Downtown and all around New York with Petula Clark

Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:55pm EST
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By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Petula Clark likes to think of herself as the Beatles' big sister.

After all, the singer's biggest hit "Downtown" personified the 1960's "British Invasion" of America just as much as John, Paul, George and Ringo, or the more grungy Rolling Stones.

"The Beatles were fairly reassuring, apart from their funny haircuts, but the Stones and everything else was pretty aggressive," she said of the '60's sea-change in pop music.

"I was reassuring to parents," she told Reuters. "I was little bit older and I wasn't singing protest songs!

"I was sort of like the big sister. I think that was what my image was."

Indeed, her image was the very model of '60's Swinging London -- with a short bob of blonde hair and psychedelic mini skirts.

When "Downtown" hit No 1 in 1964, Clark, already 32 years-old, a mother of two, and a successful singer in France, was thrust into a career-changing maelstrom by a call from the Ed Sullivan show -- then the top variety show on U.S. television.

"I did a show in Paris on Saturday night, then got on a flight to New York," she said. "I arrived in time for dress rehearsals on Sunday. I hadn't rehearsed with the band and I came out in a little black dress, no makeup and the dress rehearsal was in front of an audience and the band was playing 'Downtown' too fast!   Continued...

<p>Singer Petula Clark poses in New York, January 19, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid</p>