In the five decades since my hit Shout topped the charts, I’ve been able to visit much of the globe. I thought I had seen the very best destinations, but then I discovered the Maldives.
Touching down in the capital, Male, was as if I had reached the pinnacle of all my travels, because if you want peace and luxury, I cannot think of a better place.
I had certainly come a very long way since, at the age of 15, I became the first person in my family to fly when I went down to London to sign a recording contract. Where I was brought up – in Dennistoun, Glasgow – nobody had ever been anywhere by plane.
From about the age of five, my parents would take us on summer holidays to either Rothesay Bay on the Isle of Bute or Blackpool. But when I became successful, I started crossing continents in earnest. I’ve been all over Europe and America, as well as Australia and New Zealand, Malaysia and Japan.
I remember going there with the Bee Gees and, while they were singing, the crowd started chanting my name: ‘We want Ruru! We want Ruru!’ My manager, Marion Massey, always said she was amazed how I adapted to wherever I went.
She was an enormously sophisticated woman, not like anyone I’d ever met before, and she taught me everything I knew. I was bowled over that a maid would open her door – I came from a tenement in Glasgow.
I was as fascinated with her as she was with me. She was a trained coloratura soprano. We were from different planets. She travelled everywhere with me. She was my ally, my guide, my surrogate mother. She was the one who chose my name. One day, she said: ‘You know, they have an expression in America. They might describe someone as a real lulu of a kid, someone who’s really special.’ And that’s how I became Lulu.
At first, I simply couldn’t believe the luxury, especially on long-haul flights. I first went to New York to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967 when I was 18. My recording of To Sir, With Love was No 1 for five weeks. My first flight to the States, I remember, was with TWA. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The stewardess appeared with caviar, shortly followed by a chef who carved roast beef at my seat. It was like being in one of the top restaurants in London – L’Etoile or Simpson’s.
After my first appearance on TV’s Ready, Steady, Go! we went to San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge and we bumped into the singer Bobby Darin. Now, instead of excitement, I experience a sense of relief and release when I step on to a plane for a long journey. You can’t go anywhere else. No one can reach you by phone. I like that.
But the older I get, the more exhausting I find it. I remember I was in the South of France where I was performing at the Midem Festival when I met Maurice Gibb. I was on a humongous yacht owned by my record producer Mickie Most and his wife Chris. I ate steak tartare for the first time accompanied by chips dipped into aioli mayonnaise. I said: ‘But this meat’s raw.’ I was assured it was fine but told that I should only ever eat it in the South of France.
I was standing on the deck drinking cocktails after the meal and down La Croisette came the impresario Robert Stigwood and the Bee Gees. I think I’d met them once before and it quickly became apparent that Maurice liked me. I’d been going out with a boy called Alex Bell, who was in my backing group, The Luvvers. But when we split up, Maurice and I got together. We married when he was 19 and I was 20.
I’d been to Ibiza a few times with Maurice and his brother Barry and his wife, Linda, who comes from just outside Edinburgh and who became a lifelong friend. Barry and Maurice’s parents, Hughie and Barbara, had a house on Ibiza and they wanted their sons to buy one there, too. But they didn’t fancy it. I said: ‘Oh, all right, I’ll buy one.’
Full Story can be found in The Daily Mail
Lulu was talking to Richard Barber
Pictures By Alan Olley
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