Lulu: I don't speak before 12 noon. I'm not lying

The singer Lulu
[Paul Chappells]
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Lulu is someone who likes to talk.

So much so that she wears a mobile phone (in a designer case) around her neck. Sir Elton FaceTimed her on that very device, shortly before the start of our interview, an interview which would run a full 15 minutes over our allotted slot, such were the length of Lulu's answers.

But then comes the revelation: "I don't speak before 12 noon. I can understand why you think I'm lying," she laughs. "But no. I'm very disciplined."

What she is referring to is her strict "on tour" regime, which means that she can't whisper, let alone shout, before midday on show days.

"I try not to come out of my room until 12. It makes it easier. I take care of my instrument. It allows me to sing."

However, after seven different decades on stage, this Saturday Lulu heads out on her last ever tour.

Lulu by a fire
An early example of Lulu attempting to relight her fire [BBC]

It is exactly 60 years since Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie swapped four names for four letters and became Lulu. Her debut single, Shout, took the 15-year-old out of her Glasgow tenement and into the charts.

Few singing careers have been so established by the very first word they ever recorded, but that war cry of "Weh-yeh-yeh-ell-ay-oh-ah-ellll" is still Lulu's defining moment.

And soon it is blasting out around the basement rehearsal room in London's Little Venice, where we meet. She is here to practise vocals with her sister Edwina, ahead of hitting the road for one last hurrah.

"To be honest with you, if when I was 15 years old and someone would have suggested I'd be doing a farewell tour when I'm 75, I'd have said 'You are having a laugh.'

"You almost need an army to go on the road and I don't want to do it like this anymore," explains Lulu, who had to cancel more than 30 dates of her 2023 UK tour, due to the lingering effects of long Covid.

Jennifer Saunders and Lulu in Absolutely Fabulous
In the BBC Comedy Absolutely Fabulous Eddie (played by Jennifer Saunders) explained her job by saying: "I PR things. People. Places. Concepts. Lulu." [BBC]

The tour is described by Lulu as a "celebration" which will feature all her best-known songs, and she has called the run of shows Champagne for Lulu after the line uttered by Eddie (Jennifer Saunders) in the episode of Absolutely Fabulous in which Lulu made a cameo.

The singer says she will be joined by "special friends".

Given the number of Take That concerts she has turned up at over the years to belt out Relight My Fire, it would be a major surprise if she has not been on the blower to Gary Barlow.

A sign of Lulu's longevity is that her number one single with Take That was 31 years ago, placing that event in the first half of her career.

"They were very, very, respectful is the word," reminisces Lulu.

"Because of course they were then in their teens and I was in my 40s. But I've had many reinventions in my life and that was a big one."

Bond, Bowie and Boom Bang-a-Bang

There have indeed been many Lulu landmarks over the last 60 years.

In 1967, she not only starred opposite Sidney Poitier in To Sir With Love, but sang the theme song, which topped the US charts, making her the first Scottish solo act to do so. In the decades since, Sheena Easton and Lewis Capaldi are the only Scottish-born singers to have managed this feat.

"Oh I love Lewis," beams Lulu. "And so does my grandson Teddy. Maybe you don't know just how much I really like you Lewis," she giggles, in a "would you like to duet with me?' manner.

Lulu with a Union Flag umbrella
When Lulu won Eurovision in 1969, she was part of a four-way tie with France, Netherlands and Spain [BBC]

Then in 1969 she would win Eurovision with Boom Bang-a-Bang, which is boom back-a-back in her set-list after years when she avoided playing it.

"As I say to my audience, I didn't choose the song, you did," she chortles, referring to how Boom Bang-a-Bang was selected from six tracks that she performed on her BBC TV show.

An interesting footnote - the tune which came dead last in the public vote was I Can't Go On written by two then unknowns called Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Roger Moore and Lulu
Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun starred Roger Moore, with Lulu singing the theme song [Getty Images]

Who is the only Eurovision winner to also do a Bond theme? That would be Lulu. In 1974 she pipped Alice Cooper to sing The Man with the Golden Gun.

She very much enjoys being part of Bond history and hopes that Christopher Nolan will direct one of the films in the future.

As for who should be the next Bond, Lulu's backing Jack Lowden, best known for Slow Horses and Dunkirk: "He's Scottish so it would take it a little bit back to Sean Connery."

The same year that she did Bond, Lulu returned to the charts with David Bowie. He produced, played saxophone and sang backing vocals on her version of The Man Who Sold the World.

David Bowie and Lulu
David Bowie with Lulu in 1973 [Mirrorpix/Getty Images]

"Bowie was a very special moment in my life," says Lulu wistfully.

"He made that single and we were going to do much more together. We had planned to do an album and I went to New York and did a couple of recordings.

"But David was on a certain trajectory in his life and he was over there and I was here doing my TV series and it didn't quite work out. Not that we didn't want it to."

Suddenly Lulu is apparently transported back to a recording studio in mid-70s New York, as she belts out the chorus to Can You Hear Me? from David Bowie's Young Americans album.

"That was one of the songs I did with him, and it disappeared. Lost in his management changeover. His whole life changed over at this point."

And so did Lulu's.

Life lessons with Lulu

Having spent her whole adult life in the limelight, I'm intrigued to know what Lulu believes she has learned about fame over the decades.

It turns out that this is a subject Lulu has given a lot of thought, including studying meditation for more than 40 years, reading "all the tomes, all the great religious philosophical books" and enlisting the help of a "great master" in her search for enlightenment.

"A lot of young people think that being famous is going to be the answer to all your dreams. Just to be famous is quite a difficult thing and not the answer.

"Fame is only what's on the outside. It seems like they're rich, got everything at their fingertips. That's not really what it's all about.

"It's very important to have an inner life, and take care of your inner life, which is giving yourself a break sometimes."

And has fame worked for her?

She takes to think before answering: "I am good at recovering from maybe a bad spell, a tough marriage."

Lulu marries the Bee Gee Maurice Gibb in Gerrards Cross
Lulu married Bee Gee Maurice Gibb in 1969 - their honeymoon was delayed as she was singing at Eurovision [Getty Images]

Lulu was first married at 20, to a 19-year-old Maurice Gibb from the Bee Gees. Police had to hold back the crowds at their wedding, but they divorced four years later. It would not be her only disappointment.

"I always wanted to have lots of children, I thought. And then when it came to it, I didn't. That was a heartbreak for me,"

Her second marriage to the hairstylist John Frieda did see the couple have a son, Jordan, who once played Prince William in a TV Movie.

What is clear is that Lulu has learned how to survive.

"You come through. And what I've trained myself to do is to look at what I've got and not so much what I don't have.

"I get down on my knees every morning and thank God for just being alive and for what I've got."

'My wish list'

Lulu is keen to emphasise she will continue to sing and record and that this is just her final tour.

She wants to do more acting, having recently starred alongside Diane Keaton in the film Arthur's Whisky and teamed up with Succession's Brian Cox for the finale of the Radio 4 comedy Bob Servant.

There is however one major goal, she still aims to achieve.

"I want to sing a duet with Rod Stewart, I've never sung with Rod. That's on my wish list."

David Furnish, Penny Lancaster, Lulu and Rod Stewart
"Lulu you think I'm sexy?" David Furnish, Penny Lancaster, Lulu and Rod Stewart attend the GQ Men Of The Year Awards in 2006 [Getty Images]

"I think it's weird it's never happened," she says with a degree of incredulity. "So, I've decided I may have to approach Rod at some point.

"He may not answer my call though," she laughs.

And, of course, as we all now know, Rod - if it is a Lulu show day, you will not be getting that call before noon.