Cliff Richard confession: Star nicknamed ‘Bionic Christian’ by Elton John

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Sir Cliff was due to celebrate his 80th birthday with a tour last month but was forced to delay it due to coronavirus. Instead, fans have been able to read the Summer Holiday singer’s autobiography The Dreamer, which detailed more than six decades in the music industry. In one extract, Sir Cliff revealed that Sir Elton was “a laugh to deal with” but had given him a couple of cheeky nicknames.

Sir Cliff claimed that he “didn’t particularly mind” being called ‘Sylvia’ by the Rocket Man singer but was curious as to “why he had chosen that” name.  

Sir Elton told him: “It’s because [EMI music manager] John Reid says you’re always phoning our office, asking if your record has gone silver yet.

“So I call you ‘Sylvia Disc’. But I don’t always call you that. Sometimes, you’re just ‘Bionic Christian.’”

The singer didn’t elaborate further on that latter nickname but Sir Cliff seemed unoffended.

He wrote: “I got used to being ‘Sylvia Disc’ and I grew to like it.” 

Sir Cliff explained that the US singer Neil Sedaka, who collaborated with Sir Elton on the 1975 song Bad Blood, had a similar nickname.

Because the star “was always ringing” to find out whether “his album had gone gold” he was called ‘Golda Disca’ by Sir Elton.

Sir Cliff thought it was likely that Neil never knew about his nickname. 

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Sir Elton is also known to call his friend and music rival Sir Rod Stewart by the name ‘Phyllis’ – and in return he gets called ‘Sharon’. 

In Rod: The Autobiography, which was released in 2012, he revealed that their “mutual friend Long John Baldry had christened [them]” with those nicknames.

He wrote: “That’s what we were to each other – ‘Phyllis’ and ‘Sharon’. Or just ‘dear.’”

In another extract, Sir Cliff recalled being quizzed by Sir Elton and Eric Clapton about why he “never made it” in the US. 

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Sir Elton said: “Yeah, you were there way before us. What’s the story? You should have been big there!”

Sir Cliff sighed and said: “Tell me about it! I just don’t know.”

Despite his frustration that he “never did break America” in his younger years, he claimed to have found relief in it during his later life because it’s “the one place” he can be anonymous. 

He said: “I’m still able to go and have something approaching a normal life.”

While Sir Cliff said he loved meeting fans, he admitted that he found it hard to walk around without being stopped in the UK and Europe. 

He continued: “In the US, I never get a second glance – and if a British expat happens to clock me, we take a selfie and I walk on. 

“Today, on the whole, I’m grateful for this anonymity.”

Cliff Richard: The Dreamer was published by Ebury Press last month and is available here. 

Rod: The Autobiography was published by Arrow in 2012 and is available here.

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