British teen pop singer Twinkle existed in a world all her own, producing only a handful of singles in a relatively brief recording career. Yet her story would be mostly atypical of the era were it not for the fact that she wrote almost all of her own material, and that said material was often dark, depressing, and cynical, belying her sixteen years. Girl In A Million: The Complete Recordings collects all of those singles, as well as an unreleased album and other ephemera from her scattershot post-Sixties career.
Born Lynn Ripley in 1948, she lived a charmed life of privilege, attending the best boarding schools, and it was here where she first was egged on by her classmates to start singing. It didn’t hurt that her first boyfriend was a musician who also encouraged her to explore her musical talent, or that her sister Dawn was a notable music journalist. With such connections, it isn’t surprising that she landed a recording contract with Decca Records, and at 16 she released her debut single, “Terry.” Although the song is somewhat of a generic teen tragedy tale of a girl whose boyfriend dies in a motorcycle accident, it was an impressive first effort. Unfortunately, the subject matter caused a bit of controversy, and the song was banned—a fact that may have actually spurred the song to reach the Top Ten.
What followed next might not have been as big of a hit, but its legacy has made it her most well-regarded number. “Golden Lights” is a song wise beyond its years, a tale of a girl who watches as her boyfriend becomes a famous singer, and as a result he leaves her behind. It’s a most scathing indictment of fame and heartbreak. It also proved that the young Twinkle was muchwiser than her young age would lead you to believe, especially in an era where young men were suddenly becoming both superstars and sex symbols. Her heartbreak is palpable, while her condemnation of her former paramour is quite damning. (Unsurprisingly, its cynicism would be revisited in the 1980s by another reluctant pop star, Morrissey, who would praise Twinkle by covering the song with his band The Smiths.)
One would think that such a startling number would be the entrée to a well-regarded singing career, but alas, it was not to be. The following single, “Tommy,” was good, but it followed much in the same manner as its predecessors, and the rest of her output for Decca simply sounded unremarkable. A cover of “The End Of The World” was fine, but it paled in comparison to the Skeeter Davis version. When her contract with Decca came to an end in 1966, she declared her retirement from the music industry at the ripe old age of 18.
But even though she did not maintain a musical career, the flight of fancy never quite left. Music was to be a dalliance, a whim for a young woman who lived a charmed life of privilege, one for whom a singing career was not a necessity. Some of those moments are quite fine—her 1969 single, “Mickey,” was a fun slice of soulful pop—not unlike Elton John or Carole King—and her ballads “Days” and the previously unreleased 1971 recording “Take The Trouble” were also fine efforts. If they suffered from anything, it’s from underwhelming production, as if the desire to record was more important than commercial considerations. To that end, she would record an unreleased album, a concept of sorts to a former boyfriend, Michael Hannah, a working-class lad who became a male model yet died tragically in an airliner crash in 1974. It’s a stark, haunting work, even if its subject matter and its songs feel a little too inside for the regular listener to fully appreciate or understand. Then there was the novelty single recorded with her father as Bill & Coo, while a 1981 cover of “I’m A Believer” attempted to connect her with New Wave—to no avail.
But she probably didn’t mind. She had finally found love, and seemed content to raise her family and enjoy a simpler life outside of the confines of the spotlight, living quietly until passing away in 2015. She could have been a contender, as Girl In A Million shows; nothing on here is terrible and much of it is quite promising. But did she want it? Only she knew.
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