pop & urban
Thursday, 10th March 2005
goes Downtown to The Lowry
PETULA Clark started her career singing for UK troops during the
Second World War when she was only eight years old. Now, nearly 60
years on, with sales of over 70 million records, a Grammy for
‘Downtown’ and 30 films behind her, she is preparing for a string of
live dates - including a night at The Lowry.
You got your first break when you were very young. How
did that come about?
During the Blitz in London, the
BBC had a show for children to send messages to their fathers,
uncles or brothers who were serving abroad. I went along to give my
support to my uncle. The show was at the Criterion Theatre in
Piccadilly Circus, which was an ideal venue as it was underground.
During the rehearsal, there was a huge air raid and we had to stop
the show. A lot of the kids were really nervous, and the producer
asked if somebody would like to come up and say a piece of poetry or
sing a song, just to calm things down. No one else seemed to want
to, so I stood up. I’ve actually been told that a lot of what we
were reciting was actually code!
You were known as ‘ the British Shirley Temple’ and sang
at the victory celebrations in Trafalgar Square. Did you understand
the significance of it all?
Probably not. I’ve discussed
this with Julie Andrews. During the war, she and I were travelling
around in troop trains, sleeping in luggage racks, getting off in
the dark, and for us it was like a rather exciting adventure. I
don’t think we realised how potentially dangerous it all was.
It’s quite a transformation from Force’s sweetheart to a
It was a very long journey from
that to singing ‘Downtown’. I started making records, fell in love
with a French man [PR guru, Claude Wolff], went to France and became
their favourite singer, which was an accident - I just went over
there to be with my bloke. I met Tony Hatch (‘Downtown’ writer) and
he played me the tune on his piano, and I said, “Write lyrics as
good as the tune and I’ll do it”. And he did, so I did.
You’ve recently won awards for your roles in Blood
Brothers and Sunset Boulevard and you continue to tour. What do you
think is the key to such a long and varied career?
have no idea. Really, there’s never been a master plan - there’s no
svengali behind me saying, “Now you’ve got to do this”. It’s all
been a bit higgledy-piggledy. I’m like everyone else - just
stumbling my way through life.
TO read the rest of
this interview buy this week's City Life (issue 576). Out now priced
Petula Clark plays The Lowry tonight
(March 10). £21.50. Call 0870 111 2000.