153) Petula Clark – “My Love”

Although nominally part of the British Invasion, Petula Clark’s age and pre-rock career history gave her a different perspective from the beat groups and girl singers. Unlike the heightened emotions of most youth-oriented pop, her best ’60s singles are decidedly human in scale, dealing with ordinary adult challenges like stressful jobs (“I Know a Place”) and domestic discord (“Don’t Sleep in the Subway”). Clark’s voice is gentle but robust, sympathetic but encouraging. Because she frankly acknowledges the difficulty of these problems, her entreaties to keep your chin up and make your own happiness carry real weight. The choruses of these songs brim with a sense of relief that feels earned, rather than forced: a victory all the more significant because of its impermanence.

“My Love,” on the other hand, skips past the uncomfortable stuff straight to the glib, horn-laden chorus, barreling ahead without pausing to reflect. Whereas “Downtown” took an unconventional approach to a standard pop trope, emphasizing the melancholy that drives the need for escape, “My Love” is essentially a string of empty clichés: her love is “deeper than the deepest ocean,” “wider than the sky” and (rather tepidly) “warmer than the warmest sunshine.” Songwriter Tony Hatch half-heartedly attempts a bit of his usual pathos in the verses, casting Clark as someone who’d given up on love, but it’s unconvincing in the face of the rest of the record’s unrelenting cheer. Equally problematic is the miscasting of the levelheaded Clark as a love-blind Pollyanna. Perhaps a younger, brassier singer might convincingly sound like she believes nothing in the world could ever change her love. The Petula we know understands that change isn’t just inevitable – sometimes it’s a good thing. 4

Hit #1 on February 5, 1966; total of 2 weeks at #1
153 of 1015 #1’s reviewed; 15.07% through the Hot 100


Filed under 04, 1966

5 responses to “153) Petula Clark – “My Love”

  1. col1234

    yeah, this is a frustrating single and it seems ill-suited for her voice: Pet, who’s top pro singer by this point, still struggles sometimes when she goes for the low notes at the end of the chorus. You also have the sense of being beaten over the head by the chorus (did Hatch really need to frontload the track w/it? It’s overkill.) by the time it’s over. & the verses, which I agree are the most interesting thing here, are used more as bridges.

  2. It was written in a hurry as Tony Hatch flew to New York to make a new single with her. He had written “Life and Soul of the Party” for her new song, but an American passenger on the plane explained that this expression, a UK one, would not be recognised in America. Hatch took himself off to a seat alone and wrote a replacement.

    Petula didn’t like it from the get go. She thought it was empty and twee and asked them not to release it. They disobeyed her and a few days later had a number one hit in America. Petula recorded it in German, French and Italian. It was a worldwide hit. UK 4; Australia 4; New Zealand 6; Canada 1; Quebec 19; Ireland 6; Belgium 13; Germany 13 (English version) 21 (German version); Holland 13; France 12. [Ref: petulaclark.net: Career: Charts]

    She feels obliged to sing it today because of its world wide success, although she either makes it into a C&W song and plays around with it or sings only a part of it.

    Personally I think it’s Ok. it is a reasonable pop song, for all that it is empty and pretty meaningless. It was danceable, which is probably what the teenagers wanted. It’s interesting to note that far deeper songs had only a fraction of its success (eg: Who am I?)

  3. I don’t fault Clark/Hatch too much for “My Love,” given the circumstances and the overall quality of their collaboration. Still doesn’t make this anything better than mediocre. At least it’s not “This is My Song.”

    Strangely, we do have the expression “life (and soul) of the party” in the US, though perhaps it wasn’t as popular in the mid-’60s. I wonder if Hatch intentionally gave “My Love” a slight C&W feel to further the American appeal. Incidentally, Sonny James had a #1 country hit with a cover of the song in 1970.

  4. Stein

    I recently saw Petula sing this in her cabaret show at Feinstein’s in New York, and she sang it extremely country, with a Tammy Wynette-type twang. It was actually very funny in context, and I didn’t get the impression she didn’t care for the song, although that is believable. It’s a funny kind of dilemma for a singer when you have an assortment of 45-year old songs that everyone expects you to sing every night.

  5. GeorgeL

    This song isn’t bad. Is there really a “bad” Petula Clark song? There are definitely better songs by Miss Clark. One of favorites is “Color My World” (not the Chicago song). Also, “Cat In The Window” (her summer of love offering) is kind of cool!

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