Bedsit Disco Queen



tracey thorn

I suspect that like a lot of people, I like Tracey Thorn “a bit.” I bought her hits with Everything But The Girl ‘Missing’ and‘Walking Wounded’ and her collaboration with Massive Attack on ‘Protection,’ but that’s as close as I get to being a fan.

So why read her life story? Well I like any insight into the backstage world of pop stardom. At the age of 34 I still secretly harbour dreams to be a singer in a popular group and I cannot see how it can be anything less than the perfect lifestyle.


But of course it is. In Tracey’s intensely warm, readable and personal account she shares the highs of the unexpected resurrection and hit singles with her partner Ben Watt as EBTG, to the lows of being written off by critics and their struggle through Ben’s crippling illness.

I can see why this book from one of our more understated and maybe underappreciated artists became a Sunday Times bestseller. Part memoir, part social commentary, we are led on a gripping journey through the last few decades of the music industry. It feels like she’s telling us all about it over a pot of tea and plate of biscuits round the kitchen table.

Like Morrissey’s Autobiography, her early years are the best to read, full of exciting nostalgia and obsessions with boys, bands and fashion. As with so many of her generation, it is Punk that then sparks her into life and she soon forms the promising Marine Girls who go on to become favourites of Kurt Cobain. Continue reading

Fancy a huge chunk of pop music? Yeah Yeah Yeah



My own story of pop began with Adam Ant in the early 80s. Luckily, music journalist and founder member of Saint Etienne, Bob Stanley,  goes back a bit further than that. This weighty volume comes in at just under 800 pages and is packed with all the songs, bands, personalities and pop trivia that you could wish for. Starting back at the introduction of vinyl, the charts and the music press in 1952 through the rock n roll era, the Beatles and Elvis, the rise of the album, punk and the 80s before things took a turn for the worse with rave and the descent into the throwaway download culture. Yeah Yeah Yeah is pop’s heydey; Bill Haley to Britpop – it’s a thrilling ride.

What interested me was seeing how pop culture and trends changed rapidly from UK to US, West Coast to East Coast, London to Liverpool to Manchester. As much as he tugs at your memory and I swooned with nostalgia over a pictured Smash Hits cover featuring Brother Beyond, Glen Medeiros and The Pasadenas, Stanley also points to scenes and you wonder why you were not there. I wish I’d known about the Smiths and Orange Juice when my senses were being brutally assaulted by Queen, Collins, Young, Sting et al. But then I was only a primary school child at the time!

I disagree with Stanley on some things; his dismissal of post-Smiths Morrissey, post-Bill Berry R.E.M, the weight he sometimes gave to credibility over popularity. Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ may have been a let down to him but to myself and just about everybody I grew up with, it was the pinnacle of pop.

Being primary interests of mine I’d read most of the Elvis, punk and new wave stories before and I cannot lay fault at Stanley’s door for the dull chapters which prog rock (Yes, Genesis, Mike Oldfield) and fey, yelpy groups like Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and OMD fell into.

But it was a joy to realise what a year in pop 1991 was – I still have treasured 45s from those twelve months by the eclectic mix of Right Said Fred, Manic Street Preachers, Bart Simpson, KLF and Hale and Pace. Ah memories!

Here are my favourite facts, insights and quotes from Yeah Yeah Yeah: Continue reading

The best of The Bard


JCC book

Punk, poet, pioneer. That is how John Cooper Clarke is known to most of us. You can also call him The Bard of Salford or the name behind the hairstyle. This latest edition of his seminal works Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt has been reprinted over 25 years after it was first published yet it is as relevant today as it was back then.

Accompanied by Steve Maguire’s superb illustrations, the hipster poet’s performance verse still resounds today with his bitingly satirical and funny depictions of people struggling through hard times. He was the voice of the punk generation but he can equally speak on behalf of this one.

As author Roddy Doyle says: “Football is the only sport, Guinness is the only drink and John Cooper Clarke is the only poet.”

Though compact, this book collects together almost fifty John Cooper Clarke hits including; I Wanna be Yours, Evidently Chicken Town and Beesley Street.


Here are some of my favourite verses: Continue reading