British singer-songwriter Twinkle’s time under the, er, golden lights was all too brief, but the street-tough blonde left an indelible mark on 1960s British pop.
She was born Lynn Ripley on 15 July 1948 in wealthy Surbiton, Surrey (now part of London). Twinkle was a family nickname that she later adopted professionally.
She attended private school in wealthy South Kensington. By the age of 14 she was singing alongside the group The Trekkers at various London venues and had begun writing her own songs.
Her elder sister Dawn was a music journalist and, through her, Twinkle was introduced to many of the pop stars of the day. These included Dec Clusky of The Bachelors, who she began dating.
Clusky helped her land a recording deal, after Twinkle’s father gave him a demo tape over dinner at the Ripley family’s Surrey mansion one evening. On it was Twinkle singing the self-penned Terry, an elegy to a biker killed in a road accident.
Clusky gave the tape to his manager who called Twinkle and asked her to record it. After signing to Decca, the song was issued as a single. It shot to number four in the UK charts in December 1964, helped by a BBC ban due to its controversial lyrics. Her bratty vocals suited the song perfectly and the so-called ‘death disc’ is regarded as something of a classic – a British Leader of the pack, if you will.
Despite her well-heeled background, Twinkle had a swagger that owed more to the ballsy New York girl groups than to many of her British contemporaries. And unlike many of her chart rivals, she wrote the majority of her material.
Her follow up, Golden lights, issued in February 1965, was another composition by the diminutive blonde. Written after a trip to the English coastal resort of Blackpool to see The Bachelors play, it told the tale of a girl who lost her boyfriend after he found fame. It reached number 21 in the UK charts.
Decca bosses were disappointed. Looking to repeat the success of her debut, label bosses had Twinkle record another ‘name’ song. The result, Tommy, a cover of a song by American girl group Reparata and the Delrons, became her third UK release.
By this time, Decca had opted to launch the singer in continental Europe. Terry had been issued in France, and Twinkle re-recorded Tommy in German. Neither release sold sufficiently well to make a star of the singer, though Decca tried again in France with her next single.
The reason for that was obvious. Like many other European singers, Twinkle released a cover of France Gall’s excellent 1965 Eurovision song contest winner for Luxembourg, Poupée de cire, poupée de son. With new English lyrics, A lonely signing doll was released in the UK in May 1965. It failed to chart at the time but has since gone on to become regarded as one of her best recordings.
She appeared at NME magazine’s poll winners’ party that year, after getting her fan club secretary to rig the poll by sending in hundreds of votes for her.
However, subsequent 45s Poor old Johnny and The end of the world (a cover of the Skeeter Davis US hit) failed to chart.
Even the magnificent single What am I doing here with you – a kind of British 24 hours from Tulsa, issued in July 1966 – couldn’t end her run of flops.
Later that year, Twinkle officially retired from pop.
She carried on writing, however. In 1969, after a chance meeting with former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, she released Micky on the Immediate label. The song, written by Manfred Mann vocalist Mike d'Abo, looked set to become a hit – until the record label folded within a week of the single’s release.
Twinkle went on to become a TV theme and jingle writer in the 1970s. She made several further recordings of her own, including 1982’s I’m a believer, none of which was successful.
She died of cancer on 21 May 2015.
Follow the links to hear other singers’ versions of Twinkle songs
A lonely singing doll
France Gall: Poupée de cire, poupée de son
France Gall: Das war eine schöne Party
Karina: Muñeca de cera
Ain’t nobody home but me
Lita Torelló: Ven a casa
Chantal Goya: Dans la nuit
I need your hand in mine
Agnès Loti: Aujourd’hui c’est ta fête
Le Amiche: Terry
Our pick of the pops
A lonely singing doll
What am I doing here with you
Golden lights CD
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