While American’s associate Petula Clark with her number one smash from 1965, Downtown, her career started much earlier. My first grasp of the length of her career came when I was browsing through CDs in Chicago in 1989 and found a two CD collection of her greatest hits that had literally dozens of songs listed that came out before Downtown.
Petula was singing on radio broadcasts at the age of nine and released her first single (Put Your Shoes On Lucy) in 1949. Her first chart record in the UK was The Little Shoemaker, which jumped into the British top ten in 1954. She began recording in French, German, and Italian in addition to English and had occasional hit records in Europe as well as the UK.
Lolita recorded the German language record that was a huge hit in Germany. A spoken word English overdub was added to the middle of the song and Sailor, Your Home Is the Sea became a top ten record in the US in late 1960. Petula recorded a fully English version of the song and Sailor became her first number one record in the UK in early 1961…but the American market continued to completely ignore her.
Downtown was released in multiple languages in 1964 and became part of the British Invasion that followed the Beatles overseas. One additional number one release (My Love) and over a dozen top forty records followed in the US. Her streak of top forty records finally ended in 1968. Her last record to reach the top twenty was the bittersweet tune Kiss Me Goodbye, which got as high as #15.
An unusual live performance that year was on Italian television; she sang most of the song in Italian, but when she got to the title of the song it came out in English.