Time is such an interesting concept.
A few weeks ago, well, January 17 at 10:03 pm, to be exact (according to the Shazam app), I heard a song, and my iPhone told me it was Petula Clark singing “The World Song.” Based on that time of the evening, it had to be while my sweety and I were watching TV together. I have a strong hunch it was during an episode of For All Mankind, an Apple TV series premised on the notion of what would have happened if the 1960s space race didn’t end with the first moon landing in 1969. (No spoilers here, I promise). It isn’t the best TV I’ve seen, but the concept and execution are pretty admirable if I may say so as one who likes good quality science fiction (e.g., the film Contact as my barometer of excellent). And the plot, complex and engaging. We got through the first season in far less time than it would take for American mathematician Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) to calculate the trajectory for an Earth-Moon-Earth space mission; but for now, we must wait until later this month to see what happens in Season 2.
The series is on Apple TV, for which Sweety and I snagged a special deal for a free year’s subscription. I won’t go into the annoyance of so, so many subscription TV streaming services out there, and all that entails… no… not going there. No.
(By the way… there isn’t time here to go into the fact there was a film of the exact same name (a documentary, not a fictitious drama like the Apple series) made in 1983 for which Brian Eno, Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois created the official soundtrack, then expanded and re-released it for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing).
Anyway, hearing the song, I knew the voice was familiar and loved the melody. And — in the context of being immersed in a TV series that changes how history unfolded before, during and after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon — learning it was the British singer Petula Clark singing the song, well, that bent history and time again.
I remember, as a young boy, how Clark was a major pop star of the time. She was born in 1932 and began her career as a child entertainer for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during World War II. Fast-forward many years, to when she released “The World Song” in 1971… at which time, she was only 39, so yeah, okay, nothing to see here, folks.
But when I thought a little more, today’s selection is a massive departure from the style and sound of one of Clark’s signature pieces, “Downtown,” released earlier, in 1964, an iconic hit if there ever was one.
So, “The World Song” grabbed my attention. And as I listened to it again after learning it was Petula Clark, I was struck by a prominent country music element or theme in the beat of the song and even in Clark’s vocal. It was so, so very different to what I think of as a kind of Mary-Poppins-meets-Mary-Tyler-Moore-in-the-TV-series type of vibe that I clearly remember hearing in “Downtown” when I heard it as a kid in the 60s, and also when looking at it from today’s context.
Thinking of all that at once… time truly is a confusing idea, as parts of it keep pointing back, and we carry those memories with us in how we experience the world and each other in the present, then we carry that into the future then reflect on the past, so the cycle just repeats itself.
Then, the song. On the surface, the lyrics talk about wanting to arrange a big celebration, as if such a thing was beyond reach. Well, here we are many years after 1971, and there’s this virus… and parties really are beyond reach. I’m fully expecting to have a second birthday without a) sitting at a table all together with Sweety and our kids and b) a huge gathering with kin joined by many friends. It’s the way it is. For now.
So, yeah. A celebration is a damn exciting idea; something we all miss so much and really look forward to! And the power of that anticipation is similar to the excitement I felt in July 1969, standing in the back lane of my childhood home in St. Norbert, Winnipeg, Manitoba, with my dad and brothers as we all tried to absorb the idea of a human being speaking to everyone on Earth from the surface of the Moon.
Time is so mysterious, complicated and unpredictable. But also, so wholly reliable.
Our world is in a mess in many ways, and in my mind, “The World Song” speaks to that from a sense of wanting to act solely in inclusive ways. In what I feel was a deliberately chosen country-style delivery, the words are so elementally earthy and authoritative in their call. I think, in this song, Clark is asking with such emphasis that, across all these many decades, and with all we’ve experienced as a human race, can we now realize as a planet that we must intentionally include and care for each other? It’s not like we need to reach for the Moon.
Anyway, it’s almost midnight. I don’t want to break my record of making a post about a song every day for more than 401 days in a row. Thanks for joining me here. I hope you enjoy the music.
Here’s the audio for the song from the petularchive Youtube channel, which I cannot be sure is an official source but appears to link to a recording (so hopefully, the advertising income goes to the one who recorded the song):
Full, unofficial lyrics are available at AZLyrics.com.