Lynsey de Paul

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Last update: 11/01/16

I first became aware of Lynsey de Paul’s songwriting talent when she co-wrote The Fortunes’ 1972 top ten hit “Storm in a Teacup.” The record sold an impressive three million copies, but would net her a mere £6,000 in royalties. “It was impossible not to get ripped off in the 70’s,” she told OK magazine in a 1996 interview.

When she eventually burst onto our television screens in her own right – all glam and lip gloss – she fired men’s imagination in much the same way as her predecessor Kathy kirby ten years earlier. A string of hit records would follow, yet by the time of her unexpected death in 2014 from a brain haemorrhage, she would leave an estate valued at only £1.8m, a rather modest amount for a perceived chart star. Punk had derailed her career in the late 70’s, although the Ivor Novello award winner would continue writing for television.

Abused in childhood by her father, and with a string of failed romances to her name, she appeared all too willing to discuss her private life to the nation’s press. If she was truly ‘hitting back’ at men – and there is evidence to suggest her motivation was not financial – then those interviews served merely to emphasise her personal qualities and shortcomings in equal measure.

An exceptionally pretty girl, she would make most women feel positively elephantine. Doll’s feet in sandals. Tight jeans and no hips, huge, china-blue eyes in a heart-shaped face framed by a cloud of naturally blonde hair that hung around her shoulders like a cape, she was a size six with the appearance of a size four, invariably looking younger than her years. Weight conscious in the extreme, she candidly admitted in a late 70’s interview that – “One pound on anyone else is like three pounds on me. I gain weight and I sit on it. Sometimes I fast for three days at a time. Today, all I’ve had was a bit of toast this morning.”

Author Bob Stanley paid a nice tribute to her musical talents at the time of her death.

De Paul never married despite a string of high profile romances. So called “relationship experts” maintain that a certain type of woman usually dates older and powerful men because deep down, she is actually looking for a father figure and not a partner whom she will want to marry someday. Maybe at first a man will be impressed that a younger woman finds him attractive, but after a while, he will realize that his special lady has issues that she needs to resolve if she wants to settle down with him. By her own admission, she had a difficult childhood. Growing up with an older brother, a violent property developer father following in the footsteps of his own father, and a mother who allowed her husband’s behaviour to continue unchecked, De Paul was often reflective about this period in her life;

“Instead of breaking the cycle, he continued it,” she once said. “When I hear people have had a happy childhood, I think: ‘How is that possible?’” Her father was “quite Victorian in his discipline,” meaning that “pop music was taboo” and listening to anything but Tchaikovsky and Beethoven strictly verboten. Indeed, she was encouraged to pursue a more formal classical musical training. By contrast, the synagogue the family belonged to was Liberal although, and by the age of 15 — and despite having a kiddush every Friday at home — she had stopped attending.
“I’ve always strongly acknowledged my Jewish roots,” she once admitted. “I just didn’t want to go to synagogue because I felt much of it was lip service and I wanted something with more integrity.”
De Paul’s miserable upbringing did however, have one advantage. “It made me hide away and develop my drawing and piano-playing skills.”

Another type perhaps ill suited for marriage is the woman who craves attention wherever she goes, and an individual who just can’t stand not having all eyes on her. She’ll do just about anything to get people to look at her whether it’s by her actions, her appearance or both. Men are often initially attracted by a partner who loves and commands attention, but being with someone who constantly needs to be in the spotlight is wearying. Lynsey once admitted that Ringo Starr had given her a fishing rod, because she was “always fishing for compliments.” She may well have found the gesture both amusing and discomforting in equal measure. In any event, the relationship was over in a matter of months.

A year before her unexpected death, she was reluctant to discuss her past romances yet if the truth be told, there was little she could have added; she’d said it all over previous years. Geoffrey Levy’s article for The Daily Mail at the time of her death recounts much of her personal life.

It’s fairly apparent that she was on a lifelong crusade to banish violent behaviour towards women, and in that respect she would have had my unstinting support. In 2007, De Paul would issue a self defence DVD for women, and the following link provides information on its contents.

It’s very apparent that such an upbringing had affected her attitude towards men. Unfortunately, it also didn’t do very much for her emotional compass. Spilling the beans to a sunday tabloid about an affair with Sean Connery – we can take it as read the relationship happened for the scot is a ferocious litigant – she would go on to dig a hole for herself.

‘I didn’t want to have an affair with him and I tried to keep our relationship platonic, but he pursued me relentlessly. He wasn’t my type at all because I’m not usually attracted to the macho type. ‘In the end I thought, ‘Why not?’ I didn’t know his wife, so I didn’t feel I was betraying her by having an affair.’

Dear God, please tell me she didn’t really mean that last comment, at least for her sake and certainly not for mine. As Levy so aptly puts it in his article – Perhaps if Lynsey de Paul had spent less time reminiscing openly about her lovers and more time reminding the world about her songs, she would have been fixed deeper into the consciousness of today’s music-buying public.

It gets worse. During location shooting for The Russia House,” Connery called her claiming he was only able to kiss his co-star, Michelle Pfeiffer, whilst thinking of her. It would have been better had she added a suitable coda to this revelation – “Aren’t men full of shit?!” perhaps – but she didn’t, and one can only hope she didn’t believe him. I doubt very much any man would have had a problem kissing a thirty year old Michelle Pfeiffer, least of all Connery himself. Suitably bored with her or threatened with an extremely expensive divorce by his wife (the latter scenario more plausible by half), the actor would dump her after five months and without a word of warning. Scorned, De Paul would readily admit – “I wasn’t aware of Sean’s violent side when I was with him, but I was quite horrified when I read that he had said it was OK to hit a woman. At the time, 49 MPs condemned him in the House of Commons and I couldn’t believe that a man I had once had feelings for could behave in such an irresponsible manner.” Having then admitted her emotional involvement with the man, she would go on to admit that “I immediately contacted him and invited him to donate some money to a home for battered women, which he wouldn’t do. So I did a kiss ‘n’ tell for money and I gave it to a women’s refuge in Chiswick, which kept it running for a year. Connery said that it was all right to hit a woman with an open-handed slap, and in that refuge there was a woman whose jaw was broken in five places from a slap. So, if he thinks that’s all right then I’m disgusted with him.” And so she clearly was, yet it’s unlikely the actor received a financial ‘invitation’ on the phone – rather more a ‘thinly veiled demand’ I would think – and unsurprisingly, he flatly refused. I cannot condone Connery’s openly expressed views – – but the whole incident, once again, would recycle a common theme in Lynsey’s life; flattery, ill considered involvement, regrets. “I was a stupid girl to become involved with him. I don’t think I was in love with him – I was just flattered by the full-on attention.” So during the course of a single interview, she would admit to ‘feelings’ for him, and then dismiss the affair as something quite inconsequential. She was also 47 at the time she met the actor, so describing herself as a ‘stupid girl’ was rather incongruous to say the least.

Furthermore, a susceptibility to flattery would steer her repeatedly into emotional cul-de-sacs. An interview she gave to the Mail in 2007 revealed five offers of marriage, including one from James Coburn who she revealed threatened her with violence – “It only happened once and I certainly made him regret it” – and another from Chas Chandler, bassist with The Animals. Information overload Lynsey.

Naturally, we can counterbalance much of this with testimonials from close friends. Her funeral took place in Hendon, north London, and was attended by some 200 mourners. Under the terms of her will, she donated organs which enabled three other nameless individuals to live. Paying tribute, Esther Rantzen called her “a renaissance woman.”

“She could do everything – she could sing, she could compose, she was an immensely talented artist,” she said. “She became a huge star but she was also a loyal and generous friend. It’s an absolutely tragic loss.”

In addtion to the PRS scholarship established in Lynsey’s memory to encourage fledgling female songwriters, she would also be fondly remembered by the organisation Compassion in World Farming. In addition to her regular appearances at events, she was interviewed about the organisation’s campaigns on both radio and television, and on one occasion would spend a long morning in Compassion’s human-sized battery cage in Covent Garden alongside Joanna Lumley and actor Christopher Timothy. This was clearly a woman who felt passionately for animals and decried the appalling suffering they too often endure at human hands.

Ultimately, in researching Lynsey’s life, there remains an all pervading sense of unfulfilled ambitions. Her management choices were regrettable, and when she subsequently parted company with Don Arden , he would cite her as “the biggest pain who ever walked the stage.” He later sued her for breach of contract, the protracted legal battle effectively putting an end to her performing career, and prompting an investigation into Arden’s management activities by the Radio 4 programme Checkpoint in 1978. Arden would die in 2007.

In her private life, there were five marriage proposals, yet she would remain single. Equally, she would never experience motherhood, whilst reportedly remaining close to her neices. “I don’t want to be in the position where I can’t just walk out of the relationship or ask a man to do the same,” Lynsey once admitted, before adding “I’m either nymphomaniac or nun.” Understanding what drove this teetotal, cat-loving, nonsmoking, white Mercedes-driving, vegetarian star to behave in such a manner is no easy task but all roads – in matters like these – lead back to the father. As well as hitting her, he would refer to his daughter as “Tube-Train nose.” – “It gave her such a complex, that she had three nose jobs,” her friend Compton Miller once admitted during her lifetime.

Recommended listening

Surprise (1973)

Available only on japanese import, this 2005 release combines the entire contents of Lynsey’s first completely self penned album with seven bonus tracks. Vinyl enthusiasts may still be able to track down the original LP at a more affordable price.

Originally issued in 1973, the album features her debut smash single “Sugar me,” and nine other high gloss confectionary compositions. Released on the MAM label, De Paul would interview her then stablemate Gilbert O’Sullivan years later on television, and in many ways, they were cut from the same introspective singer songwriter mould. The jazz flavoured “Water” remains the single that never was, and De Paul emphasises her versatility with unusual time signatures and reflective lyricism.

Drawing upon her training as an art student, Lynsey would begin her association with the music industry as an album sleeve designer, and her work is much in evidence on the LP’s gatefold sleeve.

It’s not music to change the world and it doesn’t profess to be, but Lynsey continues to provide inspiration for aspiring female songwriters, young Emma McGrath continuing her legacy as the first recipient of the De Paul PRS prize.

Taste me.......Don't waste me (1974)


Lynsey de Paul

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