Queens of Pop

Queens of Pop

Cilla, BBC 30 January 1968 to 17 April 1976

Dusty, series one, BBC May 1966; series two 1967
It Must Be Dusty, ITV, 1968
Decidedly Dusty, BBC 1969

The Sandie Shaw Supplement, BBC 10 September 1968 for 6 episodes

Happening for Lulu / Lulu, BBC two series, total 26 shows 1968-1969
It’s Lulu / Lulu , BBC 34 shows 1970-1973

In 2011, BBC4 showed an evening of “Queens of British Pop” in which they had exhumed late sixties and early seventies shows from Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield and Lulu. You forget that it was obligatory for all girl singers to have their own six-week TV shows immediately following their second hit. 

Harry H. Corbett, Cilla Black, Tom Jones, 1968

Cilla was the most successful in the format and ran for eight series, with Step Inside Love as her initial theme song. Cilla, in an A-line mini dress far too short to look either right or sexy, had to contend with what the old showbiz promoters who ran TV wanted. So after starting with Step Inside Love, and duetting with Georgie Fame, she sang Oh,You Are a Mucky Kid, then gave way to Tom Ward, a comedian in top hat, tails and cigarette, pretending to be a drunk, before coming back to announce Dusty Springfield. 

Dusty had black chiffon flares the size of tents, each leg bigger than a ballgown and flouncier, was draped in gold tassels, and sang a signature soul-influenced song, before proving (as everyone had to) that she could sing “seriously good” songs by doing  Second Time Around. Seriously good meant jazzy, middle aged, must have been done by Frank Sinatra,  with an Andy Williams version as a bonus point. 

Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield: Friendship

To add insult to injury, Dusty and Cilla then had to don dirty macs and duet on If You’re Ever (Friendship) as if they were Morecambe and Wise. This was to prove they were All Round Entertainers (caps).  Duets were compulsory on all such shows, and Friendship was in the top four choices with We’re A Couple of Swells, Sisters and Singin’ in The Rain.

Sisters got done every time there were two women. The duet on Cilla’s show was followed by two Goodies and a future Python doing an excruciatingly unfunny racist sketch about Japanese wrestlers. Then Cilla finished off with Going Out of My Head, hitting material suited to her for the first and only time in the entire evening. 

A further TV round-up took Definitely Dusty, Dusty Springfield’s show.

Such TV shows were why Cher still has far less “cred” in the USA than in the UK. We never saw the Sonny & Cher Show, nor her TV shows so we simply rate her as a singer.

Happening for Lulu

The most famous show was recorded on 4th January 1969 for broadcast on 11th January. The guest was Jimi Hendrix. The show was only Lulu’s second show and there are clips of what happened on YouTube. News had just come in that Cream were disbanding.

Mitch Mitchell: It was so straight it was only natural that we would try to combat that atmosphere by having a smoke in our dressing room. In our haste, the lump of hash got away and slipped down the sink drainpipe. Panic! We just couldn’t do this show straight–Lulu didn’t approve of smoking! She was then married to Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, whom I’d visited and shared a smoke with. I could always tell Lulu was due home when Maurice started throwing open all the windows. Anyway, I found a maintenance man and begged tools from him with the story of a lost ring. He was too helpful, offering to dismantle the drain for us. It took ages to dissuade him, but we succeeded in our task and had a great smoke.

After playing Voodoo Child they were supposed to play Hey Joe, the Jimi Hendrix Experience first hit.

Lulu: That was really hot. Yeah. Well ladies and gentlemen, in case you didn’t know, Jimi and the boys won in a big American magazine called Billboard the group of the year.
(Deafening feedback from Jimi’s amp.)
Lulu And they’re gonna sing for you now the song that absolutely made them in this country, and I’d love to hear them sing it: ‘Hey Joe.’
(Hendrix played a few bars of Hey Joe and stopped)
Jimi Hendrix We’d like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate a song to the Cream, regardless of what kind of group they may be in. We dedicate this to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.

According to Noel Redding’s account, Jimi deliberately sabotaged the show. Noel said in his autobiography and said in many interviews that they thought Lulu would join them on Hey Joe and wanted to stop her. He has said it was “planned” that she would join them.

Everyone connected said that Noel was wrong. The show and camera angles were meticulously worked out. There was no camera lined up for Lulu, and she had no record of joining guests. Lulu has said herself that she had never had any intention whatsoever of joining Jimi. I totally believe her.

Lulu It doesn’t matter where I go in the world. I will always get asked about that TV performance with Jimi. I’ll always be connected to him through that moment.

Noel was known as something of a bullshitter.

Noel Redding: This was fun for us, but producer Stanley Dorfman didn’t take it at all well as the minutes ticked by on his live show. Short of running onto the set to stop us or pulling the plug, there was nothing he could do. We played past the point where Lulu might have joined us, played through the time for talking at the end, played through Stanley tearing his hair, pointing to his watch and silently screaming at us. We played out the show. Afterwards, Dorfman refused to speak to us but the result is one of the most widely used bits of film we ever did. Certainly, it’s the most relaxed.

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