Going downtown

Nov 15th, 2010 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Were there fewer songs in the 1960s?  Or were there more memorable songs? Some seem to linger longer in the mind than many more recent.

Pop songs reached us via the medium of my aunt’s pale blue transistor radio, one of those that had a round tuning dial on its front.  It sat on the sideboard in the kitchen and seemed a channel of constant cheer; DJs were always upbeat and the music always happy.  Particular songs captured particular moments; family parties were accompanied by a Dansette record player, the records played were by the artists we had heard on the radio.

Petula Clark seemed always present.  “Downtown” captured a world of excitement beyond our imagination, it exuded positive feelings and optimism.  There is an abiding memory of stealing handfuls of raisins from one of the airtight tins in which my grandmother kept her cookery supplies while the voice of Ms Clark filled the kitchen.

“Downtown” reappeared, years later. Living in Newtownards, Co Down for three years in the late 80s, the local radio station for Northern Ireland had its studios in the town.  In the summer of 1986, stations still closed for the night, and, arriving back in the town at one or two o’clock in the morning after driving from Rosslare on the way home from France, we caught the closing moments of Downtown Radio’s late night broadcast.  The DJ closed the programme by playing the station’s signature tune and the melancholy mood of the August night was lightened by Petula Clark; for a moment I was back on the farm and the whole world was filled with excitement.

Sitting at lunchtime in Eddie Rocket’s Diner in Anne Street in Dublin, it was a relief to step into the warm from the sharply cold day.  Looking at the jukebox selection, there was Petula Clark. I searched for a 20 cent coin to insert, but someone had already had a similar thought, the irrational exuberance of “Downtown” accompanied the humdrum perusal of papers for a 2 pm meeting.

Perhaps the person who had chose “Downtown”  had heard the same classic gold programme as I yesterday afternoon, when the DJ announced that today, 15th November, would be Petula Clark’s 78th birthday.

Of course, Petula Clark is not 78 she is forever young, forever singing from my aunt’s transistor radio, forever filling my grandparents’ farmhouse with happiness.  Petula Clark will never be a day older than the young woman whose voice through the years has captured some sense of indefinable hope.

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