Really not the Alan Bennett of pop

24 10 2015

Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn

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‘I was only sixteen when I bought an electric guitar and joined a band. A year later, I formed an all-girl band called the Marine Girls and played gigs, and signed to an indie label, and started releasing records.

‘Then, for eighteen years, between 1982 and 2000, I was one half of the group Everything But the Girl. In that time, we released nine albums and sold nine million records. We went on countless tours, had hit singles and flop singles, were reviewed and interviewed to within an inch of our lives. I’ve been in the charts, out of them, back in. I’ve seen myself described as an indie darling, a middle-of-the-road nobody and a disco diva. I haven’t always fitted in, you see, and that’s made me face up to the realities of a pop career – there are thrills and wonders to be experienced, yes, but also moments of doubt, mistakes, violent lifestyle changes from luxury to squalor and back again, sometimes within minutes.’

From post-punk teen-band rivalry in suburban Hertfordshire to international chart-topping success via a shared bedsit in Hull, three decades of touring and making music, and collaborations with Paul Weller, Massive Attack and dance legend Todd Terry – this is the funny, perceptive and candid true story of how Tracey Thorn grew up and tried to be a pop star.

I feel like I’ve grown up with Tracey Thorn. Her first solo album and the early EBTG recordings were pretty much the soundtrack to my late school and university years. As a result I found this memoir absolutely fascinating. Genuinely frank and funny it is a really easy read and offers real insight into the music business. Comparisons with any northern playwright, writer and diarist are very wide of the mark though (no matter what Caitlin Moran says).
 
4 star

Naked at the Albert Hall by Tracey Thorn

 

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Part memoir, part wide-ranging exploration of the art, mechanics and spellbinding power of singing, Naked at the Albert Hall takes in Dusty Springfield, Dennis Potter and George Eliot; Auto-tune, the microphone and stage presence; The Streets and The X Factor. Including interviews with fellow artists such as Alison Moyet, Romy Madley-Croft and Green Gartside of Scritti Politti, and portraits of singers in fiction as well as Tracey’s real-life experiences, it offers a unique, witty and sharply observed insider’s perspective on the exhilarating joy and occasional heartache of singing.

A natural sequel to Bedsit Disco Queen in this book Tracey Thorn covers the realities of being a singer together with lots of insights into the music industry. Full of rich anecdotes and frank commentary as well as observations from her peers, Thorn does a great job in covering singing in a fresh and entertaining way.

4 star

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It’s a WASTE land

17 10 2015

The Crying of Lot 49

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The Crying of Lot 49 is Thomas Pynchon’s classic satire of modern America, about Oedipa Maas, a woman who finds herself enmeshed in what would appear to be an international conspiracy.

When her ex-lover, wealthy real-estate tycoon Pierce Inverarity, dies and designates her the coexecutor of his estate, California housewife Oedipa Maas is thrust into a paranoid mystery of metaphors, symbols, and the United States Postal Service. Traveling across Southern California, she meets some extremely interesting characters, and attains a not inconsiderable amount of self-knowledge.

 

 

Brilliant, sharp, funny and utterly bonkers. Can’t really attempt to describe it other than to say it is highly recommended and, if you like this sort of thing, you will like this.

 

 

four stars





New plague times

10 10 2015

A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh

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It doesn’t look like murder in a city full of death.

A pandemic called ‘The Sweats’ is sweeping the globe. London is a city in crisis. Hospitals begin to fill with the dead and dying, but Stevie Flint is convinced that the sudden death of her boyfriend Dr Simon Sharkey was not from natural causes. As roads out of London become gridlocked with people fleeing infection, Stevie’s search for Simon’s killers takes her in the opposite direction, into the depths of the dying city and a race with death.

It’s the first instalment of Welsh’s plague trilogy and something of a departure for her. A pretty engaging yarn with plenty of death but lots to keep things moving too. All quite scarily believable too.

stars-3-5








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