Petula Clark Stars in “Cousin Brucie’s British Invasion” LIVE! at the PNC Bank Arts Center
Thousands of music fans are streaming into the PNC Bank Arts Center on this gorgeous Friday, June 1, 2018 evening. They’re all here to experience Cousin Brucie’s British Invasion Volume I starring Petula Clark, Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon, Jeremy Clyde of Chad and Jeremy, and Mike Pender of The Searchers — a free concert presented by the Garden State Arts Foundation.
Making our way backstage, we happen to see musician, manager, and record producer, Peter Asher, who came to prominence in the 1960s as part of the pop vocal duo, Peter and Gordon. As a child growing up in England, Peter appeared as an actor on the stage, in films, and on television. Following the success of Peter and Gordon, Asher took charge of the A&R department at The Beatles’ Apple Records label where he discovered James Taylor. He went on to produce several recordings for Taylor including his groundbreaking Sweet Baby James. He also produced albums for Linda Ronstadt, Ringo Starr, Diana Ross, Bonnie Raitt, Olivia Newton-John, Neil Diamond, Kenny Loggins, Cher, 10,000 Maniacs, and many more.
When asked about performing here at the Arts Center, Asher says, “I love this place! I was here in the ’70s. I managed Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor and they played here every summer.”
Adding, “I remember playing with Linda Ronstadt on this very stage, so being here brings back so many memories,” Asher points out, “But it is the first time I’m singing here and I’m really looking forward to it!”
Also, backstage, we happen to run into a familiar face — Kurt “Frenchy” Yahjian, a singer with Jay Seigel’s Tokens — here, waiting to meet with Petula Clark. Not only is “Frenchy” known for his live performances of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and other classic songs with The Tokens, he’s also famous for appearing in several movie musicals including Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, in addition to performing as a vocalist with jazz saxophonist David Sanborn.
Says Yahjian, “I’m here as a fan of Petula Clark. I worked with her in the late ’70s. Lorraine Feather — the daughter of the great music journalist, Leonard Feather — and I were both singing back-up for her.”
“I also knew Peter Asher when he was managing James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt,” adds Yahjian, declaring, “and I just love Peter Asher’s works!”
A few moments after Yahjian’s visit with Petula Clark, we catch up again with “Frenchy,” who exclaims, “She remembered me! And she even remembered that we played in the Empire Ballroom at the Waldorf — which I had forgotten.”
“She was so warm and gracious,” adds Yahjian. “She’s a sweetheart. I’m so glad I got the chance to see her and I’m looking forward to hearing her perform tonight!”
Soon, it’s our turn to chat with Ms. Clark — recognized as the “First Lady of the British Invasion” — an artist who’s sold over 68 million records.
As a child growing up in Wales, Petula sang in the chapel choir and loved to imitate female singers including Carmen Miranda and Sophie Tucker. While still in her youth, she became a singing sensation in Europe — not only as a recording star, but by performing in films, television, and live concert appearances.
In 1964, Clark’s recording of “Downtown” — a song composer Tony Hatch wrote after visiting New York City — became a hit in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Japan, and India. In 1965, it went to #1 in America and was the first of 15 consecutive Top 40 hits in the U.S.
Clark won two Grammy Awards and also made appearances on TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show before hosting her own television specials. She also went on to star opposite Fred Astaire in the film, Finian’s Rainbow, and a song she wrote with Tony Hatch — “You’re the One” — became a huge hit for The Vogues.
In 1998, Clark was made a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth and, in 2012, she was recognized as Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. Her latest album — a French language recording entitled, Vu D’Ici — was just released in 2018.
Asked how she enjoys performing for audiences in the Garden State, Clark reveals, “I haven’t been to NJ for a long time! When I heard I would be playing here, it brought back so many memories.”
“I played here for a week in the 1960s with Buddy Rich and his band,” she explains, before adding, “Buddy was known to be a hard nut, but I loved performing with him!”
“His band was unbelievable, too,” she notes, acknowledging, “They were all young guys just out of school and they could really play. It was an amazing week!”
After revealing, “I just finished a tour of French-speaking Canada. I speak fluent French and, so, I’ve had a very French career,” Clark concludes by exclaiming, “Tomorrow I go to Miami for a rest and holiday!”
For the moment, however, there are eight thousand fans patiently waiting in the PNC Bank Arts Center amphitheatre for her to perform!
Ron Gravino, Vice President of the Garden State Arts Foundation’s Board of Trustees, takes the Arts Center stage to welcome the crowd to tonight’s free concert. Reminding the audience that “no federal, state, local, or Garden State Parkway toll money” is used to fund any GSAF presentations, he acknowledges that the programs are presented by donations from such long-time community partners as PNC Bank, Live Nation Entertainment, and Sirius XM ’60s on 6 radio, in addition to contributions from the general public.
Gravino takes a moment to recognize several dignitaries in tonight’s audience, notably Carol Ross, manager of the musical icon, Tommy James, and former manager of such world-famous artists as Diana Ross, Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, Kiss, and Paul McCartney.
Gravino also introduces the host for tonight’s musical extravaganza — DJ Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow — who introduced many in tonight’s audience to the great music of the ’60s as a disc jockey on New York’s 77-WABC radio, but who now hosts programs for Sirius XM satellite radio on the ’60s on 6 channel.
Cousin Brucie makes his way through the audience shaking hands and stopping to talk to people who take selfies with him while his theme song — written and performed especially for him by New Jersey’s own Frankie Valli — plays.
Once he reaches the stage, Cousin Brucie warmly welcomes the crowd to tonight’s show. He takes time to talk about the British Invasion — a cultural phenomenon of the 1960s where musical acts from the other side of the Atlantic became popular here in the United States. He also explains how these British acts inspired their American counterparts to “step it up” in order to be able to compete, thus leading to a rising counterculture on both sides of the Atlantic.
The first act which Cousin Brucie introduces tonight is Mike Pender of The Searchers. Looking dapper dressed in black with his studded belt, Pender takes the stage with his classic Rickenbacker guitar.
Opening with a song The Drifters’ recorded in the United States but which became the first UK #1 hit for The Searchers, Pender performs “Sweets for my Sweet.” Crooning “Sweets for my sweet/Sugar for my honey/I’ll never ever let you go,” Pender’s guitar rings out to the British Mersey beat and the audience sings along on the “Ooh ee-oo ee-oo ee-oo” lyric.
Following avid applause, Pender — backed by a trio of musicians on bass, guitar, and drums — performs a song which was written by Tony Hatch, an up-tempo rendition of “Sugar and Spice” featuring a “Georgy Girl” — inspired guitar lick.
The audience shuffles to the Beatle-like beat of Pender’s next number, “Don’t Throw Your Love Away,” before he launches into one of The Searchers’ biggest hits — a tune which rocketed to #3 on the U.S. Billboard Charts in 1965 — “Love Potion #9.” Led with Pender’s twangy ‘60s-era guitar sound, the crowd sings along on the tune’s chorus and cheers at the end for his lively performance.
After recognizing the members of his band, Pender announces, “There are a lot of people here who can’t remember the ’60s,” before adding, “but there are a lot of people who can! I think the best way to keep going in this business is to rock ’til you drop!”
Here, Pender’s electric guitar introduces the rockin’ Mersey sound of “Take Me For What I’m Worth,” with the band providing back-up harmonies.
Following enthusiastic applause, Pender states, “This is the song that got us on The Ed Sullivan Show all those years ago,” before launching into The Searchers’ 1964 hit “Needles and Pins.” The strum of his guitar bringing the crowd back to memories from yesterday, Pender enunciates as he sings, “I knew I had to run away, and get down on my knees and pray that they’d go away/But still they’d begin, needles and pins.”
The audience cheers and Pender responds by stating, “It’s almost the end for me tonight, but we have a great show! We’re gonna finish with this one, ladies and gents — another one I hope you’ll remember.” Here, Pender concludes his portion of tonight’s program with his rendition of Jackie DeShannon’s “When You Walk in the Room,” a 1964 Top 40 hit for The Searchers, featuring a clever interplay between his vocal and a catchy repeated guitar lick.
Dancing down stage close to the audience, Pender raises his guitar overhead in victory at the end of the song!
Cousin Brucie retakes the stage and thanks Pender for his inspired performance.
Then, announcing, “Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon is very special,” he acknowledges, “I’m amazed by him — Peter excels in everything!” At this time, he also introduces Jeremy Clyde of Chad and Jeremy, reminding this audience filled with ’60s music lovers about the group’s “easy folk tone with British flair.”
Asher takes the stage in his glittery red and black outfit with pink sneakers, stating, “This is an extraordinary building — and my first time singing on this stage!” Announcing, “This is the debut of Peter and Jeremy performing for the Eastern half of America,” Asher acknowledges, “We did this show once in Los Angeles” at which point partner Jeremy Clyde chimes in, “We’ve been friends since 1963,” and exclaims, “We’re old pals!”
The duo opens with their rendition of one of Peter and Gordon’s biggest hits — 1965’s “I Go to Pieces” — written by Del Shannon.
Backed by a quartet of musicians on keyboard, bass, guitar, and drums, the men croon, “And I go to pieces and I want to hide/Go to pieces and I almost die/Every time my baby passes by,” the easy feel of the duo’s strumming guitars delighting this audience which responds with avid hoots and hollers.
After revealing, “This next Chad and Jeremy hit was a surprise because it went up the country charts in America,” Asher and Clyde perform “Yesterday’s Gone.” Although the tune has a bouncy country feel, the duo’s British accents give the number a unique twist as audience members sing along.
Clyde reveals, “There’s nothing more thrilling than hearing yourself on the radio!” before Asher acknowledges, “This was the silliest song we ever did,” and inviting the audience to “sing along on the title and think of a naked lady on a horse!”
Here, the duo launches into Peter and Gordon’s 1966 hit, “Lady Godiva,” a number on which Asher plays the banjo.
The audience happily sings along on the “Lady Godiva” chorus before responding with even more cheers and applause.
Clyde introduces the next number recorded by Chad and Jeremy revealing, “It was written in 1932.” Launching into “Willow Weep for Me” — the duo skillfully performs this simple ballad with lovely two-part harmonies and lilting guitar work.
Acknowledging that Peter and Gordon’s next song was written by Paul McCartney, Asher says, “Don’t take the lyrics too seriously.” Here, the friends perform a folk-rock version of “I Don’t Want to See You Again,” which features strong vocals and rhythmic guitar strumming.
After announcing, “This next song from 1964 has been featured in several films including The Princess Diaries and Men in Black 3,” Asher and Clyde perform Chad and Jeremy’s most popular tune, “A Summer Song.” The lush melody and harmonies melt the hearts of many in the audience who sing along knowing all the words before responding with heartfelt applause.
Asher reveals that the duo’s next song was “Peter and Gordon’s biggest hit.” Disclosing, “My sister, Jane, dated Paul McCartney, so “he and I shared the top floor of my family’s house for two years,” Asher goes on to describe the composition as “an unfinished song that The Beatles were not going to record” before revealing, “It went to #1 and changed my life!”
Here, the duo performs one of the highlight performances of the evening, their lovely rendition of 1964’s “A World Without Love.”
After announcing, “The last verse is all you!” the audience obliges by happily singing along. The crowd leaps to its feet for the duo as the men bow and wave to the fans in the audience who insist on an encore number!
Asher responds by stating, “We can do one more,” dedicating the number to “our friend, Carole King.” Here, the men perform a poignant unplugged rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend” featuring just their voices and piano. After trading verses on this emotional performance, the men take a bow together and then hug Cousin Brucie as the crowd rewards them with a standing ovation.
Says Morrow about Asher and Clyde, “The music needed that energy and special soul they brought to it,” before exclaiming, “It’s so important to keep the music alive!”
Following a short intermission, Cousin Brucie returns to the stage announcing, “Petula Clark is my friend — she once sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me on the air and it was 2am her time! She is so loyal and sweet. When she sings, she sings with her heart.”
Telling the audience about how Clark “started singing at nine years old on BBC radio during World War II,” Morrow explains, “There was an air raid at a concert she was attending, and the producer asked if someone could sing to calm the people of the city, so she sang.” Adding, “She also went on to sing with Julie Andrews and entertain the troops,” Morrow further points out, “She even became the mascot of the British Army — they put her picture on their tanks!”
Calling her “The singing songbird of the universe,” Morrow introduces Petula Clark.
Clark takes the stage to excited applause accompanied by her five-piece band on piano, guitar, bass, drums, and synthesizer. Opening with a medley of two of her hits — 1965’s “I Know a Place” and 1966’s “A Sign of the Times” — this musical legend sounds and looks as fabulous as ever. Holding the microphone aloft, she powers through modern arrangements of these classic songs while dancing and inviting the crowd to clap along to the beat.
After warmly welcoming the audience, she thanks Cousin Brucie — “whom I adore,” she says.
Revealing how she met John Lennon in Montreal and calling him “the funniest person I ever met — sensitive and spiritual,” Clark interprets Lennon’s “Imagine” with power and grace.
Following 1966’s soaring “Who Am I?” Clark performs her 1966 hit, “Colour My World,” singing, “So you can colour my world with sunshine yellow each day/Oh you can colour my world with happiness all the way,” catching the microphone at the very end of the song.
Standing by the piano as though she’s performing at a classical music recital, Clark performs “a Steve Winward song I heard back in the 80s” — “When You See A Chance” — her voice shining through her interpretation of not only the song’s melody but the emotion of the lyrics as well.
Dedicating her next number to Peggy Lee, Clark performs a sultry rendition of “Fever,” giving members of her talented back-up band time in the spotlight as they are featured on their respective instruments.
“You’re such a class act!” yells a fan from the audience.
After a simple but effective rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” which features sparse guitar accompaniment, Clark performs her 1966 #1 U.S. hit, “My Love.” Singing, “My love is warmer than the warmest sunshine/Softer than a sigh/My love is deeper than the deepest ocean/Wider than the sky,” Clark shows her playful side by giving this famous song a country feel as audience members clap along.
Letting her hair down, Clark follows that number up with a song from her latest English language CD, From Now On, and a story about meeting Charlie Chaplin. Serenading the audience in English and French, she performs Chaplin’s “This Is My Song,” the crowd joining in the the “la-la” lyrics.
Clark performs another new composition, “Living for Today,” before launching into an audience favorite — Tony Hatch’s 1967 hit for Clark, “Don’t Sleep in the Subway.” She follows this with a medley of additional ‘60s-era hits including “Call Me” and “The Other Man’s Grass (is Always Greener).” After inviting the audience to clap and sing along with her, Clark jokingly asks if she should cut her hair, to which a fan in the crowd yells, “No! You look great!”
Proving she’s adept at singing any genre of music, Clark performs her rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and follows that up with one of the highlight performances of the night. Transforming herself into Eva Perone, she gives a stellar performance of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Evita.
The crowd is spellbound by Clark’s talent and rewards her with a standing ovation, cheering and yelling “Bravo!” at the end!
Pushing her hair behind her ears like a schoolgirl, Clark performs her 1966 hit, “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love.” In this lighthearted rendition, she happily watches her electric guitarist as he solos.
The audience sings along on the “I couldn’t live without your love” chorus, clapping overhead while Petula conducts them.
“Wow, you can really sing!” exclaims Clark. “Thank you, New Jersey!”
After introducing the members of her band, Clark’s musicians begin to play the first few notes of the next number which instantly gets the audience applauding. As she instructs the audience with her microphone, the crowd happily joins in singing on Clark’s final number — her 1964 worldwide hit, “Downtown.”
The crowd roars its approval as Clark leaves the stage — audience members shouting “We love you, Petula!” and “You’re fabulous!”
After returning to the stage, Clark graciously sings one more song — a number she wrote not that long ago — calling it “my little gift to you.” Following her poignant performance of “Here Comes the Rainbow,” she tells her fans, “Take care of yourself. I love you! Good night,” before bowing gracefully and dancing with Cousin Brucie.
Calling her “Absolute elegance” and adding, “She is beautiful,” Cousin Brucie closes the show and thanks the audience for coming.
As we make our way out of the PNC Bank Arts Center, we chat with several audience members who share their thoughts with us on tonight’s performance.
Says John from Somerset, “I loved this show! Petula Clark was amazing, and Cousin Brucie was as great as always,” before asserting, “Peter Asher and Jeremy Clyde have to go on the road with their new duo!”
Kenneth from Sayreville agrees, exclaiming, “That was some show! Petula Clark could teach the younger people something about music!”
Marsha from Tenafly says, “It brought back so many memories for me to hear all those wonderful songs from my youth by The Searchers, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, and — of course — Petula Clark,” acknowledging, “Tonight’s concert made me feel like a teenager again!”
Lastly, we chat with Chuck from Howell, who says, “It was incredible what Cousin Brucie was able put together for us tonight!” After explaining, “When he walked down the aisle, I got to shake hands with him. It was like shaking hands with musical history!” Chuck smiles and exclaims, “Now I can’t wait for Cousin Brucie’s British Invasion Volume II!”
To learn more about Cousin Brucie and his Sirius XM radio program, please go to siriusxm.com/60son6. For more on Petula Clark, please check out petulaclark.net. For further info on Peter Asher, please check out his website at peterashermusic.com. To learn more about Jeremy Clyde, go to chadandjeremy.net. For more on Mike Pender’s Searchers, click on mikependersearchers.co.uk. Lastly, for upcoming Garden State Arts Foundation performances at the PNC Bank Arts Center, please go to gsafoundation.org.