Friday, January 29, 2010

Petula Clark

(Restoration project 2: Torn out of this blog for TOS violations during my hiatus so I "don't dare" upload the related music files. Sorry about that.)

006 Petula Clark w/ "Downtown" annex
Most people now associate Petula Clark solely with her hit "Downtown," and perhaps for the soundalike follow-up "I Know a Place." A one-hit wonder, in short. But between 1965 and 1968 her releases landed in the top 40 no less than 15 times, in the top 10 six times, and went all the way to #1 (for two weeks) twice. Petula Clark articulated the various private fantasies of workaday Londoners, putting the material over with a tone-varnished voice of gleaming clarity and a small, odd note of weary knowingness. She was Julie Andrews yearning to become Dusty Springfield. Somehow she became my favorite female pop vocalist of the decade, which I treated as guilty pleasure for a long time. But now, hearing this all again, I think it's plain that her catalog is actually filled with no small number of pleasures.

Petula Clark, "A Sign of the Times" (1966, #11) (2:55)
Petula Clark, "Colour My World" (1966, #16) (2:50)
Petula Clark, "Cry Like a Baby" (c. 1969) (2:51)
Petula Clark, "Don't Sleep in the Subway" (1967, #5) (2:56)
Petula Clark, "Downtown" (1965, #1[2 wks.]) The classic, now as well-worn (and perhaps useful) as a bald tire. But it has nonetheless left behind an indelible ideal of the good life of the young and wealthy that appeals to practically anyone everywhere raised in suburbs. (See also: songs in annex.) Disregard Seinfeld on this one. (3:06)
Petula Clark, "Downtown (1999 Remix)" (1999) Not sure this really works, but included as some kind of historical context. (3:26)
Petula Clark, "I Know a Place" (1965, #3) That place, of course, is "Downtown." (2:43)
Petula Clark, "My Love" (1966, #1[2]) (2:44)
Petula Clark, "Round Every Corner" (1965, #21) (2:36)
Petula Clark, "The Life and Soul of the Party" (c. 1966) I love the "yeah" after she gets the dig in. (3:01)
Petula Clark, "The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener" (1967, #31) This really gets splendid, breaking on to open seas at the bridge, and not even the tedium of the verse following can erase the brilliant momentum. (2:55)
Petula Clark, "Thirty First of June" (c. 1967) (2:52)
Petula Clark, "This Is My Song" (1967, #3) From my Billboard book: "Written by Charlie Chaplin; from the movie A Countess from Hong Kong, starring Marlon Brando." (3:18)
Petula Clark, "Where Did We Go Wrong" (c. 1966) Evidence she could put a song over with her voice alone. I guess the arrangement has its points, as when the Tijuana-tinged horns swell into something like dignity. (3:06)
Petula Clark, "Who Am I?" (1966, #21) (2:21)
Petula Clark, "You're the One" (c. 1965) Very nice cover of the Vogues hit. (2:25)

"Downtown" annex
David Bowie, "Kooks" (1971) For the giddy daddy-to-baby promise of the future: "And if the homework brings you down then we'll throw it on the fire and take the car downtown." (2:53)
Hamell on Trial, "Choochtown" (2000) Listen for it. (3:47)
Johnny Temple, "I Believe I'll Go Downtown Again" (1946) Psychic vibration nearly 20 years before the fact. (2:53)
Mudhoney, "Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown" (1994) (2:50)
Neil Young, "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown" (1975) From Tonight's the Night. (3:36)
(Note: B-52's "Downtown" cover omitted for reason of being truly wretched. I say that as an ardent fan of the B-52's all the way through Whammy!, well past their use-by date.)

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