Tracey Thorn has been with me all my life.
First, as the scratchy am-pop singer in The Marine Girls – glorious on their thrones as Cherry Red royalty.
Then, as plain old Tracey before her emergence with Ben Watt as Everything But the Girl (EBTG) where briefly they set the pop world alight with her Massive Attack collaboration on Protection and their subsequent EBTG smash hit ‘Missing’.
Post motherhood Tracey has reappeared in her own clothes again with a couple of excellent solo albums. In 2010 her song “Oh! The divorces” from the excellent “Love and its opposite” really moved me with its lament about the fact that all around her were seeing their marriages decay and crumble whilst she and Ben stood strong.
Always the ones the ones that you least expect
They seem so strong
It turned out she wanted more all along
And each time I hear who’s to part
I examine my heart
See how it stands
Wonder if it’s still in safe hands
And so, in this book she tells her story. A simple tale in many ways that chronologically unfolds, revealing her inner secrets (mostly demons and fears) drawn from her prodigious youthful diary-keeping.
We hear of her constant rebellion against things she seems not to fully grasp but feels she must rebel anyway.
But most poignantly we read of her love for lifelong partner, boyfriend and husband, Ben Watt. It’s the section of the book that deals with Ben’s almost life ending illness that grips you with the greatest strength and that primes the latter stages of Thorn’s career so far with her best and most compelling writing.
Throughout you hear “the voice” in the back of your head. She refers to it often. It’s alto strains being both its greatest strength and (to her, nobody else) its most limiting factor.
I don’t think you need to be an EBTG fan to enjoy this (but it certainly helps) because it’s an everyday tale of how ordinary people managed to carve out a close to 30 year moderately, and briefly spectacularly, successful recording career. She’s still at it is our Trace.
“Tracey we’ve been asked to support U2.” Ben tells her “Nah you’re all right.” is Tracey’s response (I paraphrase but it sums up her modesty.)
Bedsit Disco Queen will not win the Booker Prize, neither will it feature in Richard and Judy’s Book Club, but it’s a rare and delicious insight into the music industry unsullied by cynicism, not trying to put any “record straight.” It’s just a great story well told.
And it’s highly recommended.