Monday, 15 August 2011

Mono Mondays: Petula Clark

This weeks star of Mono Mondays features an artist whose musical career spanned the years from the 1940s through the 50s, 60s,70s and beyond - Petula Clark!

A star of radio, film and stage, Petula is probably best remembered for her hit records which spanned the 1950s and 60s, particularly in the latter decade when she scored hits in several countries.

Coached in her early career by accompanist  Joe "Mr Piano" Henderson (with whom shared the limelight for a while with a radio series in the 1950s), Pet became one of the most prominent female recording artists of her era. She also appeared in several films too which no doubt helped her gain wider fame in the UK and abroad.

Without a doubt, Pet recorded some memorable songs including  Romeo. Downtown and Don't Sleep In The Subway, but few would have suspected that the catchy melody of her 1966 recording of Tony Hatch's  I Couldnt Live Without Your Love would gain recognition again in 2011 by been used in an advertisement campaign for Cesar dog food!

Following her association with promotion manager Claud Wolff (whom she married in 1961) Petula's career took on greater direction as she began to make many recordings in different languages, making her one of the few British female recording artists to have a successful career outside of the UK.

She topped the British Charts twice with Sailor (1961) and This is My Song (1967) while scoring number ones in other countries: The Little Shoemaker (Australia, 1957), Romeo (France, 1961), Chariot (Italy, 1961), Monsieur (Germany, Italy, 1961), Ya Ya Twist (France, 1962), Coeur Blesse (France, 1963), Downtown (Australia, Canada, Germany Italy America, 1964), I Know A Place (Canada, 1964), My Love (Canada, America, 1965), I Couldn't Live Without Your Love (America, 1966), This is My Song (Australia, France, Italy, 1967), Don't Sleep in the Subway (Canada, America, 1967). All in all, an impressive list of chart toppers worldwide...

Nevertheless Pet always did have appeal to fans of all ages. Pet's version of Downtown re-entered the charts on several occasions, and has also been covered by Dolly Parton and Emma Bunton.

Pet was also such a recording artist of note that she was chosen to open the BBC's Colour TV service in 1969 with a special concert - now, does anyone have a recording of that?


  1. Fluent in French (married to a Frenchman helped) occasionally Radio 2 used to play Pet's French versions of her songs. How very exotic it sounded.
    I have a recording of Petula singing 10CC's I'm Not in Love over a disco beat, perhaps one best forgotten!

  2. I wish. The BBC destroyed the tapes... yes, I know...,mad. A moment of tv history and they bin it.

    Clarky actually had more number ones in places all over the world...

    Singapore: I will follow him (1963); L'enfant do (1963). South Africa 1965 Downtown and I know a Place; 1967 This is my Song. Zimbabwe: Downtown, I know a Place (65) My Love, Where Did We Go Wrong, (67) This is my Song.

    In Canada she also topped the charts with Je me sens bien (1963); Un jeune Homme bien (1965); Tout le monde veut aller au ciel (67) and Sauve moi (77).

    There were 16 number ones in Holland, Belgium, Austria, Germany and Italy.

    In france she hit number one with: Romeo, Chariot, Coeur Blesse, Ce'st ma chanson and Ya ya Twist. And went to number one in the album charts in 2003 with Kaleidoscope.

    This is my Song also went to number 1 in Ireland.

    On top of that, not catalogued, she had massive success in Japan, and in most of South America.

    Really no one, least of all Petula has much idea of how many records she sold and how many number ones that included.

  3. Tris - Thanks for the information!

    I wonder if an album has ever been put together of all her worldwide number ones? She must be edging close to The Beatles!

    That is sad if that colour broadcast has been junked - you would have thought the Beeb could have at least sold it to the States or something - especially as she was so popular abroad!

    Andy - I seem to recall Eric Morecambe once cracking a joke about a Frenchman in the audience and saying "it's Petula Clark's husband!" Petula? 10cc? Disco? Hmmmmm - I might chase you up on that!

  4. Andy: I imagine that the BBC did sell that on. As an international superstar of the time, Petula would have been a hugely saleable commodity, and although the BBC was less business savvy in these days, it seems unlikely that they wouldn't have seen the chance to make money. The hope is then that somewhere in archives, a tv company somewhere in the world has this concert, and we can get it on dvd.

    Every time anything French was mentioned, it seems that Pet's name was also mentioned. Kenneth Williams included her name in a list of French sounding things in his “Crèpe Suzette” comedy song, as did Victoria Wood and Cilla Black.

    As for the 10cc disco cover, it was in fact a single in the late 70s. I don't think it made any great impact on the record buying public anywhere in the world. It's one of these things that her fans have... but no one else.

    It is true to say, though, that in her time she has covered most styles of music. She certainly went though a short period of recording disco versions of songs, including a somewhat dodgy version of "Solitaire" called “Les Années Quarantes” (the forties).

    Among her recent recordings there have been rap songs ("I knew you'd be my lover": "La Chanson de Gainsbourg")

    She is still performing at 78; indeed when I see her in Paris in November she will be very nearly 79. She is also currently flitting between London, where she is co-writing a musical based on the life of Emile Zola, Geneva, where she lives, and Paris, where she is recording a new French album with a couple of young producers.

    This is a very scratchy copy of "I'm not in Love" from Youtube", clearly from the vinyl. It is avaiable on cd in far better quality.



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