This night, a middle-aged and older crowd found itself returned to the halcyon days of yore, when they tore up the dance floor with the Frug, Freddie and Watusi, due to a wondrous spell cast upon them by the musical shaman on stage, the one and only Lulu.
Her cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” of course, was her first (U.K.) hit, peaking at No. 7 in 1964 – when she was 15 years of age. Her innate talent and effervescent personality quickly led to a co-hosting gig on Gadzooks! It’s the In-Crowd, a teen-themed TV music show, and thus was born a U.K.-centric career. She hosted a succession of variety shows and one-off specials, and scored a succession of hits, including Top 10 songs in five decades.
Fifty+ years on, her voice sounds remarkably the same as it did on that long-ago single. In fact, at her best then and now – such as with “Oh Me, Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)” – she blends equal measures of R&B, soul and pop into a delectable dish –
That Jim Doris-penned song was one she brought with her on her sojourn to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1969 to record her New Routes album, a flawed masterpiece. (It and the following year’s Melody Fair, along with various singles and outtakes, are available on the more-than-worthwhile Atco Sessions: 1969-72 collection.) It was one of few songs that did better in the U.S., where it reached No. 22, than in the U.K. – and would be her last single to chart here until 1981, when she reached No. 18 with one of the night’s other highlights, “I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do).”
Anyway, that’s a lot of backstory to lead into this: Now 68, Lulu is undertaking what she should have done way back in 1967 – her first headlining tour of America. I pinpoint 1967 because, of course, that’s when the title tune to the iconic film To Sir With Love topped the Billboard charts for five weeks (on its way to being the No. 1 single for the year).
During the show, she mentioned how the record company actually relegated the song to the b-side of the Neil Diamond-penned “The Boat That I Row”; if not for American deejays, who back then held much sway over what made air, flipping the 45, the song never would have become iconic. Imagine that!
Other highlights included her tribute to David Bowie with “The Man Who Sold the World,” which she released as a single (produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson) in 1974; and her recollection of being in the studio with (ex-husband) Maurice Gibb and the Bee Gees when they wrote and recorded several classic songs. Fast forward to 6:33 of this fan’s highlight-like reel of the show for part of that:
Obviously, everyone in attendance expected to be entertained – it’s why we bought tickets to the show, after all. It was to be a fun night out. But the common refrain I heard from those around us while we left the theater and made our way to the parking lot was that “she was even better than I hoped.” Or, as Diane told a friend on the phone moments ago, “She was incredible. Unbelievable.” I’d second that.
- The Boat That I Row
- The Man Who Sold the World
- Poison Kiss
- I Don’t Wanna Fight
- Run to Me
- To Love Somebody
- I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You
- Unchain My Heart
- Wait for Me
- The Man With the Golden Gun
- I Could Never Miss You
- Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)
- Rock Steady
- Hound Dog
- To Sir With Love
- I Can’t Turn You Loose