Petula Clark was part of a sound that helped define the 1960s UK music scene. The fact that her hit song Downtown can still pack a dance floor almost 40 years after she first recorded it is just one testament to the legacy of the sound of the times.
      Petula (bottom, right) is now 68, but shows no signs of slowing down or retiring from showbusiness, where she has made her career since starting as a child star of UK movies during World War II. She's still busy with touring schedules, concert dates and even rehearsals for a new Broadway musical.
     The Grammy-winning singer arrives in Australia this week to kick off a series of nationwide concerts, starting in Perth on Saturday, February 17.
     "This one is a flying visit and really far too short for a place as wonderful as Australia," Petula tells TV WEEK.
     Petula, who starred in movies such as Finian's Rainbow and Goodbye Mr Chips and in recent years has appeared on stage in Sunset Boulevard, has been in New York, negotiating to star in a new stage musical.
     "Maybe if this new show is a success, I'll have to insist we do a season in Australia," she says. "That way I can spend a couple of months there rather than doing just a few concerts."
     While Petula enjoyed a string of worldwide number one hits in the 1960s including Don't Sleep In The Subway, I Know a Place and Colour My World, it's still Downtown that's by far her most famous song.
     "This song has been remixed, sampled and fiddled with so many times and it just keeps on working," she says. "The fact that new generations keep discovering it is wonderful. It seems to have a life of its own now."
     When speaking with Petula, it becomes clear that she's more interested in her years ahead than celebrating her old career achievements.
      "I'm not interested at all in doing a book," she says. "The idea of sitting around for a couple of years and going back over my life - well, I can't think of anything I'd want to do less than that.
     "As for a movie, I don't think so. There has been so much that's happened in my life - to get through it all it would have to be a very, very long movie. I lived it all once ... I don't know if we could make someone else go through it."
     As for the announcement that the life of Dusty Springfield, a contemporary of Petula's from the 1960s who died in March, 1999 of breast cancer, is about to be turned into a movie produced by Madonna and Guy Ritchie, with Madonna speculated to play the lead, Petula
seems less than impressed.
     "Who could play Dusty? I mean, really - who on earth could play Dusty?" she asks, incredulously. "I was such a great fan of hers and we only worked together once at the San Remo festival in Italy, but it was so memorable.
      "We were sharing a portable dressing- room in which the walls did not reach up to the ceiling, and the paparazzi were photographing us from over the top of the walls while we were getting ready for the show. Very bizarre!
     "I knew for a long time that Dusty was very ill and I did try to contact her, but she wasn't seeing anyone." Petula adds. "It's still one of the great regrets in my life that I never sang with her."

TV Week - February 17-23, 2001