The Topp Twins are New Zealand’s well-loved entertainers. Twin sisters with their own primetime TV Series and Movie, they are truly original and one of the few NZ acts which can undoubtedly be called a cultural institution.
Lynda and Jools Topp were born in Huntly in 1958 and grew up singing to the cows on the family dairy farm in Ruawaro (Waikato). They made their debut performance, “Walking in the Sunshine” with boaters and canes, at the tender age of five at a cousin’s 21st party.
The Twins’ rural upbringing explains their down-to-earthness and their appetite for country music.
After 16 years of rural isolation, the Twins joined the Territorial Army and quickly became the Vera Lynns of their battalion. After jumping train in Christchurch they began busking and playing in small cafes.
In 1977 they sang at the International Women’s Convention in Hamilton and became the darlings of the women’s movement with original songs like “Paradise” and “We’ll Fight For Our Freedom”. Now in their early twenties, with a guitar each and a highly original political repertoire, the Topp Twins moved to Auckland and soon developed a cult-following as buskers.
The Topp Twins came of age as performers in the early ’80s during the heady days of political protesting. They became ardent protestors leading marches for anti-apartheid, Nuclear-Free NZ, Maori land rights and the Homosexual Law Reform. As out lesbians since the late 70s (when the main press refused to print the word) the Topp Twins have always been visible and proud about their sexual identity. However, the Twins’ ability to relate to all kinds of people, and their gift for humour, has ensured that this is not an issue. Part of the Topp Twins’ phenomena is that is that they have successfully crossed from the fringes to the mainstream and are accepted for who they are.
During the eighties, with the help of the Students Arts Council, the Twins toured every corner of New Zealand, producing sell-out theatre shows based on their life-stories and laced with political satire. The best of the Twins’ stage shows were filmed for a Television Special for which they won several NZ Film & TV Awards including 1987 Entertainers of the Year, Best Entertainment Program and Best Original Music.
Highly successful tours to Canada, the States and Britain followed. They performed at music festivals alongside Billy Bragg, Lucinda Williams, Michelle Shocked and Hank Wangford, and enjoyed long-running theatre seasons in London and Edinburgh, which met with exceptional reviews and extended their following globally.
In 2004 the Topp Twins received the Queens Medal for Services to Entertainment and in 2008 was inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame.
A feature-length documentary about these Untouchable Girls was made with the assistance of the NZ Film Commission, and was released in 2009. They also have a comedy feature in development. It is set on a farm, and will no doubt bring these irrepressible gals full-circle.
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