INTERVIEW: Petula Clark to sing in Worthing

HOW do you decide which songs to choose for a two-hour show when you have more than a thousand in your discography?

That was the puzzle Petula Clark was trying to figure out in preparation for her trip to Worthing when I spoke to her recently.

Part of the work had been done already, as her show is based around her new CD Then & Now: The Very Best of Petula Clark.

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"It's hard to choose from so many songs," she said. "There are the hits and songs from the shows and movies I've been in and I have to decide what to leave out so I can put some of my new songs in."

Downtown is in the line-up, of course, and Petula still loves it. "It's fantastic '“ a great song."

There's also This is My Song and Don't Sleep in the Subway, with a nine-piece band, Petula will be playing the piano, reading a poem, performing some of the new songs she wrote herself and recorded just a few weeks ago and getting to know the audience.

"Performing, to me, is about communication with an audience and the audience with me," she said.

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"It's a nice opportunity for an audience to get to know me a little bit better and for me to communicate with them."

Worthing area is familiar to Petula, too, for her dad lived in Chichester area and she still has family living in Felpham and Middleton.

"I'm really looking forward to it," she said. "I'm hoping my brother and a few other people will come along.

"I don't live in the UK any more and I get to see a lot of the places I haven't seen for a long time."

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Petula's career stretches back more than 60 years, starting with an impromptu radio performance for the BBC at the age of six.

"It was during the war and a show was being put together by the BBC for the forces serving overseas," she said.

"The Criterion Theatre in Picadilly was chosen as it was underground '“ like a big air-raid shelter. I went along with loads of other kids to record a message for my uncle in North Africa.

"An air raid siren sounded. A lot of the kids were up from the country and they were quite frightened, but I was a London kid and used to it.

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"They asked if somebody would like to read a poem or sing a song to bring the atmosphere up a bit. Nobody else would, so I got up and sang Mighty Lak' a Rose.

"They stood me on a box as I couldn't reach the microphone. That was the first time I was heard on the air and the beginning of my career.

"It was a different world back then and we weren't a showbiz family at all."

The BBC asked her to perform for UK radio and she performed hundreds of concerts for the troops, travelling around with another now famous child star '“ Julie Andrews.

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Film came next, the first in 1944 with Rank Organisation and she starred in the family series Here Come the Huggetts.

When TV was introduced, she hosted several of her own series.

The song With All My Heart, featured on her new CD, was important, for because of that a record company in Paris asked her to work with them for a year.

"I ended up marrying a Frenchman and had a whole new career in France, becoming their number one singer," she said.

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"I found myself living a totally different life. It was quite a surprise to me."

Petula, who has three children, has also recorded songs in German and Italian and by the mid-sixties had number one tunes sung in different languages in countries across the Continent.

1964 saw her singing Tony Hatch's Downtown and reaching number one in the USA, launching the career she still enjoys there and winning her a Grammy, among many other awards she has achieved.

Musicals have included Maria in The Sound of Music, Blood Brothers, and Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

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Petula was awarded the CBE in 1998 by the Queen for bringing so much joy over the years.

So many highlights, so what would she choose? "There have been a lot but not to do with working with stars or things like that," she said. "They often come out of the blue, little moments. Maybe the next will be in Worthing."

See Petula at Worthing Assembly Hall on June 13 at 8pm. Tickets are 22.50 or 25 from the box office on 01903 206206 or click here


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