18 May 2017

Tracey Thorn: Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to be a Pop Star (2013)

The title of this book says it all, really: a girl grows up in the bland Brookmans Park not too far (but certainly far enough away) from the London music scene, goes to Hull University (which doesn't seem quite so dull as Philip Larkin's) and gains a first in English, and goes on make music but ends up turning down the unthinkable: a tour with U2, which would have brought her unimaginable fame and riches.

Tracey Thorn was in her teens one of the Marine Girls, a post-punk girl outfit active from 1980 to 1983. But although that group broke Thorn's shyness it is of course the (she admits rather gauchely-named duo Everything But The Girl (EBTG) (active 1982–2000)), which she formed after meeting Ben Watt when they both attended the University of Hull, for which she is most remembered. They were the darlings of the indie world, frequently represented (sometimes on the front page) of the NME, the bible of the bedsit king (or queen)dom.

Platonically (of course) Tracey Thorn loved Morrissey, wanted to be him, and he of course is written into EBTG's music for anyone who fancies trainspotting. This book is a kind of history not just of EBTG but a history of the 1980s music scene, and although Thorn comes on as to a certain extent apolitical, left-wing at the time was of course a default from which you really couldn't even attempt to argue your way out of, even if you wanted to.

A refreshing book, an occasionally so honest as to verge on the embarrassing book, a joy to read, an incidental hymn to an in so many ways distant era, but glorious. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt are still very much a couple, although musically they pursue their separate paths.

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