https://www.theguardian.com-‘On stage, I often say I have angels on my shoulders. I know I’m lucky.’
As told to Dave Simpson
The stentorian Scottish pop singer, actor and TV staple answers your queries about Eurovision glory, nibbling biscuits with the Who, and flying high with Take That
I was watching Ready Steady Go! when the Beatles said that Shout was their favourite song. Do you remember that moment? RobertWinchester49
When Ready Steady Go! went out, the streets would be empty because the whole country was watching. I was like every other 15-year-old girl – obsessed with the Beatles. So for John and Paul to say Shout was their favourite record released that week was phenomenal. They were revolutionising the world, so it didn’t get any better than their recommendation. I can thank the Beatles for kickstarting my career.
Was winning Eurovision an experience you enjoyed? DutchMarianne
It was terrifying because you were in the lap of the gods. Four countries got the same number of votes [and were declared joint winners]. Boom Bang-a-Bang was the only song that became a hit, but to be honest there was a song [in contention to be the UK entry] written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin that I preferred. But I’m very grateful. I always say to audiences: “Thank God you chose the song, not me, because we would have probably lost!”
Did you enjoy working with Sidney Poitier on To Sir, With Love? Garyrob
I was on tour with the Beach Boys when [director-screenwriter] James Clavell came to see me. When he said I’d need to change my hair colour, I thought: “What a pompous ass!” I was a pop star with a hit single, on tour with the Beach Boys, so who did he think he was talking to? I think my indignant expression got me the part, because he wanted someone like that, a cheeky young miss.
I was overwhelmed by Sidney. He was tall and presented taller. He was refined, educated; an intellectual who read newspapers from around the world. And a big movie star. Not the sort of person I was used to hanging out with! People say they cried when my character sang [the title track] to him. He was so clever in choosing the parts he played. At that point in time, Black men in films were usually servants or lower class. But as teacher Mark Thackeray he was middle class, educated and kind. He was very generous to me, and as I grew up we became friends and stayed in touch for decades. Not so much towards the end, which is always a regret.
When Jimi Hendrix went off-piste on your TV show [Happening For Lulu, 1969], what were you thinking? EricPodler
I was in disbelief. He’d just heard that Cream had split up, so broke off his song to launch into Sunshine of Your Love in tribute. The floor manager’s face went crimson, because in his earpiece he had the director screaming: “What’s going on?!” Afterwards, Jimi went: “Lu, I’m sorry if …” Because he knew it would be controversial and he probably delighted in that, in a way. Ridiculously, the BBC then banned him, which meant we’re still talking about it today.
You were the perfect choice for Take That’s cover of [Dan Hartman’s] Relight My Fire. What was your best memory of that time – and do you keep in contact? 1Mercedes
Their manager, Nigel Martin-Smith, suggested me. The record company had other ideas, so the boys had to fight my corner, but it took us all to a different audience. I think Jason [Orange] is off the grid, but the boys keep in touch with him and I absolutely keep in touch with Gary, Mark, Howard and occasionally Robbie. I think of them as extended family and there are a lot of great memories. One is being on a plane with them when we were on tour, and Gary grabbing the mic in the cockpit as if he were banging it at a club in the Midlands. “Hello, hello …” – we were in hysterics the whole journey.
What was your reaction when you found out you’d be singing on a Bond movie? 25aubrey
I thought Shirley [Bassey] had nailed that avenue and there was no room for anyone else. I’d always thought [composer] John Barry was so stylish, so cool, and I knew his arrangements before I even knew the words. So when they came to me for The Man With the Golden Gun, I thought: “Blimey, are you having a laugh?” To be part of the Bond family is an amazing credit to have.
I first heard The Man Who Sold the World in your glorious version. What inspired you to cover David Bowie’s song? Flashbleu
I first met him in a studio in the US with Iggy Pop. Later, he walked over to me in the foyer of a hotel in Sheffield, invited me to his show that night and said: “I wanna make a hit record with you.” Which is exactly what happened. The record company wanted me to be a little pop diva but he said: “They don’t get your voice.” I loved Hunky Dory and he looked as if he hadn’t wiped his makeup off from the day before. His hair was orange, his skin was alabaster. Once we’d had something to drink we were head-to-head, nose-to-nose for the rest of the evening.
Were there any more Bowie songs you covered that have never been released? NickyYoung
I’m aware of two – Dodo [an outtake from the Diamond Dogs sessions] and Can You Hear Me [from Young Americans]. There may have been another that I can’t remember, because it was quite a difficult time. He was doing Young Americans and involved in a lot of dark things. I was a little bit frightened and kinda ran. I don’t have many regrets but there is a part of me that thinks: “What if the relationship would have continued?” I’m a very private person, and most people only know a piece of me, but Bowie got me.
After Bowie’s last gig as Ziggy Stardust, he decamped to the Hotel Café Royal along with yourself, Mick Jagger and Lou Reed. Any memories of that evening or that mix of people? RobVincent
They say if you can remember it you weren’t having fun. And I don’t remember much of it! I remember Mick being happy I was working with Bowie. I’d first met him when I was 15 and we were both on Decca. The Stones would pat me on the head, like I was a little sister, which always annoyed me because I wanted to be their equal.
I really enjoyed I Don’t Wanna Fight, the song you wrote for Tina Turner, which was in the movie What’s Love Got to Do With It. What was the influence behind that song? Martinnew
I wrote it with my brother [Billy Lawrie], who’s a full-time songwriter. I’m a part-time songwriter. But he is very good at getting to the essence of what I’m trying to say. The inspiration was the breakup of my marriage. It was Sade who got the song to Tina. God bless her. I owe her one.
Is it true that you took Pete Townshend round to your folks’ house in Glasgow for tea and biscuits? kaipahead
It wasn’t just Pete, it was at least Pete and Roger [Daltrey]. It may even have been the whole band, and my parents’ flat was very small. The Who supported me in Glasgow when they were the High Numbers, but it wasn’t tea and biscuits. My dad was a big drinker, so he sent out for half a bottle of whisky and six cans of lager. I still bump into Roger. Nothing can replicate the history you’ve got with people from when you were young.
Do you have fond memories of performing as a Piece of Cake on ITV’s The Masked Singer? VerulamiumParkRanger
To be honest, there was a big build up to a big nothing, because I watched the show with my grandchildren and I was on and off in a few seconds. For God’s sake! But the whole thing about that show is getting into those outfits – and being inside the cake was a lot of fun. It felt like being in a tube for an MRI scan. You could never do it if you were claustrophobic. So it wasn’t easy, but it was fun.
Did your appearances in Absolutely Fabulous derive from your name being a punchline for Jennifer Saunders? Mikeybirdzis1234
It was the other way round. I became good friends with Ade Edmondson, Robbie Coltrane, Ben Elton and all those new wave comics when I was in Guys and Dolls. Then I met Jennifer through Dawn French. Jennifer came up with the line “Champagne for Lulu!” She can ad lib like nobody else. She’s spontaneous.
What can we expect from the tour? Jade99
I did a 32-date tour last year, which was kinda gruelling. I’m 75 this year, so I’ve decided that Champagne for Lulu will be my farewell tour. I’ll still do shows, just not tours. At this point in my life it has to be a career-spanning setlist, but the surprise guests make it a bit exciting and there’s some stuff I haven’t done for a very long time. Even if you’ve seen me before, you won’t have seen me like this before.
What’s your secret to looking eternally young? bobbinstoo
Onstage, I often say: “I have angels on my shoulders.” The audience kinda laugh but I know I’m lucky. I do not feel like a 75-year-old in the slightest and I don’t want be a couch potato. I do take care of myself … vitamins, drinking water. I’ve got to start exercising again and I’ve been off sugar for eight weeks – but I fell off the wagon and had a bar of chocolate.
Lulu’s Champagne for Lulu tour starts at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 9 April. luluofficial.com