. . .
This is the first song I ever loved.
And given the fact that it came out when I was two, falling in love with this song might actually be my very first memory, period. Well, that, and learning to read.
Which may or may not be true, but if my first memories involve music and reading, it means that I was essentially on-brand from the very start, so let’s print the legend, shall we?
But man, what a song, right? Assembled in the U.K. with a phalanx of session musicians, including ace guitarist Jimmy Page (who was never heard from again), “Downtown” contains so many things that I still love: a quiet / loud / quiet structure; modulations; huge Spectoresque production, a solo that repeats the melody line, and of course, not so much a chorus but a way to repeat the title of the song as many times as possible.
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for you
Every single time Petula Clark and/or one of the background singers sang “dowwwnnn-town” it was totally and utterly magical, like we all needed to go downtown this very instant, because it seemed like the greatest place in the entire universe. And, in fact, I’m pretty sure it was this song that fueled my childhood disdain for Fresno’s downtown, which consisted of exactly one cool thing: the giant “G” time & temperature sign on the Guarantee Savings building, one of the few — skyscrapers isn’t the right word — skyglancers that were seemingly half-heartedly put there in the 50s & 60s.
(In my twenties, when I started hanging downtown a bit because that’s where the shows were, where the bands practiced and, of course, Tokyo Gardens, I once saw that time & temperature sign register 100 degrees at midnight.)
For Clark, who’d been a big recording star in the U.K. for nearly decade, “Downtown” was her entree into the U.S. pop charts, a seemingly out-of-nowhere smash that went #1 all around the world (except for the U.K., where it was blocked by “I Feel Fine”), and eventually won a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Song, despite — or because — of the fact that it wasn’t really a rock ‘n’ roll song at all, more a big jazz-pop showtune.
Weirdly enough, I’m writing these words in downtown Los Angeles, a place that was also kind of a fiction for decades, but has now become a real thing in the past couple of decades.
“Downtown” performed live on the Dean Martin Show, 1967
The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)
Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page