3D Great Rock Bible
Lulu iTunes Tracks Lulu Official Website

Lulu

The ageless LULU must be the envy of every rock chic on Planet Pop for her wide-eyed wee-lassie smile (she even published a book in 2010 on how its done: Lulu’s Secrets To Looking Good). For since shouting out her first chart record way back in the mid-60s, and going on to win the then-prestigious boom-bang-a-bang-ing Eurovision Song Contest in ’69 (when the United Kingdom could command votes rather than inspire Brexit), the all-round/busy-bee Scots entertainer has since worked her fingernails to the bone to maintain her high-profile career and independence. Not really known for album success or indeed songwriting prowess (with the exception of her feisty co-contribution of `I Don’t Wanna Fight’ to TINA TURNER’s biopic), a handful of singles have stood the test of time: `Shout!’ (a UK Top 10 hit twice!), `To Sir, With Love’ (a rare Stateside chart-topper), `The Man Who Sold The World’ (featuring scribe-turned-producer BOWIE and his Spiders From Mars!) and, reluctantly speaking, her one and only UK No.1, `Relight My Fire’ (with manufactured boy band TAKE THAT).
Born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, 3 November 1948, Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, she was raised with her two brothers and sister in Dennistoun, Glasgow. Marie made her first public singing appearance before she even reached her teens and subsequently formed her own band The Gleneagles, playing to crowds at The Lindella Club. Under the wing of London talent spotter Marion Massey, they were renamed The Luvvers and, with a raucous LULU as their star attraction, Decca Records signed her in 1964. Her backing band featured a 21 year-old rhythm guitarist James Dewar (duly known for his time as bassist/singer in blues outfits STONE THE CROWS and ROBIN TROWER).
At a time when she should’ve been studying for her exams or going to college, the diminutive LULU was in the Top 10 with a frenetic cover of The ISLEY BROTHERS 1959 hit, `Shout’; she’d heard ALEX HARVEY singing his version a few years back. Its success made the Scots lass a schoolgirl star; her surprisingly soulful pubescent rasp blaring out of radios and TV sets across the country. When it came to picking a perfect follow-up to cash-in on her success, `Can’t Hear You No More’, `Here Comes The Night’ (before THEM got their hands on it) and `Satisfied’ (b/w JAGGER & RICHARDS’ `Surprise, Surprise’), her management team struggled to bolster her early promise. Confident still that her voice would pull her from one-hit-wonder land of no-return, pop ballad `Leave A Little Love’ struck gold after her year out in the cold. `Try To Understand’ – a preview to her Peter Sullivan-produced debut set, SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT (1965) {*6} – stalled a few places outside the Top 20, but that was a high point by comparison to her following flop 45s, `Tell Me Like It Is’ and `Call Me’. Yes, LULU could blow hot and cold according to what song she was given to sing: rough ‘n’ ready R&B covers or timid ballads.
Switching labels to Columbia (Epic in the States), a solo Mickie Most-produced LULU was almost immediately back in the chart-race when `The Boat That I Row’ (penned by NEIL DIAMOND) and `Let’s Pretend’ hovered around the Top 10. 1967 also saw the Glaswegian make her critically-acclaimed acting debut, co-starring (along with “pupils” Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall, Adrienne Posta et al) under American legend Sidney Poitier in the British racial/social drama movie, “To Sir, With Love”. The movie’s title theme duly gave a maturing LULU a Stateside-only No.1 (twinned with `The Boat That I Row’), while the associated title track from LOVE LOVES TO LOVE LULU {*5} – or, indeed American Top 30 equivalent LULU SINGS… TO SIR WITH LOVE (also 1967) – miffed her backers in Britain.
It was clear as Doris Day that albums were not going to be the singer’s forte, as her team launched her into the ranks of the pop/rock aristocracy through UK Top 20 fodder, `Me, The Peaceful Heart’, `Boy’ and the catchy `I’m A Tiger’. If her songs were hits in Britain, they failed Stateside, and vice versa (examples by way of the US-only hit covers of `Best Of Both Worlds’ and `Morning Dew’).
Having briefly flirted as girlfriend/boyfriend with The MONKEES’ Davy Jones, LULU was matched with MAURICE GIBB (“the quiet one”) and, much to the bewilderment of his BEE GEES brothers and both fanbases, the couple married on 18 February 1969, just weeks short of her Eurovision Song Contest commitments. A honeymoon in Mexico written off as `Boom Bang-A-Bang’ shot up to No.2 in the charts prior to her winning the top prize in Madrid, theirs was a rocky relationship straight from the get-go; they split in 1973 (divorced in August ’75), but remained good friends. The song itself was like an albatross around her neck – she loathed it!
In fact, there was all round discontent with the outcome of LULU’S ALBUM (1969) {*5} – titled IT’S LULU! in the States – as she ploughed through shiny versions of the day’s hit parade, `The Mighty Quinn’, `Gimme Some Lovin’’, `I Started A Joke’, `Cry Like A Baby’, etc.
Juggling the opposing forces of TV showbiz personality and rock/pop credibility, she made the obligatory pilgrimage to Muscle Shoals in 1969 for her blue-eyed soul effort, NEW ROUTES {*6}. Released early in 1970 for Atco Records on the back of transatlantic breaker, `Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)’, and featuring the crack production team of Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin (who’d worked with a certain Ms. SPRINGFIELD on her “Dusty In Memphis” LP), the record paired LULU with guitarist DUANE ALLMAN, Roger Hawkins, Eddie Hinton, Barry Beckett, Cornell Dupree, David Hood et al. By the end of 1970, it was back to the proverbial drawing board when the similarly-boned MELODY FAIR {*5} failed to emulate its predecessor, despite the presence of soul powerhouses like the Dixie Flyers and the Memphis Horns. She was still only 22 years of age.
On the back of an undistinguished eponymous album for Chelsea Records, LULU (1973) {*4} – released only in America and Australia – the glam-rock fraternity were indeed shocked to admitting to loving her cool and exclusive smash-hit re-vamp of BOWIE’s aforementioned `The Man Who Sold The World’ (twinned with the Aladdin Sane man’s `Watch That Man’). It was however a short-lived liaison between fan and Scots pop idol when her subsequent theme to the James Bond flick, `The Man With The Golden Gun’, produced apathy among supporters of the film franchise.
Hopping on the disco bandwagon, there was clean-cut fun and frolics on her Top 40 appearance, `Take Your Mama For A Ride’, but outside of Europe (mainly Germany) she wasn’t taken that seriously anymore. In 1979, three years after her marriage to hairdresser John Frieda, an album for ELTON JOHN’s Rocket Record Company was released without much fuss or attention: DON’T TAKE LOVE FOR GRANTED {*4}; she had one child to Frieda, whom she divorced in ‘95.
A fresh decade but working the same golden oldies circuit (in her early 30s!), there was some hope, but even more pressure, when hitting the lower echelons of the singles chart; albums such as the eponymous LULU (1981) {*4} (she’d now signed to Alfa-CBS) and TAKE ME TO YOUR HEART AGAIN (1982) {*4}, were low on quality but high on NRG. Cast as the face of Freeman’s catalogue and a promoter to the “Shut Up & Dance” series of work-out albums/videos, our wee LULU “Rear of the Year” was unwilling to take a back-seat in the entertainment world; Lulu – Her Autobiography was published in ’85.
In summer 1986, her remake of `Shout’ – alongside an exploitative re-release of the original version! – went Top 10 simultaneously, leading to television work as mother of Adrian Mole 13 ¾ (taking the place of Julie Walters).
A larger scale comeback/reinvention was effected early in 1993 with the club-influenced `Independence’ single (taken from the INDEPENDENCE {*5} album), and a near Top 10 hit. Later that year, after a Top 30 collaboration featuring the great BOBBY WOMACK (`I’m Back For More’), she set the charts ablaze in tandem with TAKE THAT on the UK chart-topping cover of DAN HARTMAN’s `Relight My Fire’ – yeah, it’d taken her nigh-on 30 years in the business to achieve this feat. As queen of the dance-floor for the slightly older generation, LULU worked her magic on a string of Brit hits from `How ‘Bout Us’ in ’94, to `Where The Poor Boys Dance’ in ’00, only to stop for a breather as foil to the Absolutely Fabulous/French & Saunders comedy duo (again following in the footsteps of Dusty) and hosting the National Lottery show. She continued to be one of Scotland’s most high profile celebrities (in 1999 she starred in the film, Whatever Happened To Harold Smith?) and became an OBE in 2000.
As she pieced another autobiography (“I Don’t Want To Fight” named after the song she scribed with her brother Billy Lawrie and Steve DuBerry), there was a large celebration in the LULU camp when she finally had a top-selling gold album in TOGETHER (2002) {*6}. Among the stellar cast of singers on board – her duet of BOB SEGER’s `We’ve Got Tonight’ with RONAN KEATING a particular Top 5 highlight – the record pitted her alongside fellow legends, ELTON JOHN, PAUL McCARTNEY, STING, MARTI PELLOW, CLIFF RICHARD, JOE COCKER and several more from the pop world.
The appropriately-titled and self-penned, BACK ON TRACK (2004) {*5} and covers set A LITTLE SOUL IN YOUR HEART (2005) {*5}, found LULU in fine fettle as she approached her twilight years. Incredibly, she still looked like a spring chicken by the time her umpteenth set of songs – 2015’s MAKING LIFE RHYME {*6} – hit the Top 40. Once again, writing with her stalwart brother Billy (and a few others such as Jim Cregan and Richard Cardwell), her long-time critics were first to hold their hands up in the air on hearing her raspy-as-Rod renditions of JIMI HENDRIX’s `Angel’ (she’d introduced the feted guitar-slinger in January ’69 on his impromptu medley of `Hey Joe’ and `Sunshine Of Your Love’!) and the traditional folk anchor, `Wayfaring Stranger’.
© MC Strong/MCS 2002/GSM // rev-up MCS Aug2016

Share this Project

Leave a Comment