Then & now Petula Clark, singer

IRISH RETAILERS are braced for a bad Christmas

IRISH RETAILERS are braced for a bad Christmas. It'll take something special to get consumers back on to the high street and into spending mode. Enter The Saw Doctors, with a new single that may entice fans to jump on the bus marked An Lár. The Tuam band has recorded a version of Petula Clark's 1960s classic Downtown, and they've recruited Clarke to persuade shoppers to forget all their troubles, forget all their cares.

The video for Downtown, directed by Eugene O'Connor, features Davy Carton, Leo Moran and the lads strolling around Galway's Shop Street, and cuts to the 79-year-old Clark, whose segment was filmed in Paris. The band got the British singer involved after finding out that their producer, Philip Tennant, knew Clark's manager. A few phone calls later, and the Shams found themselves in the studio with a true British pop legend. "She didn't seem fazed meeting us, as she's worked with Muppets before on The Muppet Show," Leo Moran told the Belfast Telegraph.

With 68 million record sales to date, and her career still going strong, Clark is on course to be a formidable pop diva right into her 80s. Just last month, she performed at the Casino de Paris, unveiling five new songs, including the rather enchanting Pour Etre Aimeé de Toi, which she co-wrote with Charles Aznavour.

Clark’s career began during the second World War, when she entertained British troops on BBC radio broadcasts at the tender age of nine. She initially wanted to be an actress, and starred in so many movies in the 1940s and 1950s she became known as the “British Shirley Temple”.


By the late 1950s she was looking beyond British shores and towards breaking European and US markets, recording songs in French, German, Italian and Spanish. France and Belgium were quick to fall for her English charms; Jacques Brel was so taken with her, he gave her one of his songs.

She married Frenchman Charles Wolff in 1961 and made Paris her home. The couple have three children and two grandchildren. By 1964, however, she had hit a fallow period in her career, until composer Tony Hatch offered her a little ditty he'd been working on called Downtown. The song became a massive worldwide hit, and propelled her to superstardom.

Clark has always had a knack for adapting and surviving. In the 1970s she became a huge Las Vegas star, and then moved into country music in the 1980s, at a time when it was both popular and profitable to do so. She sidestepped neatly from Nashville to London's West End, starring in The Sound of Music, then Blood Brotherson Broadway and Andrew Lloyd Weber's Sunset Boulevard, making the role of Norma Desmond her own.