229. ‘This Is My Song’, by Petula Clark

This next #1 has an intro that really sets a scene. A laundry-strung alley in old Napoli. Candles. Red-chequered tablecloth. The strings flutter. The guitar is lightly-plucked. When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza-pie…

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This Is My Song, by Petula Clark (her 2nd and final #1)

2 weeks, from 16th February – 2nd March 1967

Nope. Wrong song. This one goes: Why is my heart so light, Why are the stars so bright…? Questions, questions. I’m sure you’ve already guessed why. Why is the sky so blue, Since the hour I met you…? Petula’s in love. And so she runs through various clichés: Flowers are smiling, stars are shining… We know we’re getting a big ol’ chorus, but she builds up to it very slowly, keeping us waiting… I know why the world is smiling… It hears the same old story, Through all eternity…

Finally it comes. Love… This is my song… It’s a chorus made for movie-soundtracks. It’s outrageously cheesy, but undeniable. Don’t try to argue with it. Just let yourself get swept along by it. The world, Cannot be wrong, If in this world, There is you… It’s timeless stuff. By the solo, with its Bierfest horn section, I’m sold. I love it. Here is a song, My serenade to you…

Of the last six chart-toppers, half could be described as sentimental schmaltz. ‘Distant Drums’, ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home’, and now this. But ‘This Is My Song’ is different. I’m not sure how, but it is. Somewhere in there, buried deep in the swaying, woozy rhythm, the spirit of the sixties remains. Somehow, it manages to be quite sexy, in amongst all the cheese…

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I may be biased. Petula Clark was one of my first true loves, ever since ‘I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love’ – to which ‘This Is My Song’ was the follow-up – featured on a ‘60s Hits cassette on heavy-rotation in my parents’ car. Not that I listen to her very often now, but… This is a woman who was a child star – a ‘singing sweetheart’ and mascot to WWII troops, whose hit first records were released in the 1940s, who first charted alongside the likes of Vera Lynn and Doris Day, whose two #1s – ‘Sailor’ and this – bookend the swinging sixties, who caused scandal in the USA by (gasp!) touching Harry Belafonte on the arm, who is as comfortable singing in French, German or Italian as she is in English, and who still performs to this day, aged eighty-six! (She’s currently playing in ‘Mary Poppins’ in the West End.) She is, to apply an over-used but in this case completely appropriate term, a legend.

Meanwhile, the story of this record is almost as interesting. It is not, though it sounds it, based on an old Neapolitan folk tune. It had been written just the year before, for the soundtrack of the film ‘A Countess From Hong Kong’, by one Charlie Chaplin. Yep, that Charlie Chaplin. The film was set in the thirties, and so Chaplin wanted a song that would invoke the sound of that time. I’d say he managed it. To give it that period finish, he also wanted Al Jolson to record it. Except – small problem – Jolson had died in1950. So, he asked Petula Clark to record it instead. Clark, apparently, hated the lyrics…

Anyway, I enjoyed that. And if you didn’t enjoy this one, if you thought it was just a bit too much, too overblown and old-fashioned, just you wait till you hear what’s up next…