THE BUZZ ARCHIVE :: ISSUE
BY BILL BISS, Buzz
"You can forget all
your troubles, forget all your cares, and go ... downtown"
Petula Clark is
etched in our memory with her Grammy winning song "Downtown." She is
an international superstar of music with more than 60 million sales
worldwide and 15 U.S. Top 40 hits. In 1998, she was bestowed the
Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen
Your career is
overwhelming! I know you were already hugely successful in England
and France and than you crossed over to the American pop music
scene. What did you think of all the musical styles when you first
arrived in the states? I've been singing since I was a kid. I was brought up on
jazz and swing. When rock-n-roll happened -- and this was before The
Beatles, like Presley and the rest of them -- I liked it, but I
found that is was lacking in some kind of musical depth. I had been
brought up on great harmonies and great lyrics. So, "Rock Around the
Clock" wasn't exactly satisfying to me.
When Tony Hatch
(composer of many of her songs) presented "Downtown" to me, it
really struck a note for me, if you'll excuse the pun. It was a
great tune with a great lyric. I thought, "Yes, I will record that!"
Personally, I found something very exciting about recording
"Downtown," "I Know A Place," "Don't Sleep in the Subway" and all
those great songs. It was a different avenue for me that just
presented itself to me by Tony.
The 60s in the states
was different than the 60s in Europe. Pop music is a mixture of
jazz, and folk and blues it's basically American music. All The
Beatles did, or The Rolling Stones, was take American music and give
it a different flavor.
It was really
fresh. It was
fresh. Probably because The Beatles and others -- but particularly
The Beatles -- put a new slant on to it and put music back into
rock-n-roll. Rock-n-roll before that had been more or less a rather
bland thing. It had a fast beat and that was it. Now, rock-n-roll is
part of our culture.
You danced with
Fred Astaire in Finian's Rainbow (1968). (laughter) Well, you know, it
was just a bit of a hop, skip and jump. I wasn't exactly Cyd
Charisse, let's face it.
What was working
with Mr. Astaire like? It was pure joy from beginning to end. Jack Warner of Warner
Brothers had to find someone to direct the film and he found this
young guy called Francis (Ford) Coppola. More or less, Warner kind
of shoved us on to the back lot and said, "OK, get on with it. Don't
let it cost too much." (laughter)
We were like a band of
gypsies really. Francis was pretty off the wall and Fred was very
much the old school. Francis wanted him to dance in a real field.
And Fred said, "I don't dance in a real field. You build the field
for me." With no rabbit holes and cow pats, you know? He was such
fun. He enjoyed himself immensely.
work is filled with so many wonderful moments. Is there one of those
moments that you felt the most proud of? A proud moment? I've never been
asked that one before. Most people would say the thing with Harry
Belafonte (in Petula Clark Spectacular!). I was very proud, not so
much for me but for my husband. He refused to let the sponsor who
said, "We're not going to let our star (that's me) touch a black
man's arm while she's singing." I didn't feel particularly proud
because for me the whole thing was ludicrous; making such a fuss
I didn't realize that
I was in America in the 1960s. I was a bit of an innocent really.
There were two takes of the song. My husband gave instructions to
erase the other tape. So, the only tape that they had was the one
where I touched his arm. That's the way it went out.
That mentality is
know. I think the whole thing was shameful. But I am proud that my
husband had the guts to go down and erase everything. You're not
supposed to do that.
You are honoring
the legacy of Peggy Lee's recordings in L.A. on July 14. Have you
chosen the songs to perform as of yet? Yes. I'm going to do a song
that I did at Carnegie Hall, which is called "Circle in the Sky"
that she wrote. It's one of Peggy's poetic songs. I'm also doing
"Heart" -- you know, "you gotta have heart." And I'm doing a duet
with Nancy Sinatra. We're doing "Siamese" (Lady and the
When I was speaking
to the gentlemen who set this interview up, I said that you were
doing a couple dates in July and than you got a break till
September. He said, "She never takes a break. She's working on
projects all the time." Well, that's not true. I came back from Mykonas about three
weeks ago and that was great. Oh, I'm a very good beach
I can hang out
on the beach with the best of them.
performs July 15 at Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay. For ticket
information, call 619-523-1010 or log on to