Petula Clark, a jewel in the crown of the British music industry but not celebrated as much as the Beatles or shall we say Oasis. Her career has been a varied and turbulent one. Starting out as a child star on the radio entertaining the troops of World War 2 and singing for those seeking shelter in the tunnels of the London Underground when the bombs fell on the capitol, she became the darling of the war. As she grew older the 60's were in full swing and she took the charts by storm with hits like Downtown, I Know A Place, Don't Sleep In The Subway and Romeo, Sailor.
She made waves on her home turf and around the globe ushering in TV specials aired by the big networks but her time on US TV wasn't without controversy and in 1968 whilst recording a Petula TV Special for NBC she sang an anti-war duet with Harry Belafonte called "On The Path to Glory", an emotional number the two stood side by side and towards the end of the song, Petula touched her male counterpart on the arm. When the recording was done a representative for Chrysler who was sponsoring the show demanded that the performance be recorded again, Interacial touching on TV was a no no in the 60's and sponsors were concerned with offending southern viewers.
Petula refused to reshoot and destroyed any other takes of the performance, delivering the completed show with the performance and touch in tact. She informed NBC and Chrysler that the show would be aired in it's entirety or not at all. The show was broadcast on April 8th 1968 and was a hit. The controversy had created such a buzz that national press had picked it up and for the first time on network TV a Caucasian person, a woman, exchanged physical contact. A moment in history made by someone who dared to challenge those in charge.
Harry Belafonte and Petula Clark - On The Path of Glory
Then as popularity dwindled and Petula became a wife and mother, she settled into the background but popped up on the West End, Broadway and LA stage in various guises. With a number of musical roles under her belt Petula took to the stage in a popular show that she co-wrote called "Someone Like You" starring opposite Dave Willets; the show split West End audiences but came to an abrupt close when a producer filed for bankruptcy. Later she portrayed Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell's Blood Brothers and her most notable role which threw her back into the lives of her British fans was that of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Blvd.
An adaptation of Billy Wilder's film of the same name. Sunset Blvd tells the story of Joe Gillis a struggling writer who finds himself in the lap of luxury as he starts work for an aging silent movie icon. Aging and forgotten, Norma Desmond believes her fans still remember her and are awaiting her return to the big screen but times have changed and the world isn't that kind...
Within the show Andrew Lloyd Webber scored a number of amazing songs including a chart hit going by the name of "The Perfect Year; but the true stars of the show were 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' and 'With One Look'.
In 1996 Petula returned to the West End as Norma Desmond and wowed audiences and critics at the Adelphi Theatre. At age 80 she returned to the West End stage for the Olivier Awards and sang "With One Look" once more. Take a seat as we take a look at a performance of the song from 1996 and the Olivier Performance, both have their strong points but nothing can hide the passion for music that this woman has... her and a number of other performers currently performing on West End and Broadway.
Sixty years in the music industry and she's still making music to this day.
With One Look is the part in Sunset Blvd where Joe realises whose home he his in and Norma is about to let him know just how big she was... is. It's a beautiful song and many stars have sung it over the years but not many have come back to it after their role as Norma has come to an end.
'With One Look' On The National Lottery, November 1996
'With One Look' At the Olivier Awards 2013
Earlier this year, Petula released a brand new album called 'Lost In You' featuring songs from her past, covers and a number of newly written pieces. The video below is a promo for the album and just goes to show how humble this old broad is even to this day and the success she has accumulated over the years.