Petula Clark was the first British female to have two number one songs in America. Petula was born Sally Olwen Clark in 1932 which means she will turn 86 this year. And, she still performs occasionally even to this day. When she was six years old, her father took to see a live production on stage. She decided right there and then that she would be an actress. Like many girls of that time period, she wanted to be just like Ingrid Bergman. However, the first performing she did was as a singer. At age seven, she sang in a local department store with an orchestra and the seed was sown. It was now in her blood.
Her father felt Sally should have a stage name, so he jokingly claimed that two of his former girlfriends had been named Pet and Ulla, so he named her Petula. In the early Fifties, she started recording for Polygon Records and had several significant hits in Britain, becoming very well know. When the British invasion hit the United States, she rode into this country on the tails of the Beatles and Herman’s Hermits, hitting number one in this country with her first try, “Downtown.”
She hit the Top 40 with three more songs (one of which was “I Know a Place” (#3)) and then returned to the top of the charts with “My Love.” This was, however, her last number one in the United States, although she continued to chart until 1968.
“My Love” was mostly written on an airplane, flying from London to Los Angeles. It was written by Tony Hatch who was collaborating with Petula. The original name of the song was “The Life and Soul of the Party,” but when Hatch showed the name to his seatmate on the plane (who happened to be American), the fellow told Hatch that the title would have no meaning to Americans. I think he was right, since it has no meaning to me. So, he changed the name to “My Love” and proceeded to Los Angeles to record it.
Petula Clark is backed on the song by a group of musicians called The Wrecking Crew. These guys became famous as the musicians who created the wall of sound for Phil Spector. While “My Love” was Petula’s last number one, she went on to record more hits and became much in demand as an actress, appearing in several movies in the Sixties and Seventies. She caused a huge controversy when, in 1968, she kissed Harry Belafonte on live television, thus televising the first interracial kiss ever seen on television. NBC threatened to pull the scene, but never did.
“My Love” entered the pop charts on January 15, 1966 and spent two weeks at number one.