Despite the unfortunate fact that Englebert’s Release Me kept The Beatles’ Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever off the top of the British charts, the more adult orientated acts of the era released some memorable singles. Perhaps Pet Clark walked into a room where a joint was being smoked or maybe Nancy Sinatra had her drink spiked but whatever it was the middle of the road acts seemed to be connected somehow to the mind revolution.
In 1967 Pet Clark was 35, that’s the equivalent these days of being 65 – she was really really old – but still there she was with The Beatles and The Small Faces and The Kinks and all the other youngsters competing for positions in the chart. In those days it was a good song that got you into the charts along with your mini skirt and flowers in your beard, not just your youthfulness.
The song was written by songwriting couple Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch (Clark also wrote). Jackie Trent was a singer in her own right and Tony Hatch a producer but they both wrote songs and this is one of their most succesful collaborations. They wrote songs for many of the ‘adult’ artists of the day – Frank Sinatra, Jack Jones, Dean Martin, Vicki Carr, Shirley Bassey and many more. Jackie Trent was a pseudonym, her real name – Yvonne Burgess (love it!). Tony Hatch is his real name but he used pseudonyms early in his career, Mark Anthony and Fred Nightingale – why would he do that?
Hatch Produced countless artists including early Bowie (see the links) – the list is endless as is his production list. He also wrote TV theme tunes, the most famous being – Crossroads, Emmerdale and Neighbours, but also The Champions, Sportsnight and many more.
Trent and Hatch were professional songwriters, like Goffin and King and this song is a grand example of their expertise. The lyric is evocative and comfortingly adult, the arrangement is engaging, the melody is memorable, but best of all, the chorus is irresistible – moody and magnificent. The song is apparently three song ideas put together as one – that might explain, the interesting key change into the chorus. The instrumentation from the guitars to the organ to the massive orchestral entrance is dynamic. Then there’s Pet Clark’s interpretation – her dramatic cabaret bridge into the stabbing soft organ in the chorus with those wonderful words are simple poetry.
Pet Clark’s singing career began in the forties and she has had countless hits. In France she has also been popular, singing in French. Her most famous song is probably Downtown but also had hits with This Is My Song (written by Charlie Chaplin), Call Me, I Know A Place, Colour My World (and to get back to the crossover between the new sixties Pop artists and those that appealed to an older audience) – The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener (see!)
Downtown went to No.1 in Australia, No.5 in Canada, No.12 in the UK, No.6 in The US and No.5 in Italy and was No.1 on the US easy listening chart – it’s so comforting.
Pet Clark’s filmography also was quite substantial till the end of the sixties – my favourite, Goodbye Mr Chips with Peter O’Toole.
I went to see her in recent years with her old school band lifted from the sixties and aged. She was so warm it made you love her and to think she was in her eighties! She told a fascinating story about her and Karen Carpenter going to see Elvis together in Vegas and Elvis inviting them backstage, when they got there he invited them both to his hotel room! It was a different time and for all the talk of the permissive society, Pet and Karen politely declined Elvis’ offer.