I purchased my first very own musical recording at the age of ten or eleven, at a “ten cent” store in nearby Englewood, New Jersey on a Saturday family shopping trip. It was the beginning of an “indulgence” which has seen a revolution in recording science and which continues today. That early investment was a black 78 rpm wax disc with a red label featuring Bing Crosby and Kate Smith singing Don’t Fence Me In. “I can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences” the two proclaimed and my Dad had to explain “hobbles” to me. It was a humble beginning. The collection of easily broken and scratched black wax “singles” continued right up to Harry James, the Andrew Sisters and the “Fire House five Plus two” and a hundred others! They’re still in my cluttered basement today (weighing more than fifty pounds per boxful!)
The age of vinyl and the coming of first binaural and then stereo sound saw me building my own room-filling sound system which is still with me today, and a record collection which grew exponentially; and that barely mentions my Tanberg and Sony tape decks and the collection they spawned after the “experts” of the day proclaimed that “tape” was the ultimate recording medium, after which there could be nothing better. Already my wife is urging me to build a cabinet designed to “hide” my stacks of CDs from the public, but I tell her to “hang on”, the coming world of “down-loading” will obviate the need if something even more dazzling doesn’t come first.
And that leads me to the story I really want to tell. One of the last vinyl L.P.s I purchased was an album cut in 1968 featuring Petula Clark performing some of her most famous hits, including This is My Song, Don’t Sleep in the Subway and Groovin’. My record of activity on the back of the cover indicates my last play took place on March 16th, 1969, just prior to our family move from Vermont to Utah, and the apparent retirement of the sound system which did not get “plugged in” again.
Shortly after moving to Rockville, I learned that the daughter of one of my radio fans was a personal friend of Petula Clark, and had been for much of her life. Shortly after that, I was introduced to Petula’s daughter, Bara De Cabrol on an occasion when she had stopped in southern Utah to pay a visit to that family. By coincidence, I was the speaker at the event being visited on that occasion which led to a brief exchange of correspondence with her and thereby a personal connection after she returned to her home in NYC, from which I have enjoyed a most pleasant memory.
Not long ago I received an unexpected, but very much appreciated and timely gift from my Utah friend in the form of a brand new, 2016 CD recording of Petula Clark titled FROM NOW ON, just released from a recording studio in London. Petula, at age 84, and still singing her heart out. I listen to it with some regularity, but especially when I need to be reminded that like the English lady with a full head of curly blonde hair, I yet have places to go and worthwhile things to do.
Alongside the well-known lyrics from out of a famous past such as these: Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life you were only waiting for this moment to arise is a new poetic challenge found in such as these my favorites:
I don’t need to know what your life has been, I’ve been there too and I have seen. All that really matters is From Now On. . . those last three words the song’s title. And perhaps the most personally meaningful of all :
Wandering around the world I’ve seen, the good the bad the in-between, no one is perfect, this we all know but my heart and soul keep telling me Never let go. Keep doing what you’re doing, and giving it all you can. NEVER LET GO.
Not only is her voice “youthful” and as lovely as ever, but she writes and sings her own music, and adds piano, harp and string accompaniments along the way. I for one hope the inimitable and unstoppable Petula Clark never let’s go.