Ipswich: Regent-bound Petula Clark interviewed
- Credit: Archant
A lot of songs spring to mind when thinking of Petula Clark; Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy isn’t one of them - until now.
“It’s one of my favourite tracks on the CD. Some people are surprised by it, but it’s a great song to sing. When John (Owen Williams, the producer) suggested I record it I said ‘okay, let’s see how it sounds’. I just got up, sang it and found myself enjoying it enormously once I got the hang of it. The phrasing of it is a bit unusual for me (but) I like that, I’m a singer and it’s fun for me to do something a bit different.”
Cutting her first record in 1949, Clark’s one of the best-selling British female artists in recording history, selling more than 68million records worldwide over seven decades. Not one for looking back, she’s enjoying talking about new studio album Lost in You and her first full UK tour in five years which comes to the Ipswich Regent on Friday, October 11.
“It’s nice to talk about something new, otherwise you find yourself talking about the same stuff, going back over the years and I’m not particularly nostalgic,” she laughs.
“In my show I’ll be doing a lot of the old songs of course, but I’ll be putting in new ones as well. It’s always the new ones that are exciting for me, I’ve only been singing them a short amount of time and some of them are still fresh for me so that’s fun. When I go on stage I like to enjoy myself and I like that feeling of, not danger, but ‘I haven’t tried this before’ and that’s good; keeps you on your toes.”
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The album’s contemporary sound has got a lot of people talking.
“There was no agenda behind it really. It wasn’t ‘oh let’s go in and do something contemporary’, we just went in, did it and it’s just come out that way,” she says of Lost in You, recorded in a tiny, state-of-the-art studio reminiscent of a Wendy house at the bottom of Owen Williams’ garden.
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“We did John Lennon’s Imagine,” adds Clark, whom Lennon cited as one of his favourite singers, asking her to join in his live recording of the single Give Peace A Chance. She can even be seen in the classic video-clip filmed in Montreal hotel room during the legendary event.
“The obvious thing was ‘let’s do a Beatles’ song’. I thought ‘I want to do a John Lennon song’. That will be my little homage to him because he was lovely to me.”
All of the songs on the CD are important to her for one reason or another. There’s a cover of Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley - “I met him several times and we had a few laughs together” - and He Loves And She Loves by George and Ira Gershwin, whom she’s loved since she was a child, among others.
There’s also a cover of her Grammy winning classic Downtown on the album which, she says, sounds almost like another song. Clark thinks it’s great, but that wasn’t always the case.
“John said ‘why don’t we do Downtown’. I said ‘no way’ and had to go to Paris. I came back, went into the studio and John said ‘sit down, have a listen to this’ and he played me this beautiful track. I said ‘that’s beautiful, what is it’ and he said ‘that’s Downtown’. I said ‘a-ha, really, I don’t get it’ and he said ‘well just sing it’.
“I found myself singing this beautiful, fresh, wonderful song. I’ve song it hundreds, maybe thousands, of times but the funny thing is when I sing there’s always like a film in my head,” says the sometimes actress, who has appeared in more than 30 films including Finian’s Rainbow and Goodbye Mr Chips.
“I’m not just getting the notes out, I’m imagining the song as I sing it. I’ve imagined Downtown, heard it, pronouncing it so many times... somewhere along the road I realised this isn’t a jolly little song about going out on the town, it’s a very lonely song about loneliness, there’s more to it. In this version, you can hear it. For me it’s an interesting exercise. There will be people who will say ‘why did she do that’, well now the answer will be ‘why not’,” she laughs. “(If anybody’s going to cover it) it should be me.”
Clark is looking forward to the new tour; especially as she doesn’t tour much in the UK. She promises an interesting cocktail of old and new songs.
“I have a new band and my musical director’s coming over from New York... I’ll be back in the UK, seeing places, travelling in a bus with the rest of the gang; it’s great. It really is fun on the road, I hear people saying ‘oh my God touring’ and I don’t get it, I love touring.
“I’ve never been what you call ambitious, I’ve never been ‘ooh, I want to do that’; things have just come along and I’ve done all different types of things because they were there and it seemed a good idea. Maybe it’s confused the audience sometimes... the new CD is different and I’m looking forward to singing a lot of it on stage, that’s going to be interesting. Otherwise I’m still trying to get it right.”
No retirement plans then?
“Dreaded word,” she laughs. “Frankly my voice is pretty well the same as it was back in I don’t know when - in fact better I think. I don’t know why because I certainly don’t do anything for it,” she laughs. “I’m enjoying it and people seem to enjoy listening so frankly I’m not ready to go out and grow radishes yet, not quite.”