Petula Clark - Downtown and some more

I'm on a bit of a Petula Clark buzz at the moment - it happens regularly. She came on to my radar properly some years back when I picked up a 60's compilation in a garage for a few quid (mainly because it had Happy together by The Turtles on it) and found Downtown. I'm sure I'd heard the song before but listening to it in detail was a revelation. In my mind, it tied into that nexus of classic pop music located somewhere between Burt Bacharach and The Carpenters. And just like those, beneath the bright veneer, there's a distinct heart of darkness. Despite the gloriously uplifting backing vocals, brass drones, singing strings and irresistible key change, the song is essentially about loneliness no matter how you cut it.

I remember reading somewhere that Petula had a hand in giving The Carpenters a start. Apparently, she was at an A&M reception at which Richard and Karen were providing background music (I'm thinking this must have been around 1968-69 in Los Angeles and  I imagine that Karen was not playing drums that night). Petula was with Herb Alpert and suggested to him that he sign up the brother-sister duo. He took her advice and the rest is million-selling history. So without Petula, we'd have had no Close to you/Rainy days and Mondays/We've only just begun etc., no Superstar by Sonic Youth, leading to a scene of tender bonding in Juno, among many other highpoints of pop culture (I'll get to The Carpenters in more detail some other day). Thank you, Petula.

So let's have some 60's gems, starting with the classic Tony Hatch (written and produced) song, which was number one in 1965 - a song crying out for an indie-rock make-over, incidentally, if only to bring out that dark heart behind the smile.*

*Edit - I should mention here that there has been one outstanding cover version of Downtown that I'm aware of. (It's not quite indie-rock but never mind.) It's by Fredo Viola and you should watch and listen below. (By the way, Fredo's own website is well worth a look too - apart from making music, he also provides his own brilliant .)

**And finally, if you're on here looking for any mention of The Sawdoctors, forget it.

Fredo Viola : Downtown / Church Session by LEXPRESS


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