Downtown (Petula Clark song)

Downtown (Petula Clark song)
Single by Petula Clark
from the album Downtown
B-side "You'd Better Love Me"
Released November 1964
Format Vinyl
Recorded 16 October 1964
Genre Pop
Length 3:05
Label Pye 7N 15722
(United Kingdom)
Warner Bros. 5494
(United States)
Vogue EPL.8301 (France)
Vogue DV 14297 (West Germany)
Vogue STU 42207 (Denmark)
Vogue US-105 (Japan)
Writer(s) Tony Hatch
Producer Tony Hatch
Petula Clark singles chronology
"True Love Never Runs Smooth"
(1964 UK)
"I Know a Place"
Audio sample
file info · help

"Downtown" is a pop song composed by Tony Hatch which, as recorded by Petula Clark, became an international hit – No. 1 in the US and No. 2 in the UK – at the end of 1964.


Original recording

Tony Hatch recalls: "'Downtown' was written on the occasion of my first visit to New York. 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. Forgetting that in New York especially downtown is a lot further downtown getting on towards Battery Park. I loved the whole atmosphere there and the song came to me very, very quickly."[1]

Hatch had originally intended to present "Downtown" to The Drifters, but when British singer Petula Clark heard the incomplete tune, she proposed that if he could write lyrics to match the quality of the melody, she would be interested in recording it.

"Downtown" was recorded 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 always insisted on recording all the personnel on his productions actually performing together as would be heard on the finished track: the large number of personnel contributing to the "Downtown" session necessitated that two studios be utilized for the track's recording, with a closed-circuit television connection allowing Hatch to conduct the personnel in both the studio in which he was physically present and the auxiliary studio.[2] The session personnel on "Downtown" included guitarists Vic Flick, Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan,[3] and also drummer Bobby Graham[4] and the Breakaways vocal group.[5]

"Downtown" entered the UK Top 50 dated the week 14 November 1964 ending a virtual two year UK chart absence for Clark; of the ten singles she'd had released in the UK during that period only one: "Chariot", #39 the spring of 1963, had appeared in even the lower charts. "Downtown" rose to #2 that December remaining there for three weeks, kept out of the #1 position by the Beatles' "I Feel Fine". Certified a Gold record for sales in the UK of 500,000, "Downtown" also reached #2 in Ireland and #1 in Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa, and was also a hit in Denmark (#2), India (#3) and Norway (#8).

However "Downtown" had its greatest significance in the reception it was afforded in the US. Warner Bros. A&R man Joe Smith was scouting in London for records with American hit potential, the musical British Invasion of the US then going strong. Smith wanted to release Clark's "Downtown" in the US and when a surprised Hatch asked if Smith didn't consider "Downtown" to be "a very English record" he recalls Smith's reply as: "It's perfect. It's just an observation from outside of America and it's just beautiful and just perfect."[1]

Warner Bros. released "Downtown" in the US in December 1964: the track appeared near the bottom of the national charts the week before Christmas and despite the Christmas season traditionally being the worst time to break a new hit "Downtown" shot up to the Top Ten in five weeks and the next week - 23 January 1965 - was #1. "Downtown" retained that position a further week before being overtaken by the ascendancy of the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'". Clark became the first UK female artist to have a US #1 hit during the rock and roll era and the second in the annals of US charted music, Vera Lynn having hit #1 US with "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" in 1952. "Downtown" also made Clark the first UK female artist to have a single certified as a Gold record for US sales of one million units. "Downtown" would be the first of fifteen consecutive hits Clark would place in the US Top 40 during a period when she'd have considerably less chart impact in her native UK, there reaching the Top 40 eight times.

Clark, who had been playing to her French speaking fans in small venues in Quebec when "Downtown" entered the US charts, swiftly cut non-English versions of the song for the markets in France, Italy and Germany; the absence in each region's language of a two-syllable equivalent of "downtown" necessitated a radical lyric recasting for the versions aimed at France ("Dans le temps"), Italy ("Ciao Ciao") and Spain ("Chao Chao") which respectively charted at #6, #2 and - for three weeks - #1. "Dans le temps" also reaching #18 in the Wallonia region of Belgium. The title and lyric "Downtown" was retained for an otherwise German version which was the most successful foreign language version reaching #1 in Germany and also reaching #3 in Austria and #11 on the charts for the Flemish region of Belgium.

Petula Clark has re-recorded the "Downtown" four times, in 1976 (with a disco beat), in 1984 (with a new piano and trumpet intro that leads into the song's original opening), in 1988 with Dutch producer Eddy Ouwens for the album "My Greatest" for release in the UK, Germany and Benelux only, and in 1996. In addition, the original 1964 recording was remixed and re-released in 1988, 1999, and 2003.

Following 9/11, New York City adopted Clark's version of "Downtown" as the theme song for a series of commercials encouraging tourism to Lower Manhattan. The song has been used by other metropolitan areas — including Chicago, Indianapolis, and Singapore — for promotional purposes as well.


  • Grammy Award for "Best Rock and Roll Song" 1965
  • Ivor Novello Award for "Outstanding Song of the Year" 1964
  • Silver Record (1964) Awarded for 250,000 UK sales
  • Gold Record (1965) Awarded for 400,000 UK sales
  • Gold Record (1965) Awarded for One Million US sales[6]
  • Cash Box International Gold Award (1965)
  • Radio Caroline Bell Award (UK) (1965)
  • Festivalbar 1965 winner ("Ciao ciao")
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (2003)
  • Film & TV Music Award for Best Use of a Song in a Television Program (2007)

Dolly Parton version

Single by Dolly Parton
from the album The Great Pretender
B-side "The Great Pretender"
Released April 1984
Recorded December 1983
Genre Country
Label RCA Records
Writer(s) Tony Hatch
Producer Val Garay
Dolly Parton singles chronology
"Save the Last Dance for Me"
"Tennessee Homesick Blues"

"Downtown" has been covered numerous times by other artists since Clark's original recording, notably by Dolly Parton in 1984. After she recorded the track in December 1983, "Downtown" appeared on Parton's album of covers of hits from the 1950s and 1960s, The Great Pretender. It was followed by a single release of the track on RCA Records in April 1984 and proved to be a moderate success, peaking at number eighty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart and number twenty-seven on the Hot Country Songs chart in the United States. Parton's version altered some of the lyrics: "Listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova" became "Listen to the rhythm of the music that they're playing".

Chart positions

Chart (1984) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 36
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 80
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 20
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 20

Emma Bunton version

Single by Emma Bunton
from the album Life in Mono
B-side "Something Tells Me (Something's Going to Happen)"
"Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps"
Released 13 November 2006
Format CD single, digital download
Recorded 2006
Genre Soul
Label Universal
Writer(s) Tony Hatch
Producer Simon Franglen
Emma Bunton singles chronology
"Crickets Sing for Anamaria"
"All I Need to Know"
Alternative cover
British CD 2 cover
Audio sample
file info · help

Emma Bunton's remake of "Downtown" was released in 13 November 2006. Bunton, whose admiration for Petula Clark was evident on the 2004 Free Me album, had recorded "Downtown" at AIR Studios (Lyndhurst) with Simon Franglen producing; the orchestra for the track was recorded at Angel Studios with Gavin Wright conducting. Bunton's "Downtown" was selected as the 2006 BBC Children in Need single, with all proceeds from the release going to the charity and Bunton performed "Downtown" on the 2006 Children in Need telethon which began broadcast that 17 November. The single debuted on the UK singles chart dated 25 November 2006 at #24. noted Bunton's chart debut, declaring "Downtown" "the song she was born to cover...One of the all time great pop songs, ["Downtown"] was long overdue for a revival and Emma Bunton pays it the respect it deserves."

Centralfm predicted "Downtown" would rise to the Top 3 in its second week and the single did indeed jump to #3 on the chart for 2 December 2006 having sold 30,582 units in the relevant week: the mid-week stats had ranked "Downtown" at #2 behind "Patience" by Take That but on the chart for the full week Bunton was bested not only by Take That at #1 but by the previous week's #1 "Smack That" by Akon which outsold "Downtown" by fifty-seven copies.[7] While affording Bunton her highest charting single since her #1 solo debut "What Took You So Long?" in 2001, "Downtown" would prove to have little staying power, spending only three weeks in the Top 20, performances by Bunton on a Christmas Day broadcast of Top of the Pops and New Year Live failing to significantly buoy its popularity.

Track listings and formats

These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Downtown".

  • EP Children in Need[8]
  1. "Downtown"
  2. "Something Tells Me (Something's Going to Happen)"
  3. "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps"
  • UK CD 1
  1. "Downtown"
  2. "Downtown" (Elements Club Mix)
  • UK CD 2
  1. "Downtown"
  2. "Something Tells Me (Something's Going to Happen)"
  3. "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps"
  4. "Downtown" (video)


Chart (2006) Peak
UK Singles Chart 3
Eurochart Hot 100 Singles 32
Irish Singles Chart 36
Slovakia (IFPI)[9] 13

UK Sales: 77,039

Music video

Directed by Harvey & Carolyn, (the directors who also directed her video for her single "Maybe") the sexually suggestive music video for the single is set in a hotel bedroom featuring Bunton as a maid. It includes appearances from contestants from the BBC's reality television show Strictly Come Dancing and features cameos from Matt Dawson, Louisa Lytton, Carol Smillie, Spoony, Mark Ramprakash, Claire King, Peter Schmeichel, Craig Revel Horwood, Anton du Beke, Brendan Cole, Erin Boag, Lilia Kopylova, Karen Hardy, and Darren Bennett. Though the lyrics are innocuous, in the video Bunton's body language clearly twists the song title into a euphemism for sexual activity. Bunton, however, has denied this repeatedly, for example in this interview with online music magazine Popjustice:[10]

Popjustice: "The dancers in the 'Downtown' video seem to know you very well indeed. So well that they are all pointing at your fanny. Was this your idea?"
Bunton: "I don't understand where this has come from. It is a dance routine and it is nothing to do with anything like that. It is everyone else's dirty little minds. Especially yours. It worries me because it is a classic and you can't make classics rude."


In popular culture

  • In a Season 1 episode of Will & Grace, Will (Erick McCormack) meets Val (Molly Shannon) in an elevator when she completes the song after he begins humming it.
  • In the 1999 movie Girl, Interrupted, Susanna (Winona Ryder) and Lisa (Angelina Jolie), sing the song together after their friend is confined in a room alone, the original version is played during the closing credits.
  • The song is used as the opening number to Priscilla Queen of the Desert – the Musical, a stage musical based on the 1994 movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
  • In the Season 3 premiere episode of Lost, "A Tale of Two Cities", Elizabeth Mitchell's character Juliet Burke had this song playing in her home in the opening scene. The song was heard again in a flashback sequence in the season 3 episode "One of Us".[11]
  • The song also was used in episode 272 ("Uncle Charley's Aunt") of the television series My Three Sons. Originally aired on February 17, 1968, the episode had Tina Cole as Katie singing the popular song with the rest of the Douglas family. They then decide to perform the song at Uncle Charley's local lodge when he's forced to put together a matinee performance, but all but one member of the family ends up not being able to attend.
  • In the 1991 movie Flight of the Intruder, starring Willem Dafoe and Brad Johnson, Defoe and Johnson sing it together in an A-6 Intruder cockpit on their way back from a prohibited bombing run on a Hanoi SAM missile depot. (see the entry for Operation Rolling Thunder below)
  • The song is briefly mentioned in the movie Short Circuit 2, as part of a plot device using the names of songs as clues. The Downtown they refer to is Downtown New York.
  • In 1987, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (later to become better known as The KLF) sampled large chunks of "Downtown" to make their new single "Down Town".
  • The pop-punk band Green Day use the melody of "Downtown" for their song "Waiting", on their 2000 album Warning.
  • The song was sung by Lucille Bluth to General Anderson to get her son Buster out of military service in the Arrested Development episode "Switch Hitter".
  • The song was heard on the soundtrack of the 1993 film Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. The classical pianist considered Petula Clark the best female vocalist of his generation and published several essays praising her talent and achievements.[12]
  • In the 1993 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", the Be Sharps hold an audition to replace Chief Wiggum. Groundskeeper Willie performs the song in his audition and, with his Scottish accent, pronounces the title as "Doontoon".
  • The song was used to introduce a feature on Children's BBC where viewers could send in pictures of themselves in their town (hence "Downtown") to presenter Phillip Schofield.
  • The French language version of the song was used in the Canadian movie waydowntown.
  • The song was used during the opening scenes of Jaws 2 in 1978.
  • Amanda Price sings it to Elizabeth Bennet's peers in Lost in Austen which sees a modern-day Londoner trapped inside Jane Austen's fictional world of Pride and Prejudice. This scene is deleted from some DVD and broadcast versions of the show.
  • The song was used in an episode of Coronation Street for the episode where Liam Connor is murdered. This was aired on the 16th October 2008
  • Rick Moranis performs a jazz version of the song as lounge singer Tom Monroe on SCTV. The song is arranged to include Petula Clark's other hits, "Don't Sleep in the Subway," "A Sign of the Times" and "I Know a Place".
  • A Mad Men character sings a cappella an improvised version of the song to mock a coworker and her lesbian girlfriend (Season 4).
  • In Australia, Coles Supermarkets used a version of the song sung by staff members and customers, altering the lyrics to reflect reduced prices throughout the store in 2011.[13]
  • In Seinfeld, George Costanza erroneously believes his boss is sending him a crypted message about an assignment through the lyrics in the song.

See also


  1. ^ a b[dead link]
  2. ^ "Temptation Eyes-land: The Songs". Golden Grass. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. 
  3. ^ "Big Jim Sullivan - Session Guitarist - UK Hit Singles and Albums". 
  4. ^ "Bobby Graham Hits". Bobby Graham. 
  5. ^ "The Breakaways". Spectropop. 
  6. ^ "American sales certificate database". Recording Industry Association of America. 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  7. ^ 27 November 2006
  8. ^ "Downtown EP - Emma Bunton". iTunes. August 26, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Emma Bunton on Slovenská". IFPI. (IFPI). Retrieved 2011-02-10. 
  10. ^ Baggs, Michael (6 December 2006). "Emma Bunton interview". Popjustice. Retrieved 2 May 2007. 
  11. ^ Rothing, Hilary (2009-02-27). "Lost: Behind the Music". UGO Networks. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  12. ^ Gould, Glenn; Haslam, Ken (11 December 1967). "Gould's fascination with Petula Clark (excerpt)". The Best of IDEAS, CBC Digital Archives. Retrieved 15 July 2009. 
  13. ^ Collier, Karen (6 July 2011). "Coles' annoying 'Down Down' jingle here to stay". Herald-Sun. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 

External links

Preceded by
"Come See About Me"
by The Supremes
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
January 23, 1965 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"
by The Righteous Brothers
Preceded by
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"
by The Righteous Brothers
RPM number one single
February, 1965 (one weeks)
Succeeded by
"Let's Lock the Door"
by Jay and the Americans

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