Tracey Thorn rescued me from a lifetime of listening to Gene Loves Jezebel – Swindon Festival of Literature

17 May

It was 1982, I’d bought a black coat, black boots, PVC trousers, cheap blue hair gel and a Bauhaus single, then Tracey Thorn released ‘A Distant Shore’ and saved me from now hanging around town in my late-forties looking very hot in a black PVC trench coat with every conceivable part of my face pierced or tattooed.

Instead I wear red trousers, thanks Tracey.

Thorn had released a mini album of simplicity that soon allowed her the plough her trade alongside Aztec Camera, The Go-Betweens and Orange Juice.

Thorn began her appearance at The Arts Centre by reading a passage from her book to put her rock n roll naiveté and innocence in context.

An electric guitar bought without a lead or amp, as she says ‘I had never paid any attention to what happened behind and around guitar players in bands, and so I think I imagined that the point of an electric guitar was that you plugged it into the electricity socket in the wall and somehow a loud noise came out’.

Interviewer Ashley Heath then took over, hands flailing to make his points as he asked a string of questions about how a reticent girl who felt she couldn’t sing ended up as the voice on some on the 80’s and 90’s most memorable records. The answer largely seems to have been luck.

Her partnership with Ben Watt became Everything But The Girl, with the Todd Terry remix of their single ‘Missing’ bringing them huge worldwide fame and exposure.

Watt’s life threatening illness in 1996 changed Thorn’s priorities and once her partner had recovered, family then took over with Thorn first having twins and then a son in 1998.

But her influence on the popular music scene was far from over as she played a role in the invention of ‘trip hop’ in a later collaboration with Massive Attack.

The arrival of a demo tape out of the blue in 1998 resulted in the track ‘Protection’ and more credibility for Thorn, apparently the collaboration resulted from the Bristol group’s admiration for ‘A Distant Shore’ the record that stopped me from being a goth and now turned me into a ‘trip hop’ fanatic.

At 51 Tracey Thorn still gives the impression of a bewildered bystander who has been dragged into the action and hit the jackpot by contributing some sort of musical gold dust and is all the more genuine and entertaining for that.

Tracey Thorn was talking about her debut book of pop memoirs, ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’, at Swindon Arts Centre, 15 May 2014, part of Swindon Festival of Literature.

Words by Michael Scott. Photos by Louisa Davison.

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