The songwriter Tony Harsh was inspired by the New York City downtown when he composed the song and reportedly intended to offer it first to The Drifters
In 1965 with the song “Downtown”, Petula Clark becomes the second British female singer to score a No.1 hit on the U.S music charts
Originally sung and released by British singer Petula Clark and written and produced by Tony Hatch, “Downtown” became one of the 1960’s most memorable songs. The song was first released in November 1964 and as Hatch remembers it was inspired by the New York City downtown when he first visited in the fall of 1964: “I was staying at a hotel on Central Park and I wandered down to Broadway and to Times Square and, naively, I thought I was downtown. I loved the whole atmosphere there and the [music] came to me very, very quickly” Hatch wanted the song to sound as a sort of doo wop and R&B song, and reportedly offered it first to The Drifters, as he had scored his biggest success to date with The Searchers’ “Sugar and Spice” modeled on The Drifters’ hit “Sweets for My Sweet”, however this has been denied by the songwriter several times. When he returned to England, Tony Hatch played the embryonic version of the song to Petula Clark who instantly asked to record it, and stated that prior to Clark’s expressed interest in “Downtown”, “it never occurred to me that a white woman could even sing it.” He also produced the song, with it’s famous orchestration arrangement that he wanted to sound like a rock band, and curiously enough, the future Rock legend, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, played the guitar as a session musician for Petula Clark. “Downtown” peaked to No.2 in the UK in December 1964 kept out of the #1 position by the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”, but didn’t made very well upon it’s initial release in the U.S market, however, on January 26, 1965 leapt to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, being overtaken by the ascendancy of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. Petula Clark became the second British female singer to score a No.1 hit in the U.S music charts. Today the song remains as popular as back in the 1960’s, and still is the most memorable Petula Clark hit internationally.
Look back at Petula Clark performing Downtown in 1965
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