Bedsit Disco Queen, By Tracey Thorn Virago £16.99

The reluctant pop star who came out of the wardrobe

If Tracey Thorn were starting out in music today, she wouldn't stand a chance. This isn't meant as an insult. It's simply that, despite having maintained a career for the best part of 30 years, and enjoyed a fistful of hits as the singer of Everything But the Girl alongside her boyfriend and musical partner Ben Watt, Thorn doesn't really do the pop star thing. As she says in her memoir: "It (has) always been a strange thing for me to be doing, a job I wasn't really cut out for."

Self-aware and seemingly devoid of ego, Thorn is about as far removed from typical notions of a successful singer as it's possible to get. Which makes her ideal to report on the pop star experience, and the ever-shifting landscape of the British music scene of the Eighties and Nineties. Her role is that of a skeptical outsider with an access-all-areas pass.

If there's one moment in Bedsit Disco Queen that fully conveys Thorn's lack of ambition and indifference to fame, it's her recollection of the time in 1997, while staying in the penthouse suite in a luxury hotel in Australia, when Watt picked up the phone to U2's manager who was offering the support slot for the band's US stadium tour. "Should we do it, or what?" he asked, covering the receiver with his hand.

"Actually babe, d'you know what?" Thorn replied. "I think I want to stop now."

Her story begins in Brookmans Park, a village some 20 miles north of London, where a terminally shy 16-year-old auditioned for her first band from inside a wardrobe. (Thorn wasn't keen on being looked at.)

Two years later, with her stage fright tamed if not vanquished, she and a school friend formed the indie-punk duo Marine Girls, recorded their debut LP in a garden shed, and would later be lauded by Kurt Cobain.

A year later, Thorn went to study English literature at the University of Hull. There she met Watt, and having bonded over their record collections, the pair founded Everything But the Girl. Critical success arrived quickly but the financial spoils took longer. Thus, they frequently found themselves huddled around a heater in their tiny bedsit, entertaining visiting journalists from the NME.

Thorn's refusal to toe the passive popstrel line is endearingly charted. On observing publicity shots of herself looking "doe-eyed and ringletty", she swiftly gives herself a short back and sides. When an excitable interviewer from the glossy teen mag Smash Hits asks her to name the last book she read, her answer is The British in Northern Ireland: The Case for Withdrawal.

The book is filled with comic moments: being chased down Italian streets by over-zealous fans; Lenny Kravitz's dreads of getting hooked on her sequined dress at an awards ceremony. But elsewhere, there is constant self-doubt and pre-gig vomiting; pressure from record companies to produce a hit; and Watts's brush with death from a rare auto-immune disease.

While it's not without its dramatic moments, Bedsit Disco Queen is far from your traditional musical memoir. Those searching for bacchanalian rock'n'roll hijinks will not be able to find them here.

But, as a witty and wise chronicle of the post-punk era and a life spent dipping in and out of the limelight, this is second to none.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory