I remember: Lulu

Caroline Rees

Pop sensation Lulu, looks back over her life so far and recalls all the most memorable moments; from growing up in Glasgow to collaborations with the world's top singers

Lulu, 70, is famous for her teenage chart hit “Shout”, winning Eurovision and singing the Bond theme “The Man With The Golden Gun”. She reflects on growing up fast in a Glasgow tenement as “wee” Marie Lawrie, her “odd couple” collaboration with David Bowie and touring with Take That…

 

…My mother used to say I could sing before I could talk, which was exaggerating a bit. My father would carry me upright in his arms wrapped in a big tartan shawl and jiggle me, as he walked about the house singing. That was my destiny, right there. Even as a tiny girl, my voice was big. I would sing the latest pop songs with the attitude of a grown-up because I mimicked the singers.

Lulu as a baby

 

…My father worked in a meat market in Glasgow as an offal dresser. He would steal meat and sell it for extra money, and sometimes we’d give our neighbours the meat he brought home so we didn’t have to eat it all.

 

...We lived in a tenement building, with six flats or “hooses” up one staircase. I always felt slightly cold and damp and you could hear everything that went on through the walls. But I had tremendous fun climbing the wall at the back and always had bleeding knees or elbows.

 

…Winning singing contests. People would say to my mother: “You should put wee Marie up for that. She’s gonnae be famous one day.” It was over my head. I remember one competition where they gave me a big card with a number on. They kept calling number 13 and I just stood there. I didn’t know it was me; I was five years old. There was a roar of laughter, then the man had to put me on a chair because I couldn’t reach the microphone.

Lulu at school

 

...Being very distracted at school because I felt responsible for my family, being the eldest of four. My father had a drinking problem and my mother got depressed. She had been given away as a child so she was very needy of me. Anything that happened to the household, I did it. My father used to call me Mrs McClean. I was quick to pick things up. Because of that, when I became Lulu, my manager couldn’t get over how quickly I adjusted.

 

...I recorded "Shout" when I was 14. I’d heard a guy called Alex Harvey sing it in a club in Glasgow. He had pale white skin and was dressed in black leather. I was blown away; I had to put the song in my act. I was singing in clubs once or twice a week and one club put me in for a competition run by the Daily Express. All the record companies were looking for new talent, and I was one of the winners. One minute I was at school and the next I’d got a record in the charts. It was so surreal I don’t know if I was actually in my body. That Sixties revolution will never happen again—the fashion, the politics, the music—and I was right in the centre of it. I have worked with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder… The list is phenomenal.

 

...The Beatles happening. After my early devotion to black American music, I did a U-turn. The Beatles were cute as hell, they played music that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck—and they were influenced by the same people I liked. I can’t remember which was my first meeting with them but there’s a photograph that says it all. It shows me with a chubby, gleeful face sitting on a sofa between Paul McCartney and John Lennon. I look at that now and it makes me laugh and feel warm inside. When the Beatles were on Ready Steady Go, they picked “Shout” as their favourite record that week. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

Lulu Beatles

 

…Making the movie To Sir, With Love with Sidney Poitier. I wasn’t planning to be an actress so that came out of the blue after I met the director James Clavell when I was on tour. I felt like the outsider because they were all people from drama school so I quickly developed an English accent to be like them. Then the title song became the biggest record of the year on the Billboard chart.

 

...Doing Eurovision in 1969. When man set foot on the Moon, I got married to Maurice Gibb, I won the Eurovision Song Contest and I had my own television series. I was more interested in getting Aretha Franklin on my series to do a couple of songs. But the British public chose “Boom Bang-A-Bang” and I went to Eurovision. Four acts came joint first but “Boom Bang-A-Bang” was the only song that was a big hit. It’s unbelievable that Eurovision has since become such a cult.

 

...I have a son, Jordan, born in 1977, and there’s a sadness that I didn’t have more children but it’s because I think there is a sacrifice to make for wanting to continue to make music. Men have come and gone, but music is the passion in my life. That was the difference between myself and some of the other girls in the Sixties. Apart from Dusty Springfield, they didn’t feel like I did.

 

...Working with David Bowie, on “The Man Who Sold The World” was one of my many re-inventions. He spotted me, he liked me, he loved my voice. My brother gave me his first album and I was so impressed. I jumped at the opportunity. Bowie is a legend. Just saying that I’d worked with him makes people look at me differently. We were the odd couple to look at but when we got into the studio, it was a marriage.

 

...Acting in a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber called Song And Dance, which was new for me. I love a challenge. Sadly, after I’d rehearsed, I hurt my voice, which devastated me because I lost a part of my range. I had an operation on my vocal chords and the front pages said: “Lulu may never sing again”. I thought What do they know that I don’t? But I recovered and from then on went to different vocal coaches. I then did Guys And Dolls at the National Theatre. I also took over from Julie Walters in The Growing Pains Of Adrian Mole on television. When the director asked me, I thought, You’re having a laugh. But, actually, I got some of the best reviews of my career.

 

…I’ve studied eastern philosophy, meditation and yoga since 1984 to understand who I am and what I’m doing. When I read Baba Muktananda’s Where Are You Going?, I had a deep spiritual experience. Since then I have been to India many times to study with a guru there. It’s not just about doing a hot yoga class to get my body fit, it’s also about getting my mind settled and enlivening my spirit.

 

...My brother Billy pushing me into writing my own songs. My marriage to [hair stylist] John Frieda was over and I was very sad. I hadn’t made a record for seven or eight years and I wanted to reboot my career. We wrote Tina Turner’s “I Don’t Wanna Fight”, which was a hit all over the world and got a Grammy nomination. I’d written about what I’d been going through, but Tina said it was the story of her life. I only write if I have a project so I don’t really see myself as a songwriter.

 

…Recording with Take That. When I was back on the scene in the Nineties, their manager asked if I would record “Relight My Fire” with them. I thought it was a ridiculous idea because there was such a difference in age. But it was a number one and introduced me to a younger audience. I’ve recently toured with them. The boys and I didn’t want it to end, we were having so much fun. I had some pictures of the tour on Instagram and one of my girlfriends said: “Just stop it! Stop it now!”

 

...Being excited about my new tour. I actually feel I’m present, not like I was as a young person. I do it because I want to connect with my audience through music. People have so many problems today but you’re healed when you enjoy music. Over the years, I’ve done soul, dance music, rock ’n’ roll and pop and now I’m relating it to film and talking about the amazing people I’ve worked with. I’m fortunate; I get that.

 

The tour Lulu: On Fire continues [from September 17] until November 2. Visit luluofficial.com for more details


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