Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star,By Tracey Thorn, Virago, £16.99
She’s known as the baleful, emotive singer of Everything But the Girl, but when Tracey Thorn bought her first guitar, at 16, and joined a band, a career as a frontwoman seemed a distant dream. She was so shy that when her bandmates asked her to try out as their lead singer, she agreed – as long as she could sing from inside a wardrobe.
Bedsit Disco Queen is a witty, affecting and refreshingly self-aware pop memoir, telling the story of Thorn’s journey from postpunk fan girl to one of indieland’s best-loved singers of the 1980s, making “jazz-tinged soft-rock background music for bedwetters”, and then finding uncomfortable levels of global success in the 1990s through the Todd Terry remix of Missing.
While playing guitar and singing in the indie-girl group The Marine Girls, Thorn went to Hull University and met Ben Watt, who became her musical and life partner. The DIY ethic had taken hold, and there was a thriving cottage industry in self-financed singles and albums, self-promoted gigs, posters and fanzines. Just like today, really, but without the downloading.
Everything But the Girl seemed to embody the anti-popstar attitude of the times. They won plaudits with their first full-length album, Eden, but Thorn (above) found it increasingly hard to play the major-label game, and by the 1990s she felt that Everything But the Girl had lost their way. “Luckily, Ben decided to contract a life-threatening illness, and in doing so, saved us,” writes Thorn.
Watt’s rare immune-system disorder forced the duo to regroup – and rediscover their inner strengths. After his recovery they worked with renewed vigour, and had a few more years of success on their own terms – until Thorn jacked it all in after the birth of their twin girls.
She tells of chatting with other mums outside school, her anonymity broken only by the odd incident, such as her son hearing Missing in a shop and realising it was his mum singing, or George Michael stopping in his SUV to say hello.
You won’t find many tales of rock’n’ roll excess here, but Bedsit Disco Queen is a charming account of how an ordinary suburban girl became one of pop’s best-loved singers.