Living with…Everything But The Girl…for a week

Tracey Thorn. Photo by Chris Boland / www.distantcloud.co.uk

Tracey Thorn. Photo by Chris Boland / http://www.distantcloud.co.uk

Book: Bedsit Disco Queen – How I Grew Up and Tried to be a Pop Star

I’d started harking back to my eighties memories at least a week ahead of everyone else. It wasn’t so much the death of a former Prime Minister that set me off, as the loan of a pop biography, Tracey Thorn’s Bedsit Disco Queen.   So not for me the memories of yuppies and battling miners, but deep meaningful chats in to the early hours to the strains of Each and Every One.

The book had been lurking in my background for a few weeks now as a must-read. I haven’t enjoyed many rock/pop biographies over the years – the only one that has really stood out has been Keith Richards’ brilliant Life – so I’m always slightly wary. But BDQ is told in the same style as an Everything But The Girl song, understated with quiet observations on life and love.  The wisdom of a few extra years, and a journey that has been in and out of stardom means that Tracey can reflect on all that gloss and sheen and see it in the light of the school gates.

In the tradition of no81bob’s world we have a list! So here are my top five favourite moments from Bedsit Disco Queen:

Starting a singing career from a wardrobe – Tracey Thorn has one of the most distinctive voices in pop so I suppose it’s reassurring for us mortals that it all started as a teenager with a performance from the inside of a wardrobe as she was too shy to perform in front of  her first band.  I’m assuming that the door was open.

We all loved Morrissey – in the early eighties days of EBTG Tracey confesses to being in love with Morrissey of The Smiths – his music, his wit, him.  Don’t worry Tracey, we all were.
George at the School Gates – In 2000 Tracey and her husband Ben dropped out of the world of pop music and immersed themselves in family life.  At times she felt she had become anonymous, just another mum, and maybe the others didn’t know who she was and maybe they did.  In true British reticence no one mentioned it.  On one occasion, there was no doubting she was someone different:

“I remember when the kids were very small standing outside school…waiting for the girls to come out.  I was with a group of mums, talking about teachers and playdates and school dinners, when suddenly a huge, gleaming Range Rover with black-tinted windows slowed as it is neared us and then pulled over to the side of the road.  The window whirred down and a voice called out, “Tracey!  Tracey!  Hi, how are you?”  In unison, all heads turned towards the car and the familar face that leaned out, the stubble and the sunglasses confirming the almost unbelievable fact that, yes, it was George Michael!”

Inappropriate childbirth soundtrack – as someone with the same priorities as me, Tracey’s main recollection of childbirth is the regret she had at not choosing the background music for the birth of her twins.  She doesn’t say what she would have chosen, and we can but speculate what is appropriate for the queen of trip hop but it certainly would not have been ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely?’ by Peter Sarstedt

Laughing at PG Wodehouse with Death at the door – one of the most moving part of the couple’s story is Ben’s extreme illness in the early nineties.  While he lies in hospital lurching from one medical crisis to another I love that Tracey is able to observe the simple escape with a PG Wodehouse book “gratefully losing myself for hours in the comforting world of stories where the worst disaster that could befall a young chap was the unexpected arrival for lunch of a fearsome aunt’.

There are numerous other vignettes throughout so I can heartily recommend it as a read for the journey of Britain’s most understated pop stars. It probably helps if you’re of a certain generation that grew up with Everything But The Girl.  And that you transformed your own tastes with them as they went through the years.

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Music: Like the Deserts Miss the Rain (collection 2002)

So it all started in a wardrobe.  That amazing voice.  Born of shyness but the desire to also have a go.

I dusted off this CD in my collection and walked around smiling.  That feeling of having refound an old dear friend.  And then I went and found Baby The Stars Shine Bright,  my favourite moment when that friend really went and let their hair down and as Tracey Thorn put it ‘absolutely barking’.  And then Walking Wounded…and that friend got all a bit trendy.  And then Home Movies…oh, you get the gist.  So many good times with that friend.  Evenings together either alone or with others.

So another list beckons I’m afraid.  Of top five EBTG song moments drawn from all the different places we visited this week.  Some are obvious but you may be surprised at number one!

1. Little Hitler

For some reason the last track on Baby The Stars Shine Bright will always be my favourite for the grand sweep of the music and the wonderful Morrissey-like lyrics.

Little Hitlers, little Hitlers
Grow up into big Hitlers
And look what they do

2. Missing

We ALL know this song as you couldn’t escape it for months.  I’d like to think that I recognised it’s potential on Amplified Heart before it had it’s makeover but it was just another great number from them at the time that took on a life of it’s own when someone got mixing.  As the Fun Boy Three adage goes – it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it. (having said that, the clip below  is the original version not the remix!)

3. The Only Living Boy in New York

So so simple and one of those occasions when the girl and boy harmony works so beautifully.  Probably the best of the videos as well.

4. Walking Wounded

I guess this is the moment when EBTG left their supposedly quiet personas behind to become cool and global and yet at the same time it is still them gently calling out over all that sophistication “Look at us!  Look at what we’ve done!”

5. Apron Strings

And finishing on what EBTG did so well, the poetic ballad which takes on different meanings for each person to their own.

Apron strings
Hanging empty crazy things
My body tells me
I want someone to tie to my
Apron strings

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