Pet Clark’s Big Sound
I was just listening to an old edition of Dick Clark’s “Rock – Roll & Remember” radio show. This one featured the most recorded musician ever – session musician Hal Blaine. Part way into the show Dick Clark spun one of my favorite Invasion-Era records “My Love” by the unlikely Petula Clark. Blaine provided the pounding back beat on the recording. Petula started off in show business in the 1940’s as a little girl, singing – then acting. She coasted along with considerable degrees of success – largely unnoticed by the Pop Culture Scene. That would all change in December of 1964, when all-things Brit were being soaked up in the U.S.A.
“Downtown”, composed by British composer Tony Hatch, launched Petula on a new international fantastic career, hitting the top of the charts, not only in the United States, but around the world. The timing was perfect. The Beatles ignited the hysteria at the beginning of 1964, and towards the end of the year the public couldn’t grab up enough of disks from across the pond from our ancestors on the Island. Made no matter that Ms. Clark was almost 30 years of age. She was British and that counted for a lot.
Tony Hatch would follow “Downtown” with “I Know a Place” (#3 March, 1965), “You’d Better Come Home” (#22 July, 1965), “Round Every Corner” (#21 October, 1965), my very favorite “My Love” (her second and final #1, December, 1965), “A Sign of The Times” (#11 March, 1966), “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love” – co-written with Brit singer and spouse Jackie Trent (#9 July, 1966), “Who Am I” – also co-written with Trent (#21, October, 1966), “Color My World” (#16, December, 1966). Hatch had much earlier scored a big hit composing “Look for a Star” by England’s Garry Mills – a song covered by Gary Miles in the U.S. – an blatant cover job by rocker/composer Buzz Cason.
The string of Hatch-compositions was finally interrupted by another of my personal favorites “This is My Song”. Such a nostalgic evocation for me. The writer was Charles Chaplin from France – Petula Clark’s country of residence. Hatch continued to compose a few more hits for Petula Clark “Don’t Sleep in the Subway”, “The Other Man’s Grass is Always Greener” and “Don’t Give Up” all three co-written with Jackie Trent. He dabbled with compositions for other British Invaders included Adam Faith, The Overlanders, Jimmy Justice, The Montanas and The Brook Brothers. He wrote a big hit for Liverpool’s Searchers “Sugar and Spice” under the pen name “Fred Nightingale”. In the U.S. Hatch wrote “Forget Him” for Bobby Rydell, and “Call Me” in 1965 performed by Chris Montez. His “To Show I Love You” was recorded by Peter and Gordon – a respectable hit in the U.S. at #24 in 1965.
Hatch would continue on with Television themes including “The Doctors”, “Love Story”, “Travels with My Aunt” to name a few. Pet Clark would level out with a string of unmemorable songs staring in late 1968 through 1972 non rising above 61. Her last charting song came nearly a decade later in February of 1982 with “Natural Love” (#66). Petula would enjoy a long and rewarding career – always popular in France. She landed many movie roles and even hosted a national television series “This Is Pet Clark” 1966 to 1968 in the U.S. She was cast in “Finian’s Rainbow” in 1968, followed by a remake of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” in 1969 with the great British actor “Peter O’Toole”.