Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.
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Desert Island Discs (20/2/82)
Petula Clark - Worldwide Television Appearances website
Last update: 2910/16
In March 2013, Petula Clark was back in the UK album chart with “Lost in you”, a new release that capped a seven decade long career. Now in her eighties, she is blessed with a set of tonsils unaffected by the normal ravages of time.
A multi-lingual singer with approximate worldwide sales of 70m, she was a child star in films and has been a successful London West End theatre star – her appearance as Maria Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” breaking box office records in 1981.
Dismiss her as MOR at your peril, for this is the woman who was John Lennon’s favourite female vocalist. If HE thought she was cutting edge, then YOU should think again ……
[Programme for Petula’s Royal Gala Variety performance at the Palladium on March 3, 1967.]
This appreciation society was a mutual one, for Petula has covered Beatles and Lennon material for years and does so this present day. In a 2013 interview, she remembered the former Beatle with great affection.
“I was doing a series of concerts at the Place des Arts in Montreal. I’d previously gone to Montreal as a French performer. But then Downtown became a huge hit everywhere, and they asked me to go back to Montreal, so I thought I could do a bilingual show and do both French and English songs. I was wrong. I sang in French and the English-speaking audience were unhappy and quite vocal, and the French were particularly vocal when I sang in English. It was like open war. It was really very hard, and I was very hurt and I couldn’t understand it at all. I really didn’t know what to do and I needed to talk to somebody who I had no connection with, and John was in town with Yoko doing a bed-in for peace. So after the show one night I went over the hotel – no security, of course, I just walked in – and said I wanted to see John Lennon. So up I went, and there they were sitting in bed and he was adorable. He could see I had a problem and he put his arms around me. I told him what it was all about and, well, he gave me some advice that I can’t repeat.”
Lennon reportedly told her to “fuck ‘em”
“Yes, which was an interesting comment. Anyway, he said it didn’t matter, let them get over it, and he told me to go and have a glass of wine in the living room, and there were a lot of people in there. It was just chilling out, nothing weird. There was some music being piped in, a very simple little song, and we started singing along with it, and it was Give Peace a Chance. We were all being filmed and recorded, so I’m on Give Peace a Chance.”
Petula Clark has been a star all her life. She started singing at seven, made her radio debut at nine, and appeared at the Royal Albert Hall at eleven. After seven decades in the showbusiness, there are the inevitable regrets.
“I wasn’t a good mother because I was away so much. I tried hard to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife and a great performer. I thought I could do it all but it can’t be done. Sorry, but it just can’t. I had a good stab at it, but being a parent and married is a full-time job.”
“The problem emerged when her three children were young and her career was booming in not only Europe, but America as well. ‘If you’re a star in France, you’re a star in all those French-speaking countries in the Caribbean, in Morocco, Algeria, Belgium. I sang in all those countries, and it kept me very busy.”
“Then America opened up with Downtown and I had to honour contracts in Europe and the States, with endless journeys. It was OK when we could take the children with us but it wasn’t always possible. I was having to split myself between being a good mother and wife and a good performer. I thought I could do it, I thought I was Superwoman and it’s not actually possible.”