Silhouettes (The Rays song)

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Single by the Rays
B-side"Daddy Cool"
LabelXYZ; Cameo
Songwriter(s)Bob Crewe, Frank Slay
Producer(s)Bob Crewe, Frank Slay

"Silhouettes" is a song made famous by the doo-wop group the Rays in 1957, peaking at number 3 on the U.S Billboard Hot 100. A competing version by the Diamonds was also successful. In 1965 it was a number 5 hit in the US for Herman's Hermits, and in 1990 it was a number 10 hit in the UK for Cliff Richard.

Writing and Rays version[edit]

In May 1957, songwriter Bob Crewe saw a couple embracing through a windowshade as he passed on a train. He quickly set about turning the image into a song. Frank Slay, who owned the small Philadelphia record label XYZ with Crewe, added lyrics, and they soon had a complete song ready to record.[1]

The story has frequently been reported that Slay heard the Rays audition for Cameo-Parkway Records, for which he worked, and immediately decided that they were the perfect group for "Silhouettes". However, Slay and Crewe were actually already familiar with the group, as "Silhouettes" was their third single with them.[2] Neil Arena of the original Mello-Kings maintains that Slay and Crewe had first written the song for their group, but since they were away on tour and unable to record it when Crewe offered it to Herald Records boss Al Silver, the writers opted for the Rays instead.[3]

The song received a break when popular Philadelphia disc jockey Hy Lit fell asleep with a stack of newly released records on his record player. "Silhouettes" happened to be the last to play, and so it repeated until he woke up. He began to play the song on his show.[1] It became popular enough that Cameo-Parkway picked it up for national distribution, and it eventually reached number 3 on both the R&B Best Sellers chart and Billboard Top 100,[4] while also hitting the top five on both the sales and airplay charts. It was the group's only top 40 hit.

The Diamonds version[edit]

The Canadian pop group the Diamonds, who had experienced success with cover versions of other doo-wop records, quickly put out their own version of the song. They even used the same song, "Daddy Cool", on the B-side of their record as the Rays had.[5] Their version received widespread radio play in a heavily segregated radio market, also reaching the top ten of the Billboard airplay chart. However, it did not reach Billboard's sales chart, and only hit number 60 on the Top 100.[6]

Herman's Hermits version[edit]

Herman's Hermits recorded the song in 1965 after hearing it on American Armed Forces Radio.[1] It reached number 1 in Canada's RPM charts. It became their third hit in the "British Invasion" of the US, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also reached number 3 in the UK. Information from Peter Noone and others indicates that guitarist Vic Flick played on the track, and not Jimmy Page as previously thought.[7]

Cliff Richard version[edit]

Single by Cliff Richard
from the album From a Distance: The Event
B-side"The Winner"
Released13 August 1990
Recorded16–17 June 1989
Songwriter(s)Bob Crewe, Frank Slay
Producer(s)Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard singles chronology
"Stronger Than That"
"From a Distance"
Music video
"Silhouettes" on YouTube

Cliff Richard released a live version as a single in 1990, reaching number 10 on the UK Singles Chart.[8] It was the first single culled from his 1990 live album From a Distance: The Event. The single and album were live recordings of two special concerts celebrating Richard's 30th anniversary of his recording career. Titled The Event, the concerts were held at the Original Wembley Stadium with an audience of 72,000 each evening over the 16 and 17 June 1989.[9][10][11]


Chart (1990) Peak
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[12] 32
Germany (Official German Charts)[13] 51
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 13
UK Singles (OCC)[15] 10


Doo-wop group The Silhouettes (known for their hit "Get A Job") were named after the song.[16]

According to John Lennon, the Beatles' song "No Reply" (1964) was inspired by "Silhouettes".[17]

The song was featured in the 2005 jukebox musical Jersey Boys as well as in the film version.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Shannon, Bob; John Javna (1986). Behind The Hits:Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York: Warner Books. p. 17. ISBN 0-446-38171-3.
  2. ^ Warner, Jay (2006). American Singing Groups: A History From 1940 to Today. New York: Hal Leonard. pp. 283–284. ISBN 978-0-634-09978-6. silhouettes slay crewe.
  3. ^ Arena, Neil (2022). Tonite, Tonite - the story of the original Mello-Kings. London: Arena & Stephens. p. 57. ISBN 9781739083199.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 484.
  5. ^ Worth, Fred L. (1985). Rock Facts. New York: Facts On File Publications. p. 106. ISBN 0-8160-1099-4.
  6. ^ Joel Whitburn, Top Pop Singles 1955-1999 (Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, 2000), 176.
  7. ^ Kotal, Kent. "FORGOTTEN HITS INTERVIEWS PETER NOONE". Forgotten Hits.
  8. ^ "Cliff Richard UK singles chart positions". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2014-05-02.
  9. ^ "From a Distance: The Event' (album)" (Media notes). Cliff Richard. UK: EMI. 1990.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  10. ^ Harris, Jaqueline; Wright, Karen (August–September 1989). "Dynamite International Magazine". Dynamite International (125). Utrecht, Netherlands: The International Cliff Richard Movement: 1, 3.
  11. ^ "From a Distance: The Event (album)". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-05-03.
  12. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. 8 September 1990. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  13. ^ "Cliff Richard – Silhouettes" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Silhouettes". Irish Singles Chart.
  15. ^ "Cliff Richard: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  16. ^ Asanovic, Bosko. "The Silhouettes". Soulful Kinda Music. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
  17. ^ Lennon, John; David Sheff (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-312-25464-3. Retrieved 2009-08-15.