Oh me, oh my

There is a long-standing tradition in the Anglosphere of describing petite women in doll-like terms. As an example, I give you these paragraphs from British music writer Mike Crofts (Beat Instrumental):

Little Lulu is an impish 5’2″, and every inch, from her natural red hair to her size 3½ shoes, is packed with more energy than a Mars bar.

She’s the original wee Scots lass — who could doubt it with a name like Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie — and she has the aristocratic privilege of being born in a castle!

In the States, she’d wear a 4½, but no matter: things went differently for the young singer here than they did in the UK. At 15, she was signed to Decca and hit in early 1964 with a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” followed by a vaguely creepy version of Bert Berns’ “Here Comes the Night” (on YouTube, with an extremely creepy film clip) that predated, and if you ask me far surpasses, the 1965 version by Them featuring Van Morrison.

“Shout” staggered to #94 in Billboard, “Here Comes the Night” didn’t chart Stateside at all, and in 1966 Lulu switched to UK Columbia (Epic in the US) to work with producer Mickie Most. In 1967, she’d become a film star of sorts, appearing in, and recording the theme song to, the Sidney Poitier vehicle To Sir With Love, a box-office smash. “To Sir, with Love,” the song, owned the top of the US charts: Billboard named it the top pop single for all of 1967, and inevitably, London Records, the US outpost of Decca, reissued her early stuff on something called From Lulu… With Love, complete with the Mike Crofts liner notes sampled above.

From Lulu With Love - Parrot LP 61016

“To Sir, with Love,” the song, did not chart at all in the UK; it was relegated to the B-side of the “Let’s Pretend” single.

From this point on, she was never really gone, but never really a household word again, though she would chart in the States as late as 1982 and actually sang a theme for a James Bond film (The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974).

This past October, Lulu played her first London show in ten years. A review of the sold-out performance:

Repeatedly she returned to the theme of rediscovering the music that first inspired her. She’s one of those performers who loses herself in a song, and when she gets a chance to dig into something as organic and rich as Eric Clapton’s “Bell Bottom Blues,” incredible things happen. She is still in possession of one of the great voices of British popular music. If this really was a sounding board for Lulu to work out what she wants to do next, I am looking forward to the classic soul album that her voice really deserves.

And she can still work that “wee Scots lass” look, kinda sorta, at sixty-five:

Lulu in 2012

Our title, of course, comes from this 1969 hit:


  1. McGehee »

    2 November 2013 · 11:59 pm

    I remember unwillingly watching the movie, and that song was the one thing about it I liked and still remember (though of course I’ve heard it multiple times since then).

  2. Roger Green »

    3 November 2013 · 4:46 am

    I’ve had To Sir, With Love stuck in my head recently, specifically the insistent drumbeat on “If you wanted the moon” or “sky” part.

  3. Tatyana »

    3 November 2013 · 7:42 am

    To be a natural redhead and switch to a dirty blonde with botoxed cheeks? Oh my.

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