Bedsit Disco Queen: How I grew up and tried to be a pop star, Tracey Thorn

My brother was really into Everything but the Girl, and everything he was into, I was also subjected to, mostly – in our teenage years – because he had a record player in his bedroom which was somehow wired into my bedroom, so every time he put a record on, I’d have to listen to it, too. I suffered through every musical phase he ever went through: from electro pop to Ska to heavy metal to punk to soul to Gothic rock, and back again. And the thing was, I gradually came to love all his records. He had pretty good taste. We do a lot of reminiscing these days about music.

One of the things we reminisce about is a family holiday we spent in Brittany and how Everything but the Girl was the soundtrack to that holiday: the windy sun-scorched beaches, the barbecues behind our picturesque gite and the long, TV-free evenings where a tragic, sixteen-year-old me pined in a really satisfactory way for an unsuitable boy I’d met in the Smash Hits ‘pen pal’ section. Everything but the Girl, which my brother played endlessly, was a perfect accompaniment to my teen dreaming – the melancholic, lilting and wistful nature of their songs providing the perfect foil to my own delicious malcontent.

My brother’s been talking about lead singer Tracey Thorn’s autobiography Bedsit Disco Queen for ages. ‘You’ve got to read it,’ he said. ‘It’s great,’ and, following him, just as I did back then (he has good taste, after all), I finally read this book.

This is a really fascinating read. Tracey talks about how she first got in a band at sixteen, as a guitar player, then became part of an all-girl band, The Marine Girls, a year later (my brother was also into The Marine Girls, of course) – gradually realising she could sing (and what a voice!) and sharing the vocals with one of the other girls . How she met the other half of the band, Ben Watt, at Hull university and pretty much moved straight in with him. How they became Everything but the Girl and enjoyed success while she was still doing her degree. How she slotted into the 80s music scene but never really felt part of it. How the journey of a band is not linear, but a winding road with ups and downs, full of stops and starts and, often, surprises (for example, the success of the single, ‘Missing’.).

Tracey has a very dry sense of humour which I adore, and drolly gives a wry punchline to many a funny story. (Look out for the George Michael anecdote which I loved!) As a feminist woman in a male-dominated music industry she has a brilliant slant on things, to how her first band The Marine Girls were treated, to hair and clothes and awkwardness and how to carry herself, as a pop star, to motherhood and love and writing and performing and how everything in her life informed her art and vice versa.

I read this so quickly and was really engrossed. I loved the writing style and wanted more. Luckily, Tracey has written two other books: Naked at the Albert Hall and Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia that I will also be reading… before my brother has a chance to.

*Next memoir: Educated, Tara Westover. *

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