Today’s song is the 1965 hit Downtown by Petula Clark.
In 1965, “Downtown” made Petula Clark the first British female singer to score a US No.1 hit since Vera Lynn in 1952. The irresistible tune, which peaked at No.2 in the UK, featured instrumentation from future Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, who was a young session musician at the time.
“Downtown” was recorded on 16 October 1964 at the Pye Studios in Marble Arch. Thirty minutes before the session was scheduled, Hatch was still touching up the song’s lyrics in the studio’s washroom. Hatch said of his arrangement: “I had to connect with young record buyers… but not alienate Pet[ula]’s older core audience… The trick was to make a giant orchestra sound like a rock band.” Hatch insisted that all session personnel on his productions be recorded performing together. The session personnel for the recording of “Downtown” were assembled in Studio One of Pye Recording Studios and included eight violinists, two viola players and two cellists, four trumpeters and four trombonists, five woodwind players with flutes and oboes, percussionists, a bass player and a pianist.
Also playing on the session were guitarists Vic Flick, Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan, as well as drummer Ronnie Verrell, while the Breakaways provided the vocal accompaniment. Bobby Graham was also credited as being the drummer on the session. Brian Brocklehurst stated in 1995 that he played upright bass at the session. Hatch’s assistant Bob Leaper conducted. According to Petula Clark, the session for “Downtown” consisted of three takes with the second take ultimately chosen as the completed track, yet elsewhere, an “extended” version, consisting of an instrumental and backing vocal track most likely from a session tape, makes this claim questionable.