Even though I love music, I rarely seek out autobiographies or biographies about musicians. In fact, I don’t think I have read any books even vaguely related to music since starting this blog over eighteen months ago. However, I love love LOVE Tracey Thorn and was very excited to get hold of a copy of her memoir ‘Bedsit Disco Queen: How I grew up and tried to be a popstar’ at the library this week. If her writing was half as eloquent and understated as her songwriting, then I knew I would be in for a treat.
Although best known as one half of Everything But the Girl, Tracey Thorn has had a long and varied career as a solo artist, member of the Marine Girls and collaborator with musicians ranging from Paul Weller to Massive Attack. I first discovered her through a track on a Q magazine compilation CD called ‘Plain Sailing’ from her first mini solo album ‘A Distant Shore’ recorded in 1982 while she was still a student at the University of Hull. Here is a clip of Tracey singing a cover of The Velvet Underground’s ‘ Femme Fatale’.
‘Bedsit Disco Queen’ covers Thorn’s musical journey from discovering punk as a teenager in the late 1970s through to 2007 when she released her first solo album in 25 years. Through her own career experiences, the book offers an insightful look into the music industry in the 1980s and 1990s yet Thorn never wallows in the nostalgia in a self-indulgent way. Whether describing the successes or low points of her career, she is self-deprecating, modest and witty throughout. In particular, she writes thoughtfully about the place of women in the music industry and the general fickleness of the whole business.
Do you need to be a die hard Tracey Thorn fan to appreciate ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’? Not necessarily. Anyone with more than a passing interest in pop music would probably enjoy it and Thorn has a lot of interesting stories to tell. Overall, ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’ is a likeable and perceptive book about the highs and lows of a career in music. Highly recommended.