Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
The names of the people who made the soundtrack to the
1960s, keep appearing on the Reaper's dance-card. Last week it was
Lynn Annette Ripley, better known to some as Twinkle. Those papers
who managed to mention her untimely death at 66, usually refer to her
in the next breath as a one-hit-wonder. Twinkle was rather more than
At a casual glance you might say that she was an
archetypal mid-Sixties pop star.
A pretty statuesque blonde, with a sulky veneer, she
sang in winningly adenoidal estuarine fashion. As a stuttering,
ink-smudged thirteen year-old, I confess, I thought that she was
perfect, with all the distantly-attainable qualities of a
school-mate's big sister.
Twinkle came from a privileged background. Her father,
Sidney Ripley, a wealthy businessman was also leader of the
Conservative Group of the Greater London Council. The talented Miss
Ripley attended the private Queens Gate School in Kensington with one
Milla Shand later to become Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The two
girls did not get on. Twinkle wore 'way-out' clothes and wanted to be
a performer. Camilla wore twinsets and pearls and was a sword fencer
who liked hunting and shooting.
The young popstrel didn't like her school much either,
and reportedly smacked her headmistress in the face after being
reprimanded about her clothing. Her father then had to work very hard
to make her complete the term, before leaving so that she didn't bear
the stigma of expulsion on her cv.
At this point, another father with similar experience,
feels compelled to interject: But teenage daughters, hey readers?
Can't live with 'em not allowed to put them into some sort of
cryogenic pod until they morph back into reasonable human beings
again. My name's Martin Newell. Look, you've been great.
with such an attitude, Twinkle was destined for nowhere but pop
stardom. Her elder sister, Dawn, a journalist, had connections in
that world and by 16, Twinkle had her first single released. Terry
a doomed teenager anthem, in the mould of Tell
Laura I Love Her. The
synopsis of Terry
runs thus: Girl goes out with motorcycle bad boy. Girl has row with
bad boy. Bad boy roars angrily off into the night, crashes bike.
Dies. Amazingly, the record, which preceded the arguably more-famous
Shangrilas' hit Leader
of the Pack , catapulted
our bolshy teen queen into the charts in late 1964. This success was
aided substantially by the dependable old BBC, who immediately
banned it, thereby guaranteeing its immortality. Death, it seems,
even in the Swinging Sixties was still a big taboo. The row spread
further when there was a complaint in Parliament about the banned
disc. A few months later after the fuss subsided, it transpired that
the demon blonde was actually a lovely well-brought up girl from
leafy Surbiton. Despite her one-hit-wonder tag, Twinkle did have
one other minor chart success with the exquisite Golden
decades later The Smiths covered the song after Morrissey declared
himself to be a fan. There was reportedly some acrimony within the
band itself about the matter. Thus did Golden
to some diehard fans, become The Disc Which Split the Smiths.
Twinkle was thought of in certain quarters as the poor
little rich girl who crashed the pop charts. By the mid 1960s,
though, archaic British class barriers were breaking down, allowing
lupine urchins such as The Rolling Stones to hob-nob with
aristocrats. Equally, however, some traffic went the other way as a
few scions of the wealthy and well-bred ventured into the pop biz.
Pop music today retains this open-door policy, as the continued
presence of James Blunt, Florence Welch and one or two others
The one really extraordinary thing about Lynn Annette
Ripley, however the talent which set her far apart from
contemporaries such as Lulu, Dusty, Cilla and Sandie was that
she wrote her own songs, which she had been doing since she was very
the 1960s, if you were a British female pop singer, you generally
sang only what the chaps in charge ordered you to. In the more
egalitarian US they had Carole King, Carole Bayer Sager, Jackie de
Shannon and others. Here we only had Twinkle flying her lonely flag
for the girls. On the surface, she was a tough little cookie,
underneath though, she was less sure of herself. Fame being the
toxic substance it is, she retired from the pop business in 1967, a
veteran at all of 19 years of age. She made sporadic assaults on the
pop charts in years to come but with no major successes. A casual
listener might well receive the impression that Twinkle burnt out
early. Yet, there existed a mysterious lost album made in 1973.
Hannah the Lost Years was
a tribute to the beautiful male model with whom she fell hoplessly in
love but heartbreakingly, lost. She had a breakdown over the affair.
Shortly afterwards, in a tragic coda to the tale, Michael Hannah
perished in a plane crash in France. The tribute album she made to
him, produced by Mike D'Abo, is imperfect but its highlights are
moving, sometimes wonderfully so. The album lay in the vaults for
three decades before being released in limited amount in 2003. I have
a copy. You can't borrow it. RIP Twinkle. Never forgotten.