Remembering back to about late 1963, early 1964, on a Friday evening I was watching The Jack Parr Show, "I kid you not" (MSM's father will probably get that one) when Parr showed a news clip from someplace in either Germany or the UK where four long-haired guys in some kind of rock and roll band were stirring up a commotion of screaming teenaged girls. I told my older, more sophisticated sibling about it, and she told me I either made it up or didn't know what I was talking about. That sort of thing just didn't happen. A few months later, my sister was a Beatlemaniac just like the ones I saw on Jack Parr. Girls would start talking about the mopheads, and I would ask what was so special about them. One of them sighed and informed me she thought they were cute with all that hair.
Actually, I was ahead of the whole Anglophile thing in 1962, two years before everything British became popular, because I liked Julie Andrews after seeing her sing and cut-up with Carol Burnett on a CBS special, but I was informed by the Beatlemanics in 1964 that Julie Andrews didn't count. Now, some of the Beatlemaniacs among the girls liked my "British accent" impressions when I was twelve. I don't think Hugh Laurie, of House, MD, who is actually very British, would have like them, however.
Anyway, while most of the guys in 1964 didn't "get it' about the Beatles and the whole British Invasion thing that was dominating 1964 and 1965, what the girls didn't get was the Beatles were four shaggy-haired guys. Sorry, but we just didn't think they were "cute." What we thought would be cute was a British girl singing. Well, in 1964, we got one: Petula Clark. I liked her starting with Downtown, her first US hit record, which also made her an international recording star. She had a different kind of voice from a lot of the other female vocalists I liked through the years. Julie Andrews was operatic. Judy Garland was a swing singing jitterbug with a lot of power in her voice. Comparing Garland to Petula Clark is interesting, because where Garland could overpower an audience, Clark would sort of sneak up on them. Using a baseball metaphor, Judy Garland was an overpowering fastball pitcher. Her voice had obvious power even before she was ten years old. Garland blew audiences away when she was at the top of her game. Petula Clark was more a "sneaky fast", or "short armed" pitcher. With a "sneaky fast" pitcher, the hitter doesn't get a look at how fast the pitch is coming in, because the pitcher hides the ball so well before releasing it. Petula Clark would hold back a lot of the power in her voice, letting it build up to just the right moment. Her voice slipped up on you by surprise. The real difference between Judy Garland and Petula Clark, I think, was that Garland was trying to get the audience to love and approve of her, and she used her talent to accomplish that. Petula Clark seemed to like the audience first, and gave out the songs as gifts to show her affection. That might go back to the time Petula Clark entertained British troops and airmen during World War II when still a young girl living through the Blitz and the Battle of Britain.
So, Petula Clark was the popular singer I liked best during the British Invasion. I owned most of her vinyl LPs back in the day, but lost a lot of them after a flood hit my studio apartment in Greensburg, Pennsylvania ("The Hobbit Hole") in 1979. Now, I have several of her CDs, including the 2003 Ultimate CD. She has a clean, clear, bell-like voice that is perfect for the songs I remember from those days. Like Judy Garland of the 1930s and 1940s, I never tire of listening to Petula Clark.