I’d first heard Pet Clark records when I was in high school, but didn’t really get into those songs until about 1989, when I bought a double LP of her hits. At the time, I’d read an Option magazine interview with Tom Verlaine who had read Glenn Gould’s book. Paraphrasing, Gould claimed that while it was fashionable for classical scholars to give The Beatles a thumbs-up, he felt that George Martin wasn’t reaching that heights that Tony Hatch (Petula Clark’s writer and producer) was with her music. Better than Beatles? I must hear this! So began my studies of her music.
"Downtown", "I Know a Place", "My Love", "Colour My World", "A Sign of the Times", "Don't Sleep in the Subway"...on it goes, in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian language versions as well. I didn’t sell off my Beatles records (not yet) in response, but I could hear the sophisticated arrangements and writing. I could barely figure out the songs on guitar.
Fast forward to 2001, I was cranking away in my private Hyde Street studio E1 most days and nights. Derek Ritchie had his drums permanently mic’d up in the corner so we could track anything any time. “Downtown” was comparatively simple to play, and I kept it in the original key of E-flat, which is almost too high for me to sing. Pete Straus pedalled his bass line properly, Marc Capelle came in for a squawk on the trumpet toward the end. The most fun was getting Neko Case and Kelly Hogan in for some backing vocals. As much as we see them together these days, they were on separate visits to San Francisco, and I overdubbed them weeks apart.
The album came out in Spain, then Japan, and finally in the US. The song kept being pushed farther down the running order because it was a cover song, but in the first release, it was right up there as song #3, the hit slot.