“I didn’t have an image made up for me by a publicity department. All you saw was what I was. I’m very rebellious, and I was terrible anxious to get in with the fast crowd.”
Some people we think of as being perpetually young, because that’s the sole image we have of them, so it was particularly jarring for me to read about the passing of “Twinkle” at the Ugly Things website over the weekend. She died a few months back, May 21 to be exact, of cancer.
Lynn “Twinkle” Ripley, better known simply as “Twinkle,” was a pretty, blonde, green-eyed teenaged pop star of mid-60s Britain who never really crossed over to U.S. popularity. Her father was a wealthy Tory MP and her older sister, Dawn James, was a well-connected music journalist. She attended the same posh girls school as Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and the Redgrave sisters. She insisted from the age of six that she was going to be a pop star. Her biggest hit was “Terry,” a sappy, maudlin song she wrote herself. “Terry” tells the tale of an ill-fated motorcycle ride and slightly predates “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las. It’s sung like a very flat Leslie Gore. Twinkle was not blessed in the voice department, clearly.
“Terry” was not based on a true story, but the fact that it was written by teenaged girl (and not a male songwriter channeling one) makes it all the more charming. None other than Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page was a session musician on the track. The song reached #4 in the British record charts around Christmas of 1964 despite being banned from BBC radio airplay (and TV’s Ready, Steady, Go) because it was considered in “poor taste.” It’s kind of odd today to consider that when the song was banned, it was being called “sick” and “dangerous drivel” by Lord Ted Willis. Pirate station Radio Caroline continued to play the record.
Her next song, “Golden Lights,” about being the girlfriend of a pop star (she was, Dec Cluskey of The Bachelors was her then steady) was even better, but reached only #20 on the charts. (“Golden Lights” was later covered by The Smiths and is included in their Louder Than Bombs compilation). Although she appeared on package tours with The Rolling Stones, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders and Herman’s Hermits (Peter Noone became her boyfriend for a while), she never really made it and “retired” from the pop world before she turned 18. She later went on to write TV themes and commercial jingles for ATV Music, recording and performing sporadically throughout the decades. Her later life was primarily devoted to campaigning for animal-rights.
Below, a clip of her biggest hit, “Terry”:
“The Boy of My Dreams”