Hey, Petula!

A good few years back, when Petula Clark was starring in the musical version of Sunset Boulevard in the West End, I managed to persuade Deborah Orr, then editor of the Guardian Weekend Magazine, to commission me to write an interview-based overview of Our Pet’s career. Our Pet, that’s what she was called back in the early days when she was a child star who made movies as well as singing, and had a weekly comic strip based on a loosely fictionalised version of her character.

Why I should choose her as the subject for one of my rare forays into print journalism, might have been a surprise to many, but not at all to those who knew me well. Okay, Dusty had the greatest voice, that goes, almost, without saying, but Petula had always had something special – and, besides, hadn’t I already fallen in love with her in my early teens, myself and Alec Guiness realising, at roughly the same moment in The Card, that she was worth two of flashy old Glynis Johns? Or had that happened a year before, seeing her as a young nurse in White Corridors –  a film in which the hospital scenes were so realistic they caused my mother to faint in the cinema?

Either way, I’ve always enjoyed seeing her live and listening to her recordings – despite some of the material. I mean, how many performances of ‘Downtown’ or ‘I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love’ can you take?

Well, as I found out, skipping through my recording of Jules Holland’s New Year bonanza, at least one more. For there she was, in amongst the Emeli Sandés and Paloma Faiths, our Pet at the age of 80 – yes, that’s right, 80 – looking great and belting out ‘I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love’ in front of Holland’s big band, backing singers wailing away, and Petula, her voice a little dimmed but, by heavens, not by much, still going for the high ones and pretty much nailing them. Just fantastic, Pet, and a Happy New Year to you, too.

Happy New Year also to soul singer Bettye LaVette, recently name-checked in the new George Pelecanos novel, What It Was, and strutting her stuff on the same show in all its raw-voiced glory, a spring chicken at the age of 66.

Just don’t get me started on Bobby Womack, y’all …



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Filed under Music

3 responses to “Hey, Petula!

  1. patricia (preferably "Pat) Wright

    Not just her voice, but the beat of “Downtown” and “I Couldn’t live Without Your Love” are clear as a bell in memory. A personalityand talent to honor. By the way, I was longing for some “Resnick” so have started re-reading, fromLONELY HEARTS the series and glad to have started the New Year this way. It wouldbe difficult not to love him so thanks again for his creation.

  2. david machlowitz

    Well said–and speaking of Pelecanos, I think of him, you, Michael Connolly and Dennis Lehane as the “Fantastic Four” of gritty crime writing, as well as the proof that the best crime novelists are among the best novelists, period.


    Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2013 10:38:02 +0000 To: dsm.14@hotmail.com

  3. Pet was indeed on fine form and Holland genuinely seemed touched and proud to have her on the show.I’ve always felt that “Don’t Sleep In The Subway” is a work of pop genius – shame she didn’t do that! Lavette was absolutely stunning and is already a musical highlight of 2013.Sad to note that Womack has stated(on 6 Music)that the early signs of Alzheimers are appearing….Happy New Year

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