Sir Cliff, 80, was making his second appearance as a castaway on Desert Island Discs and said when he started out in the 1950s it was expected that stars were single. And when the hits kept rolling in, the drive and focus he inherited from his father meant he always put his career first. He told host Lauren Laverne: “People have been married and sang, and now it does not have anything near the effect it would have had when I started in the 1950s.
“It was just the way it was. People would say, all the girls are now squealing at you, so you have got to be available to them.”
He recalled after a concert in north London, his then girlfriend was sitting on his lap as he waved to fans as they drove off. But the fans responded by stamping on the programmes in the gutter.
He said of his focus: “I was not going to give up this career I had fought for. Now, it does not matter that Gary Barlow is married and has children, no one minds. That is how it should have been.”
Recalling his brief romance in the 1970s with Grease actress Olivia Newton-John, he said: “Everybody, including me, was in love with Olivia.”
He laughed: “She stayed with me for eight weeks, I could not get rid of that woman, nor would I try!”
Sir Cliff also recalled the effect of the 2014 police raid on his Berkshire home – filmed by the BBC – amid a historic sex investigation. He was never charged and the case was dropped but he told listeners the huge toll it took on him.
He said: “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to kill myself but this could kill me’.
“But I survived it all and that’s the main thing for me. I am past it all now. I don’t think I will ever get over it, it’s not something that you can wipe from your memory.”
Looking back on his life, Cliff, who chose a Gibson guitar as his luxury item, said he is extremely grateful.
“Look at how I am living, now I wake up in Barbados and open the curtains and think ‘How did I get here?’”
● Desert Island Discs, Radio 4, 11.15am today.