In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
Petula Clark had a pretty decent run after “Downtown,” charting with bright and friendly studio-pop songs through most of the ’60s. None of those songs were anywhere near as good as “Downtown,” but one of them did manage to get her back to #1. She didn’t like that song much, and neither do I.
Clark recorded “My Love” in Los Angeles, with the hired guns of the Wrecking Crew backing her up, and it sounds very much like a Wrecking Crew song, with all those impeccable guitar-stabs and swirling backing vocals. But there’s just not much song at the center of all of that.
The “Downtown” songwriter Tony Hatch, who kept writing and producing songs for Clark for years, wrote “My Love” on the flight from London to the Los Angeles recording sessions. It’s a big, bouncy, vague song about being hopelessly in love, and it goes for only the most cliched possible ways to describe that feeling: “My love is warmer than the warmest sunshine softer than a sigh / My love is deeper than the deepest ocean, wider than the sky.” It doesn’t even have a bridge.
Clark recorded three songs with the Wrecking Crew during that session, and she liked “My Love” least of all, begging her label not to make it the single. She’s said that she found the song “a bit ordinary” and “flat,” and she never came to like it in the years afterward. (There’s an interview from just a few years ago where she still claimed not to like it.) She still sells it with a whole lot of musical-theater verve, but none of that is enough to make an average song sound like anything other than an average song.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s Petula Clark and Fred Astaire singing “Look To The Rainbow” and Irish step-dancing in the 1968 Francis Ford Coppola movie Finian’s Rainbow, the last film musical that Astaire ever made: