“If this remarkable lady is not big in ’79 I shall send my ears back for a new pair,” declared Smash Hits.
Her high-pitched warbling couldn’t have made a mark in any other era, and a penchant for Miss Havisham frocks and lace marked Lovich as a Goth prototype. But Lene wasn’t new – she’d ducked punk in 1977 to collaborate with French disco pioneer Cerrone on Supernature.
Born Lili Marlene Premilovich in Detroit to a Yugoslav father and an English war-bride mother, her family moved to Hull in the UK when she was 13.
While at art college in London in 1974 she joined The Diversions. Four singles and an album met with little success. She then caught the ear of London DJ Charlie Gillett who got her a contract with Stiff Records.
She stood out (even from the rest of the unusual Stiff crew) with her outlandish dress, coiffure and theatrical delivery, using her voice the same way as the sax she occasionally tooted.
1979’s quirky and jerky Lucky Number (a UK Top 3 hit single) brought her to the mainstream and enjoyed plenty of FM radio airplay in the US.
Lovich enjoyed further, albeit minor, hits with Say When (1979), Bird Song (1979) and New Toy (1981), and entered the album charts with Stateless (1978). Flex (1980) was cut from the same cloth as Stateless, though for the most part, the tunes were neither as spunky nor as carefree as before.
Subsequent releases fared less well and her 1982 single It’s You Only You (Mein Schmerz), provided Lovich with her final chart entry. Problems within Stiff undermined the progress of a singer who sadly failed to maintain her early promise.
A Mata Hari musical and collaborations with Nina Hagen failed to rescue her career.