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“Petula Clark – Downtown (HQ)”

26 Jun

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Downtown” is a pop song composed by Tony Hatch which, as recorded by Petula Clark in 1964, became an international hit, reaching No. 1 in Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 in UK Singles Chart. Hatch received the 1981 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.[1]

The song has been covered by many singers, including Dolly Parton and Emma Bunton.

As recorded by Petula Clark

Background
Tony Hatch had first worked with Petula Clark when he assisted her regular producer Alan A. Freeman on her 1961 No. 1 hit “Sailor”. In 1963 Freeman had asked Hatch to take over as Clark’s regular producer: Hatch had subsequently produced five English-language singles for Clark none of which had charted.

In the autumn of 1964 Hatch had made his first visit to New York City, the purpose being to seek material from music publishers for the artists he was producing. Hatch would recall: “I was staying at a hotel on Central Park and I wandered down to Broadway and to Times Square and, naively, I thought I was downtown. Forgetting that in New York especially, downtown is a lot further downtown getting on towards Battery Park. I loved the whole atmosphere there and the [music] came to me very, very quickly”.[2] According to Hatch he was standing on the corner of 48th St waiting for the traffic lights to change, looking towards Times Square when “the melody first came to me, just as the neon signs went on.”[3]

Hatch envisioned his embryonic composition “as a sort of doo wop R&B song” which he thought to eventually pitch to the Drifters:[4] Hatch had scored his biggest success to date with the Searchers’ “Sugar and Spice” modelled on the Drifters’ hit “Sweets for My Sweet”, and had also produced a cover of the Drifters’ “Up on the Roof” for Julie Grant. It has been alleged that Hatch gave Julie Grant the opportunity to record “Downtown” which Grant turned down[5] but this does not accord with Hatch’s statement that he played “Downtown” for Petula Clark within a few days of conceiving the melody and only completed the song’s lyrics after Clark had asked to record it: also Hatch has said that prior to Clark’s expressed interest in “Downtown” “it never occurred to me that a white woman could even sing it.”[4]

Within a few days of his New York City junket Hatch visited Paris to present Clark with three or four songs he’d acquired from New York publishers for Clark to consider recording at a London recording session scheduled for 16 October 1964 which was roughly two weeks away: Hatch – “she was not very enthusiastic about [the material] and asked me if I was working on anything new myself. Reluctantly (because the song was still so unfinished)”[6] – according to Clark besides the title lyric Hatch had only written “one or two lines”[7] – “I played her the tune of my New York inspiration and slipped in the word ‘Downtown’ in the appropriate places. ‘That’s the one I want to record,’ she said”[6] – “‘Get that finished. Get a good lyric in it. Get a great arrangement and I think we’ll at least have a song we’re proud to record even if it isn’t a hit.'” [8]

“Downtown” was recorded 16 October 1964 at the Pye Studios in Marble Arch. Thirty minutes before the session was scheduled, Hatch was still touching up the song’s lyrics in the studio’s washroom. Of his arrangement for the session Hatch would recall: “I had to connect with young record buyers…but not alienate Pet[ula]’s older core audience…The trick was to make a giant orchestra sound like a rock band.”[3] The session personnel for the recording of “Downtown” who were assembled in Studio One of Pye Recording Studios – Hatch insisted that all session personnel on his productions be recorded performing together – included eight violinists, two viola players and two cellists, four trumpeters and four trombonists, five woodwind players with flutes and oboes, percussionists, a bass player and a pianist: also playing on the session were guitarists Vic Flick, Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan and also drummer Ronnie Verrell, while the Breakaways served as vocal chorale. Hatch’s assistant Bob Leaper acted as conductor.[8] According to Petula Clark, the session for “Downtown” consisted of three takes with the second take ultimately chosen as the completed track [yet, elsewhere, an “extended” version, instrumental+backing vocal track, most likely from a session tape makes claims questionable].[9]

en.m.Wikipedia.org

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