Twinkle: Whatever happened to the 'Terry' and 'Golden Lights' hitmaker?

26 October 2022, 16:34 | Updated: 2 November 2022, 08:50

Twinkle in the 1960s
Twinkle in the 1960s. Picture: Getty Images

By Mayer Nissim

Singer, songwriter, wife of the Milk Tray man and inspiration to Morrissey - whatever happened to Lynn 'Twinkle' Ripley?

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Lulu, Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Cilla Black... the UK certainly wasn't short of golden-voiced female singers in the 1960s.

Not all of them had long and successful careers. Some appeared in a flash, and disappeared almost as quickly in a blaze of glory.

One star that twinkled half as long but burned twice as bright was Lynn Ripley.

Known to the world as Twinkle, Lynn burst onto the scene with the massive 'Terry' and followed it up with 'Golden Lights', but faded from view almost as fast as she'd arrived.

So what happened to Twinkle? We take a look at the life and career of the sixties superstar.

Twinkle
Twinkle. Picture: Getty Images

Twinkle was born Lynn Annette Ripley on July 15, 1948 in Surbiton, Surrey.

She went to Queen's Gate School alongside a young woman named Camilla Shand who later became Camilla Parker Bowles, who later became the Duchess of Cornwall, who later became Queen Consort.

Twinkle wasn't a stage name, but was what Lynn's family called her from a young age.

Twinkle started piano lessons aged just three, and occasionally sang at local club Esmeralda’s Barn with its resident group The Trekkers.

Her sister Dawn James was a music journalist who wrote for teen mags like Mirabelle and Rave.

Dawn introduced Twinkle to Dec Cluskey of The Bachelors, and the two began to date. Dec passed on Twinkle's demo to his manager, and Twinkle was on her way.

Twinkle signed to Decca, home of The Rolling Stones, and her first single was the self-penned 'Terry'.

Twinkle
Twinkle. Picture: Getty Images

"When I told Daddy that I wanted to do this record, Mummy and Daddy said, 'Well, you must have your chance, but if it's not a hit you've got to promise us that you'll go to finishing school and do the deb [debutant] season and everything'," Twinkle remembered.

"Well, thank goodness it was a hit because I don't think I'd have made a great deb!"

A death disc with shades of The Shangri-La's classic 'Leader of the Pack', the song told the story of a girl whose beau dies tragically in a motorbike crash.

The session team on the recording was filled with major players, including Big Jim Sullivan, Jimmy Page (yes, that Jimmy Page) and Bobby Graham.

The then-ban-happy BBC weren't so keen on the dark lyrics ("He rode into the night, accelerated his motorbike I cried to him in fright, don't do it, don't do it, don't do it... Please wait at the gate of heaven for me, Terry") and refused to play it, as did ITV's Ready Steady Go.

But with pirate radio still very much leading the pop conversation at the time, it barely mattered.

Terry entered the charts in December 1964 at number 39 and rose to a peak of number four in the New Year, where it stayed for four weeks as part of a 15-week run in the Top 50.

The song was covered in French by Claude François on his 1965 Les Choses De La Maison EP while Mandy Smith attempted a version, too (more on that later).

'Terry' was the first and last time that Twinkle had a top ten hit, but she wasn't a total one-hit-wonder.

Her follow-up 'Golden Lights' was another song that she had written herself, and it peaked at number 21 during its five-week run 1965.

After that though, Twinkle blinked out of the charts altogether.

Ironically, Twinkle had all but predicted her fat in her second hit ("You made a record, they liked your singing / All of a sudden the phone stops ringing").

It's worth underlining here that while Twinkle's producer Tommy Scott had written the B-sides 'The Boy of My Dreams' and 'Ain't Nobody Home But Me' for her two singles it was Twinkle herself who wrote the winning A-sides.

Twinkle's Lonely Singing Doll EP led off off with a translation of Serge Gainsbourg's 'A Lonely Singing Doll', which had won that year's Eurovision Song Contest for France Gall.

It was rounded out with Twinkle's own 'Unhappy Boy' and the previously released two sides of the 'Golden Lights' single.

Twinkle then offered up 'Poor Old Johnny', another dark tale, this time of a friend-turned-criminal, but it was pushed back in favour of 'Tommy' by songwriters-for-hire Chip Taylor and Ted Daryll.

Neither charted. Nor did Twinkle's version of 'The End of the World', written by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee fir Skeeter Davis, or her take on PF Sloan and Steve Barri's 'What Am I Doing Here With You?'.

Suddenly, after just six singles – two hits and four flops – Twinkle supposedly retired from the studio altogether.

While that was the last of Twinkle as a chart-bothering star, her first "retirement" was relatively short-lived.

She wrote and recorded a single 'Micky' for the Instant label, produced by Mike d'Abo (he who fronted Manfred Mann and wrote 'Handbags and Gladrags' and 'Build Me Up Buttercup').

Unfortunately the single didn't get any publicity and disappeared without a trace.

Despite not having a record label, Twinkle continued to express herself through music.

She recorded a number of songs inspired by her past relationship with actor and model Michael Hannah.

Hannah tragically died in an air crash in 1974. Twinkle's tributes were later released under the name Michael Hannah: The Lost Years.

Despite the lasting impact of her relationship with Hannah, Twinkle in fact married another actor/model in 1972.

Graham Rogers (born Graham Wilson) was an in-demand model, maybe best known for taking over the role of the Milk Tray Man for one ad in 1992.

The couple had two children together, Amber and Michael. After that, it really did appear that Twinkle had vanished.

There was a one-off single 'Smoochie' recorded with her father (and long-term Tory councillor and GLC member) Sydney and released under the name Bill & Coo in 1975.

She covered The Monkees' 'I'm A Believer' in 1982 in a hi-NRG style and even went on the road in 1993, but with little fanfare or attention.

It seemed as though Twinkle could be forgotten, but her legacy was cemented via a pretty unlikely source.

As well as covering Cilla Black's 'Work is a Four-Letter Word', The Smiths also doffed their hat to the era with a reworking of 'Golden Lights'.

The song featured as a B-side on their hit 1986 single 'Ask', and later appeared on the band's Louder Than Bombs and The World Won't Listen compilations.

Less successfully, Mandy Smith recorded a cover of 'Terry' in 1987, which was intended to be her first single.

Twinkle in August 1966
Twinkle in August 1966. Picture: Getty Images

It was so poorly received it was pulled from release, only being made officially available on the 2009 reissue of her debut Mandy album.

Twinkle died on May 21, 2015 at her home on the Isle of Wight after a five-year battle with liver cancer. She was 66.

Her music and her image lives on – with two iconic photographs by David Wedgbury of Twinkle in her boots and peaked cap being part of the National Portrait Gallery collection.

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