The Peculiarly British Bedsit Disco Queen

isbn9781844088669-detailAfter last night’s event, I now have a vision of someone in their early thirties moving next door to Tracey Thorn. After six months their friends ask them about the neighbours.
‘Tracey and Ben, they’re really nice.’
‘What do they do?’
‘Dunno, really. I’ve never asked.’ And so the next time they meet, the neighbour asks what her what she does for a living.
‘I’m a musician’ she says
‘Anything I’ve heard of?’ asks the neighbour not really interested in music, expecting that she might play third violin in an orchestra occasionally.
‘Probably not, I was in a band called Everything But The Girl.’
‘Oh right, ok then’ the neighbour replies and moves the conversation on, only to Google it a few few hours later. ‘Oh f***!’ says the neighbour as the Google search comes back on screen.

Of course, everyone of the sixty odd people crammed into The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green knows who Tracey Thorn is and they’re all here tonight to hear her talk about her autobiography ‘Bedsit Disco Queen – How I grew up and tried to be a pop star’ which is a funny, candid and compelling account from childhood in Hertfordshire to becoming a Marine Girl, meeting her husband Ben Watt and how, as Everything But The Girl, they went on to make nine albums and sell nine million records (during the course of which Ben developed a life threatening illness), through to her semi retirement to raise a family and her first post EBTG solo album.
Tracey opens by reading a piece of the book about meeting and playing with Paul Weller. It’s funny and self deprecating but it’s an interesting passage about how we feel awkward when we meet our heroes (see later) but also how, even so early in their career, fellow musicians held EBTG in such high regard. The main act is an interview with rock critic Pete Paphides. It’s a fascinating interview covering her career, the history of British music and the pressures of the record industry.
A few times she uses the phrase ‘peculiarly British’ as she talks about situations such as touring where every meal is prepared for you, yet you crave for something different but are afraid to make a fuss for fear of offending anyone or being called a diva and how they reacted finding out that the laundry bill in the Fours Seasons in LA was more than the entire recording budget for their first album. If we were in America, there’d be whoops and cheers at the mention of Paul Weller, George Michael or Massive Attack. But it’s a book shop in North London and there’s just people listening quietly and respectfully as we British tend to do.
At the end of the evening, there’s a book signing and I take my place at the end of the queue. I ought to tell that I’ve loved her work ever since I first heard ‘Eden’ in 1984. I ought to say that ‘And I miss you (like the deserts miss the rain)’ from ‘Missing’ is perhaps the most perfect line from the most perfect song ever written about losing someone you really love or the fact that ‘Oh, The Divorces’ makes me well up ever time I hear it. But I don’t say any of  that because I’m peculiarly British too and saying that that would just make me look a complete idiot. So instead I say something inane. She smiles politely, signs my book and probably thinks I’m an idiot anyway. I have my excuse. I’m a fan and, despite all her down to earthness, she is and always will be the Bedsit Disco Queen.

Thanks to The Big Green Bookshop for putting on this event. Amazon run huge distribution warehouses and sell books alongside printer cartridges and garden furniture. Tim and Simon love books, run a bookstore, put on events for booklovers and and sell books. There’s a world of difference.

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