January 29, 2012

Petula Clark - believe it or not, one of the backbones of 60's AM-Radio.

Those of you of a certain age no doubt will look at the headline and think I have lost my mind. Petula Clark? Are you joking? Middle-Of-The-Road tapioca Pop music?

Well . . . .there's method to my madness. First off, Petula Clark (who really was around since the early 1950's) had a sizable number of hits over almost the entire decade of the 60's and, say what you want, was somebody you probably found yourself listening to more often than not during the course of the average day. Secondly, Petula Clark (and her music Director Tony Hatch), had that uncanny knack of borrowing other people's musical phrases and weaving them into their own. Tonight's track Don't Sleep In The Subway has an eerie similarity to The Beach Boys' God Only Knows in the chorus. Subtle, but catchy. Thirdly, she and many others like her served as the backbone for top-40 radio in the 60's. Radio wasn't as narrow in its vision as it is now. You could, and often did, hear a set that included The Beatles, Supremes, The Leaves, Lee Dorsey and Petula Clark all in one dose. So what you got was a very broad, all-inclusive sampling of popular culture at any given hour, and because of that you cultivated a wider musical taste than you could at any other time whether you knew it or not.

And finally there's that thing about Production. Every one of her many hits had something in common; excellent production, impeccable arrangements and well-polished execution. It's no exaggeration to point out that most of the best studio musicians (i.e. Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck et al.) working in and around London at the time were enlisted for Petula Clark sessions. They provided that "hip-edge" that gave all her hits the added dimension and authority. It wasn't elevator music. It was sincere Pop Music with a purpose.

So with all that in mind, here is my nod to Pop Music tonight by way of Petula Clark. And maybe more next week.

You never know.

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