A star attraction

CONGRATULATIONS! Cliff Richard, known as the ‘Peter Pan of Pop’, celebrated his 71st birthday on Friday.

His UK tour started the following day and Sir Cliff’s army of fans can also enjoy his new album, Soulicious, featuring duets with artists like Freda Payne and Percy Sledge.

Cliff’s singing career started 53 years ago, so let’s take a trip back to April 1964 when he appeared at the Ritz in Luton with the Shadows (inset top left).

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A Luton News photographer captured the scene, left, as a large crowd queued outside the Gordon Street venue for the show. The cameraman was also allowed backstage for pictures of the star relaxing before the performance.

Is a smiling Cliff, far left, signing autographs or doing a crossword in his dressing room?

And can readers identify the young blonde, left, holding the singer’s hand and staring adoringly into his eyes?

As Luton didn’t have a civic hall – and still doesn’t for that matter – the huge Ritz and Odeon cinemas brought major rock and pop stars to the town in the 1960s.

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The Odeon in Dunstable Road presented The Beatles Show in September 1963, followed by Freddie and the Dreamers, Billy J. Kramer and Duane Eddy.

Not to be outdone, the Ritz put on live performances by Billy Fury, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Bachelors and Helen Shapiro, while Cliff Richard and The Rolling Stones made repeat visits.

The Beatles also returned to Luton in 1964, this time at the Ritz.

Originally named the Union cinema, it changed to the Ritz in 1949, but closed in 1971 and was converted into a nightclub.

Since then the venue has operated under several names – Sands, Tropicana Beach, Colisseum, The Zone, Chicago Rock Cafe and Liquid.