“The musical highlights of Macon Georgia are but three, but they are stupendous; Little Richard, James Brown and Otis Redding. Then you can have ‘Party Lights’ recorded by native Maconian Claudine Clark for desert”
Mick Patrick used above Dave Marsh quote from Heart of Rock and Soul in this new Claudine Clark compilation (Ask the Girl Who Knows) I picked up, out on Ace records. Ace is a British based label that regular readers off this column are bound to enjoy. I am amazed at the rare and interesting nuggets they manage to dig up time and time again. Like this one in my hands right now, lavishly illustrated with a 15 page booklet. I first started digging on Claudine about three months ago, when her hit “Party Lights” was amongst the first batch of singles I ordered for this blog. My initial investigation didn’t amount to much though. All I could find was that Claudine scored a hit with “Party Lights” even though “Disappointed” was the designated A side. So it was the B side, a sad tale about a girl excluded from the party, watching the lights from across the street, that shot all the way up to the 5 spot on the Billboard chart. “Party Lights” was followed the ill fated “Walking in the Cemetery”. The song that finds Clark cackling like a witch could have been a Halloween novelty hit but wasn’t released until a few weeks after the season. So I appreciate the efforts of Mick, who actually managed to make his job out of this digging stuff. Which incidentally sounds like a dream career to these ears.
Through Mick we find out quite a bit more about the girl with the funny little voice. Claudine might have been born in Macon, but was raised in Philly. Her parents encouraged her to study guitar and organ, which made her pretty ambitions it appears. According to the press release in Billboard around the time of the release of "Party Lights" Claudine confessed that she was busy composing a R&R operetta. Unfortunately this opus never saw the light of day since her record label, Chancellor, went belly up. Claudine released a few singles for various record labels after that, amongst whom 20th Century Fox. Oddly enough some of them were released under the pseudonym of Sherry Pye or Joy Dawn. Though some of these 45s sound like they could have been arias from said operetta, the damn thing never emerged. Not that Clark had the mighty pipes to pull such a grand ambition of anyway. Claudine squeals her way through a lot of her singles like a little girl, she has one of those voices that never seem to mature, no matter how many years she's got under the belt or how dangerously she tries to growl. So most of her output were delicious teeny bob floor fillers in the vein of her one and only hit. Uncharacteristically for that era most of these sides were written by Clark herself. The most interesting thing about her career though is how it developed. Where most performers of the sixties went from Gospel to secular, Claudine simple married a priest one day and tried to make a career for herself in the field of Gospel and children books.
Available on Party Lights
Bruce Springsteen 1975