Cliff Richard – Miss You Nights

It’s not hard to understand why Cliff chose to cover this Dave Townsend song. The story goes that Townsend wrote the song for his girlfriend and recorded it on an album that was shelved by Island Records, which then recouped the cost by offering the songs to be covered. The arrangement on the original is pretty much the same as here, including the phrasing, but Richard’s soft voice and slight vocal emphases do make the song just a little bit more tender.

Cliff Richard is not only known for a long career singing love songs, but he’s also often ridiculed for being a vocal born-again Christian. This song seems to hit both spots. Even though it’s written for a partner, the arrangement makes it sound like a gospel song, a kind of hymn. And it’s not a huge stretch to imagine the “you” in the lyrics being God, something longed for, someone who knows all the secrets you have and still loves you.

It’s not an uncommon trope, but one I find quite fascinating because the writer must walk a fine line to retain the ambiguity between the sacred and the profane in such songs. It represents love as salvation and the ultimate meaning of life, a transformative experience that is our only possibility to transcend earthly worries. But it is not always described as pleasant. Some albums that come to mind are Leonard Cohen’s Various Positions and I’m Your Man, as well as Depeche Mode’s Songs of Faith and Devotion (the title itself a Cohen reference, I believe). These albums are filled with songs that are presumably addressed to a loved one, with slight hints of bitterness, while using the language of religious texts

In this song there’s no such bitterness, but some disappointment thinking about the world, the loneliness that is the human lot, and yet there’s hope that love offers salvation. Even if love is present, nights become long when you’re not connected. But what is really required for the connection to be true? I’d say that what you need is a connection to the love itself and not its object, a connection to your own feelings, being present to yourself and the surroundings.

The more sensual you are, aware of the stars, aware of the cold sheet, aware of the wind whimpering outside, the more you transcend earthly worries simply because you’re not focusing on yourself. Ecstasy, considering its Greek root words, literally means standing outside, which I gather means standing outside yourself, the concept of who you are. It doesn’t matter. And that feeling is something very close to what we can achieve with the loved one, feeling complete while forgetting ourselves, whether it is in the little unselfish acts or in the physical union, every touch, every kiss becoming a method of being more present in the world and less trapped in our thoughts.

Of course for many people such an experience is not easy to achieve because it requires surrendering. The layers of protection we place upon our being are too thick to just drop suddenly, so it may require practice. It’s as if the soul is permanently clinched around itself and needs to open up after all the insults, coercion and demands we often face when becoming adults. Protecting ourselves from unhappiness we also place barriers against happiness.

But it’s not happiness that would be waiting outside to enter. It’s happiness that is generated simply in the act of reaching out, sensing the world, smiling, seeing that smile returned, touching another beautiful person, getting to know all the similarities and differences there are.

This surrendering is essential, which is why these songs that hint at the sanctity of love are so touching. It is a shame that pop music in the recent decades has largely veered away from such expressions, preferring strength and defiance lest one is considered ridiculous, too mushy. But love cannot really flourish when there’s fear of being ridiculous. Love is the ability to be ridiculous because you are accepted, no matter how naive your actions may look to others.

And still. These miss you nights are the longest.