Jun 04


Popular25 comments • 4,818 views

#113, 25th February 1961

Never a chore to hear a harmonica, but otherwise “Sailor”s easy tempo becalms the track too easily. A snoozer, and an oddly archaic one from such a young singer: Petula’s stout-hearted vocals and massed backing seem to hark back to the early 50s and the likes of Vera Lynn. The cowpoke arrangement just doesn’t fit her style well (and it isn’t terribly nautical either). A curio at most.



  1. 1
    Doctor Mod on 31 Jul 2006 #

    So this was a Number One? I sort of knew about this song, but I didn’t associate it with Pet. I faintly member this from childhood (but how old was I?) but I thought it was some woman who didn’t sing in English. German?

    Could it have been that Pet Clark was on US radio a long time before “Downtown”?

  2. 2
    Mark M on 31 Jul 2006 #

    “an oddly archaic one from such a young singer”

    Yes, except although she was 28 when this came out, Pet Clark had been around forever by this point – she had been child star during the war (“Britain’s Shirley Temple”). So, in a way, she was a contemporary of Vera Lynn. But she was also young enough to adjust to the times to some extent, and have some excellent 60s hits (Downtown, Don’t Sleep In The Subway…

  3. 3
    bramble on 8 Sep 2006 #

    Sailor was also done by Anne Shelton and I think there was a German version. At that time when foreign travel was out of the question for most people except at time of war, the roll-call of names-Capri, Amsterdam, Honolulu, Siam-had a magic to them. Petula Clark had already had a long career by then -in films and as a singer- and by the time of her revival post-Downtown she seemed generations ago.

  4. 4
    Monty Tarr on 30 Dec 2006 #

    For years I have been trying to find out something about this song which was very popular in Illinois, USA, probably in 1954, 55, or 56. I was young at the time but remember the song was sung in English and German. I cannot remember if I have ever heard the Pet Clark version. (I most certainly remember when Downtown hit the airwaves.) Does anyone remember the English and German version? who the artist is/was?

  5. 5
    newjerseybt on 13 Mar 2007 #

    Anne Shelton did the early American version and the German version was Seemann, Deine Heimat Ist Das Meer by Lolita.

    I never heard the Pet Clarke version till recently on AM740.CA on a nightly radio “skip”.

    The song is just wonderful IMO as it reflects America as it used to be. If you are over 50, you can probably make that connection. It also has historical significance. I understood every word of the lyrics the very first time I heard it in English. If you are into “rap”, most likely you won’t make a connection as it probably registers as space noise from another galaxy.

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    richard thompson on 7 Jun 2008 #

    This is the sort of record my grandma liked, she was 58 back then.

  7. 7
    wichitalineman on 18 May 2009 #

    Pet sounded matronly on her run of Hatch/Trent hits, but still more youthful (and curiously more RP) than she did on Sailor or any of her fifties hits.

    A bit of an ‘outside’ girl, she followed this with My Friend The Sea, and had released a very odd single called The Sky in ’57 – which is the excuse for this post. I’m not quite sure what she’d been putting in her Darjeeling but the lyric of The Sky would have made more sense in 1967 than 1957. She doesn’t hold back – the opening line:

    “the sky is old and wise, it has a thousand eyes”

    Just a thousand? It’s bloody huge! But Pet has odder pearls to impart:

    “the sky is kind and true, a friend who’ll see you through if you’ll just give it a try”

    What have you got to lose? Give it a try, the big thousand-eyed friend. Pet’s faith is unshakeable:

    “Whatever you may ask, the sky will do the task”

    I can only assume there was a half-assed religious angle to this but it ain’t obvious and must have confused the hell out of her fans. And she REALLY sounds like Vera Lynn on it.

    “The sky, the sky, myyyyy skyyyyyy!”


  8. 8
    AndyPandy on 19 May 2009 #

    But what a pity no ‘Downtown’ at Number One (Number One in America though)IMO along with ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’* the two tracks that feel so much like they should have made it to the top – not just in their quality but in their impingement on a national pop consciousness.
    *I won’t also include ‘Please Please Me’ because in spite of the ridiculous attempt of the Charts Company to rewrite history it WAS obviously Number One as was incidentally ‘I’m A Boy’ by the Who.

    While i’m on this subject when is some enterprising publisher going to attempt to solve the 60’s charts problem once and for all and bring out a book listing ALL the records that made the various main charts in that period 1960-Feb 1969 which causes all the problems (definitely Record Retailer and New Musical Express and probably Melody Maker too) and therefore all the records that are rightfully looked on as Number Ones (and TBH relatively speaking there wouldnt actually be THAT many weeks with two number ones (and anyway there are already instances of 2 number ones tied at the top when using just one chart).

  9. 9
    wichitalineman on 19 May 2009 #

    Well, Andy. Yesterday I was talking to someone who did some research in the late eighties and found British charts gong back to 1940 which were printed in Variety, but not in Britain. Sheet music, of course, but I can’t be the only chart nut who’d love to know what was number one on, say, my dad’s birthday in 1941. Similarly, I’d love to be able to compare all the various charts on my birthday in 1964.

    I think what we need is a decent website with ALL these stats: every British hit and every British chart.

    Does anyone know who’s behind everyhit?

  10. 10

    i have a book of sheet music charts, but it only goes back to 1946 (and ends in 1959) — as per radio luxemberg’s charts then

  11. 11
    wichitalineman on 19 May 2009 #

    Is that First Hits? The chap I was speaking to yesterday was doing his research at the same time and got to know the authors just as the thing had gone to press. They were unaware of the earlier Variety charts (which were also in order of sales, not just alphabetical, and were in Colindale), and would have included them if they’d met up a few weeks earlier.

  12. 12

    yes, first hits

  13. 13
    AndyPandy on 19 May 2009 #

    Very interesting Wichita.
    I might be even more interested than most as I’ve probably made clear on here I’m far from subscribing to the “it all started in the mid-50s” school of thought and TBH much prefer pre-rock to the post-start of rock n roll time up until about 1965/66. And being brought up in a house where my music-loving dad always had the radio on and my childhood was conducted to the old school Big Band/Easy listening/40s-early 50s Radio 2 I’d love to see where a lot of those old songs got to in the charts.

  14. 14
    wichitalineman on 20 May 2009 #

    Andy, I’ve got a similar fascination based on my grandparents’ taste when I was growing up, which has only just percolated through to my conscious likes and dislikes in the last couple of years.

    Not wanting to count chickens etcet, but I’m working on a 2cd set of the Radio Luxemburg no.1s, 40-odd of them, dating from 1947-52 when the NME chart started. An interesting problem will be working out which recorded version to pick for each sheet music hit.

    While I’d previously thought post-war/pre-rock was a stagnant pool you can definitely hear *some* progress as the fifties get going, at least production-wise. Also, I’ve discovered odd things like Vera Lynn’s run of hits from 52-55 was a blip, and must have been related to Aden/Cyprus/conscription (shoot me down if I’m miles out here) rather than an extended WW2 hangover.

    The more I delve, though, the more I realise how utterly, utterly alien Little Richard must have sounded in 1955.

    Pet Clark (returning to the matter in hand) cut a more than respectable cover of an obscure doo wop song called Baby Lover, her last hit before Sailor, which was as close to R&R as she got. It’s insanely catchy, recommended, and featured in the 6.5 Special movie.

  15. 15
    Alan Whitney on 4 Oct 2011 #

    For Monty Tarr…

    The song was originally sung by a German billed as “Lolita…” Available on iTunes.

  16. 16
    Mutley on 5 Oct 2011 #

    The German version of this song is also associated with Freddy Quinn who was a very big pop star in Germany in the early 60s. I think it is on the best-selling LP “Freddy auf hoher See”. It is very much a Freddy-type song – his speciality was pop versions of sea shanties. For gender reasons, his version of Seemann has somewhat different lyrics from those of Lolita and Petula, They long for a sailor, Freddy longs to get home from sea!

  17. 17
    richard thompson on 29 Dec 2012 #

    The various charts match in 1964, they don’t in 1960-63, the nme chart has a book with the best selling singles saying that She Loves You got to number one on 12 Sept, showing a copy of their own chart from 3 Sept 1963 when it was number one then.

  18. 18
    wichita lineman on 21 Jan 2013 #

    51 years on, Pop Justice reckon Pet’s new single is “a sort of Saint Etienne-meets-Lana Del Rey-esque surprise triumph”. And I think they’re right. It’s gorgeous, either way:


  19. 19
    Rory on 22 Jan 2013 #

    An extraordinary comeback; Clark turned eighty a couple of months ago.

  20. 20
    Auntie Beryl on 22 Jan 2013 #

    Agreed. Couldn’t have seen this coming. The album is getting quite a push from Sony as well.

  21. 21
    swanstep on 23 Jan 2013 #

    This mashup of Petula Clark and Sophie Ellis-Bextor is worth a look/listen in case anyone hasn’t seen/heard it.

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 12 Mar 2014 #

    I expressed my dislike for this in the recent 1961 poll – listening to it again has diminished my loathing somewhat – but not by much. It reminds me of the type of song (and it probably WAS one of the songs) played on ‘Sing something simple’ that I used to hear on the radio when I was a kid -which even then I found syrupy. The arrangement is pedestrian and confused. A loping ‘country’ rhythm and warbling harmonica overlaid with a very British sounding choir sound complacently lush. Petula sounds neither sad because she misses her ‘sailor’ or happy to look forward to his return which is hardly surprising how bland the lyres are. It’s interesting as a period piece but beyond that I’d be happy not to hear it again.

  23. 23
    Paulito on 12 Mar 2014 #

    Agree with the comments about the awkward arrangement and trite lyrics. All the same, the chorus has a nice melody (which Petula delivers sweetly but not cloyingly) and I find the choral accompaniment quite stirring. I can see why folk liked this at the time. I’d happily stretch to a 5 on it.

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 13 Mar 2014 #

    thanks Paulito and @22 that should be ‘lyrics’ not ‘lyres’

  25. 25
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    Tom’s 4/10 seems a reasonable enough score.

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