'60s pop darling Petula Clark and '70s hitmaker Richard Carpenter will perform together tonight at the Carpenter Center

By Phillip Zonkel
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Friday, Jan. 11, 2002

      Petula Clark has been uptown, downtown and all around town. The most successful female recording artist from England, Clark was America's No. 1 female vocalist during the 1960s musical British invasion.
     A former British child film and singing star, Clark, who's sold more than 60 million albums worldwide, hit it big in the United States with the 1964 smash pop song 'Downtown'.
     The 69-year-old entertainer belts out that tune and other favorites such as 'I Know A Place' and 'Don't Sleep In The Subway' along with material from her latest live CD, "A Sign Of The Times", when she takes the stage Friday for a concert at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center.
     Later in the concert, Richard Carpenter joins Clark and plays piano during a couple of songs, 'I Need To Be In Love' and 'All Those Years Ago'.
     "I've always liked her voice," says Carpenter, who guest starred on her new PBS special, Petula Clark in Concert: A Sign of the Times," and recently worked with Clark for two tracks on his upcoming Christmas album. "She has a voice that sounds every bit commercial now as it did 30 or 40 years ago."
     Clark says her time in the spotlight with Carpenter has been poignant recognizable. "It's a very moving experience for me singing along with Richard at the piano," she says. "I sing in the same keys as Karen."
     But Clark's musical memories of The Carpenters predate the duo's hits. In 1969, at a party following the premiere of the musical remake of "Goodbye Mr. Chips," which starred Clark and Peter O'Toole, Clark first heard the unsigned act. "Herb Alpert (who signed The Carpenters to A & M Records later that year) was there, and I said to him, 'Have you heard these people'? "It was very difficult for me to concentrate on my dinner because I was so busy concentrating on them," Clark chuckles. "Eventually, I went over and said, 'Hello, I'm Petula Clark,' and Karen, who was singing and playing drums, said, 'Oh man'. "I was so bowled over by the music they were making and her voice in particular. She had this built in warmth to her voice. Nobody has come along to duplicate that."
     Of course, Clark's voice is nothing to sneeze at. The British native started singing professionally at 8, and by 12 made her film debut in 1944's "A Medal for the General." By the early 1950s, she was a major star in with more than 20 film credits.
     However, Clark's fans resisted her transition to adulthood. "I was like 's Shirley Temple, sort of. I was very valuable to them as a child. But as I started growing up, the audience wasn't happy about me growing up. It was like they were seeing their youth disappear before their eyes. It's the same thing that happened with Judy Garland. I'd have to wear my hair in pigtails, and I was 15 or 16. The last thing you want to do at that age is look 10, 11 or 12. It was a difficult time for me. It's a difficult age anyway, and it was even more difficult for me because I was doing all my growing up in public."
     Musically speaking, audiences also were resistant. "I'd sing a love song," Clark says, "and people would write in saying we don't want to hear a song about love. That's not our little Pet; it's not want we want to hear."
     Eventually, she won them over. In 1954, 'The Little Shoemaker' became her first hit, and in 1961, Clark garnered her first No. 1 with 'Sailor.' That same year she went to France, where she became a top seller, and also charted albums in Germany.
     She cracked the U.S. charts with the Grammy-winning track 'Downtown,' the first single by a British woman to hit No. 1 on the American pop charts. A series of top ten hits, including 'I Know a Place,' 'My Love,' 'I Couldn't live Without Your Love,' cemented her singing status here and abroad.
     Outside the recording studio, Clark has used her voice onstage. In 1994, she earned rave reviews on Broadway in the musical, "Blood Brothers." In Dec. 1998, she went on the road through April 2000 as Norma Desmond in the touring version of "Sunset Boulevard," performing the role longer than any other actress.
     But it's the voice that endures the times. "Petula has a sound that's immediately recognizable," Carpenter says. "It transcends time."