one of our country's favourite stars... This documentary looks at the Sixties from a different angle than usual, showing that, for most part, things were fairly ordinary for many people. What appealed to you about doing the show? "Well, these days I kind of cherry pick what I want to do, and when this came up I thought: 'Surely we were all part of the Swinging Sixties. What on earth is the Unswung Sixties?' Then I saw all the footage the programme was using and I thought: 'I've really got to do this.' I had great fun hosting. We even filmed at a Sixties house, which was Oxford way, not far from my house. It was amazing and fabulous, a much bigger house than I used to live in back in the Sixties. But it was a terrific Sixties style, and they'd even put in all the decor and the couches." What did the documentary teach you? "I really learned so much more about the decade than I already knew, especially how most people were actually quite staid and lived ordinary lives. Men were still going to work in ties and suits even though they didn't work in a bank. If you look at the World Cup 1966, the football crowd are all in suits. All of them! "I don't go to football much now because I seemed to have been barred by my sons from seeing Liverpool as I've only ever gone when we've lost or drawn. The last one I saw Liverpool were playing a team from Turkey and we drew. My sons think I'm bad luck when it comes to football." The show reveals a lot about the 'real' fashions of the era, doesn't it? "Well, I was going through the script and I saw this thing about girdles and I phoned my make-up artist who is roughly the same age as me and I said: 'Wendy, do you remember girdles? I remember suspender belts and stockings, but I don't remember girdles!' 'Well you didn't have to wear one, did you?' she replied! And I got the same reply came when I phoned my school friend from Liverpool. I wore suspender belts, but never a girdle." Did you wear the crimplene and nylon that became popular in the Sixties? "Well, the nearest thing to that that I got was an underskirt but that was probably very late 1950s, you put it under your skirt, like Olivia Newton-John in Grease. But I was never the nylon type. There were a few things when I saw some clips, I thought: 'I can't remember wearing that?' Dry nylon was popular but that was mainly in men's shirts - the drip-dry stuff." Do you ever YouTube yourself and look back at the early days and clips of yourself singing in the Sixties? "I don't do emails and I don't do texts because I don't give great text. And I'm not on an email. So, no, I don't YouTube myself, I wouldn't know how." The earliest one we could find of you was 1963, on the show Thank Your Lucky Stars and you were singing Love Of The Loved... "Was I wearing pink?" We don't know, it was in black and white. You were wandering around some sort of plastic tree thing... "Ah yes, I had frill on the dress, too! It was shocking pink, and it was silk. It definitely wasn't Crimplene. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that aside from nylon underwear I have never worn nylon!" The documentary is full of fascinating facts. We couldn't believe that the biggest-selling single was by Ken Dodd, because we all imagine it's artists like the Beatles and Rolling Stones... "There was room for everybody in the charts. Now they have different charts, don't they? But I believe Tears for Souvenirs by Ken was the biggest-selling single in Britain ever. Amazing! You also had Englebert Humperdinck and Tom Jones being very successful." The music scene then was so eclectic in the Sixties. It exploded into so many different things for instance the foreign influences, like The Beatles with their Indian stuff... "Well, that was later on. Pattie Boyd, who was married to George Harrison, turned George onto the Indian thing, and then they all went to India. Ringo was the first to leave because he missed beans on toast, or something stupid like that. I was never into the Indian scene. I couldn't take the time off to go to India and the Beatles didn't want to tour then, they just wanted to write and make albums, which was great. George did some lovely songs. He learnt how to play the sitar, which was magnificent. So it was a very creative period for them. But Ringo was just the drummer so he came home." The biggest TV programmes back in the Sixties were The Black and White Minstrels and Miss World... "The Black and White Minstrels was a variety show. It's quite unbelievable that it was totally accepted. I followed the Black and White Minstrels Show when I performed in Scarborough. It was a very big show. Even Lenny Henry appeared in the Black and White Minstrel Show, I mean, how naff is that? It would be totally unheard of today. Marsha Hunt was the first person I remember who came out and said: 'This is offensive, it really is offensive.' So she was the one that made everybody think about it." Performers today are far more 'out there' than they ever were in the Sixties, aren't they? "I don't like today when many girl singers do all those raunchy videos. It's not necessary. Now I think Lady Gaga is amazing, but she doesn't have to wear meat. She has talent anyway. Just come out as yourself, and do it. You don't need all those gimmicks. Maybe you needed them at the start to get noticed, but not any more. Drop the meat. It's dead meat!" What are your favourite memories of the Sixties? You've probably got so many - but what would you say stands out? "Oh God. I had such faith in everybody and, I think, innocence. I was innocence. And the powers that be, including my husband Bobby, told me what I could do and what I couldn't do. What I enjoyed most was not having to think. If people told me I could do stuff, I believed them, so I had blind faith. And it paid off. The happiest time was when I got married in 1969 - that really was the icing on the cake for me. And then Robert came along in July 1970. That was the beginning of an era for me, getting married, I guess." What about career highlights? "It's got to be my very first Royal Command performance in 1964. I can remember the whole routine, with both mine and Bobby's families coming down on the train, first class. We'd arranged for the men to all to go to Moss Brothers, to hire dickie bows and everything. It was lovely for my mum and dad to see me perform in front of the Queen, because it was not long after that my father died. I sang You're My World." The Sixties must have been a time when you travelled the world. You must have some great memories of that? "Oh yes, can you believe I saw Barbra Streisand on stage in New York? That was a great thing. I went with Brian Epstein and the Beatles. He took us to see Funny Girl, on the opening night. And Barbra wrote a marvellous thing in Time Magazine, when they asked her, of all the singers and bands that were out at that time, who would be here in 10 years' time. And she named me! Not a lorra people know that! Yeah, she named me. I'm still chuffed about that today." Cilla's Unswung Sixties is on Yesterday on Monday, March 19 at 9pm.
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.