North Marine Drive

I waited outside the school gates for Heather at the beginning of lunchtime. It had been easier to coordinate lunch in the 3rd year as we were in the same set and had the same lessons. The 4th year was the start of our ‘O’ Level options and as we had chosen differently had to plan meeting up at breaks.

At registration that morning she had tantalised me with news that she had new music from her older super cool sister who was at University. We were predominantly listening to The Smiths and Simple Minds until Helen, the older sister, had introduced us to Freur and their electronic album Doot Doot. In the same vein I hoped the new music would be original and something off the wall.

Heather appeared and immediately passed her school books to me. Heather was a young lady and preferred to carry a small, impractical for school books, picnic basket which housed her hairbrush and make up. I didn’t mind as my bag was much bigger and I was stronger. We had been good friends for over a year after Heather dated one of my school friends. They split but we stayed friends.

We hurried the 10 minute walk to her parents’ house, and I retrieved my cheese sandwiches my mum had prepared that morning. Cheese was my preferred sandwich with prawn cocktail crisps, penguin and apple. I sometimes varied the cheese sandwich with cream cheese. Heather went into the lounge and hit play on the large silver coloured ghetto blaster.

Brass instruments hit my ears followed by a distinct jazzy beat, and then the silky voice of Tracey Thorn ‘If you ever feel the time, to drop me a loving line.’

WOW!

WOW!

This was jazz, and I liked The Smiths. But there was something so unique and so simple. I didn’t like jazz. It wasn’t cool, but this was something else. It sounded like jazz but as the tracks flowed it was clear that there was a darker sound to the voice. I needed to get a copy.

My new sound stayed with me through the day, and Heather had promised to make a copy for me that evening. I got Everything But The Girl’s album Eden on one side and Ben Watt’s solo album North Marine Drive on the other. It’s funny that we talk today about illegal downloads, but either recording from the radio or tape to tape copying was commonplace in the 1980s.

The beginning to Eden gets me every time, even to this day. It’s so powerful and pure, and transports me to a different place and time.

Ben’s solo album is more raw, and a collection of melancholic but picturesque (however bleak) tracks. As a somewhat morose teenager at times, this fitted perfectly and provided a companion (alongside Morrissey) to the problems and depressions associated with growing up.

I never got to see Ben Watt or Tracey Thorn live either individually or collectively as Everything But the Girl. Concerts weren’t so accessible then. In fact I didn’t go to concerts until I was in my early 20s. I was not in the know to find out about concerts and rarely read NME so didn’t see any EBTG concerts advertised. My Boulevardier qualities were in their infancy. EBTG were silent popstars. Today the words silent and popstar create an oxymoron. EBTG were not emblazoned across the front of every newspaper, falling out of clubs or selling their souls. They just made music.

So that was that! I still loved and consistently listened to particularly Eden and North Marine Drive. It was such a relief when these albums were released on CD. CDs were more durable, and every time I played the tapes I feared it would be their last.

Earlier this year, Ben Watt posted on Twitter that he was performing a couple of acoustic concerts, at small venues. These would be the first solo gigs of this nature since the early 1980s. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted tickets and booked two. I really wanted to ask whether he would be playing some of the older stuff, but I always sensed they were not sentimental and preferred not to look back. This was confirmed by Tracey Thorn earlier in the year when I asked her at her book reading about touring and playing some of the earlier ETBG material.

Ben asked on Twitter who was coming to the gigs, and I responded positively. Justin, my good friend who was coming with me, stated that he wasn’t sure what to wear. Ben replied saying ‘It’ll be hot, so keep it simple.’

Fashion advice from Ben Watt on Twitter.

I decided to keep it really simple and wore denim shorts, sandals and a Jimi Hendrix T shirt. I met Justin at Old Street underground station, and he was wearing a long sleeved, but thin, sweater, jeans and silver pointy shoes. He was also carrying a jacket. A Jacket! It was still about 24 degrees. I did have an H&M graffiti hoodie around my waist but a jacket. We laughed and joked as we bound along Old Street expectant of a great gig.

The venue, interestingly called The Venue is a downstairs room at The Slaughtered Lamb Public House in Clerkenwell. The pub itself is a large square room with a mish mash of aging leather sofas and unpolished wooden tables and chairs. Justin walked in and instantly greeted the barman. Was he a regular? No, it was a friend he didn’t know worked there!

After quenching our thirst on delicious wine and beer, respectively not subsequently, we walked downstairs to the Venue. Two heavy dark wood doors opened into a medium sized dark room. At one end was the bar and the performance area. This was not a stage as it was not raised. It actually looked like a guitar shop as there were 6 guitars all lined up ready for use, along with a mandolin, keyboard, mikes and amps. One solitary standard lamp rather frayed at the edges lit the corner. In front of the stage were a number of small stools, and we selected the second row. The Venue gradually filled and started to heat up. Ben was right with his advice! I wondered if Justin rued wearing a sweater. Both our jacket and hoodie were redundant and on the floor.

At just after 8.30 Ben appeared to applause. He didn’t bask in the applause and instead offered simple non-verbal gratitude and sat at the keyboard and shared one of his new tracks with us.

Wow! It was fantastic. The sound more mature than his early solo material, but still full of emotion. His voice still as unique and haunting as it ever was.

Someone called Bernard joined him to play on a few tracks. Ben joked that Bernard hadn’t had time to learn them all. I wasn’t aware at the time but this was Bernard Butler from 90s fame and acclaim.

Ben warmed up and as he did engaged more and explained his journey back to music. He hadn’t written any new tracks for a number of years and was suddenly hit by inspiration earlier in the year. It was good to know that even the great and successful artists found it difficult to write when consumed with other projects. I have previously written here that my passion for the commercial world stifled and stunted my create writing. I am working hard at redressing this balance.

Ben hinted that if he was brave enough he would play a few of his old tracks. My excitement intensified. Was I really going to hear live interpretations of some of the sounds of my youth.

Ben continued playing some beautiful new tracks, mostly with the same gloom and angst present throughout his early work. Songs such as Golden Ratio, The Levels, Nathaniel we will always love you, and Bricks and Wood, or was it Wood and Bricks, spring to mind.

Ben announced that he had not played the next track to an audience in over 30 years. As soon as the first few melancholy plucked notes hit my ears, I knew we were in for the treat that is Walter and John.

Ben then played Somethings Don’t Matter and North Marine Drive, which are two of my favourite tracks from his North Marine Drive album. Ben forgot some words halfway through North Marine Drive, but it really didn’t matter. It felt like we were sharing a journey with him, and in doing so he was fulfilling my journey which started with these tracks over 30 years ago. This evening was a precious moment in time.

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The temperature in the room was akin to a sauna, but it somehow didn’t matter.

After a few more new tracks and a keyboard version of On Box Hill Ben’s first solo concert in over 30 years was over, and an amazing success. He even quipped that it wasn’t as tough as he had expected! And that he would be in the studio from September and hoped to release some new material next spring.

Ben came back into the room after the concert and it gave me a chance to say thank you in person.

A fantastic evening coupling a trip down remembrance avenue and some new fantastic material.

TNW

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A Family Portrait

It was fantastic news when it was announced that the Jewish Museum in Camden was to exhibit a number of personal items belonging to Amy Winehouse. The family had given unprecedented access and promises of her first guitar, albums and clothing ensued.

The Mayor of Camden hosted a private reception and viewing of the exhibition, and in doing so raised money for the Foundation Amy’s father set up following her demise.

“The Amy Winehouse Foundation works to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on youngpeople. We also aim to support, inform and inspire vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to help them reach their full potential.” Amy’s Dad, Mitch

Tickets were obtained for the event.

Now as regular readers will know I plan with precision each outfit for every event. The Crouch End Boulevardier did not let standards slip especially when there was a chance to pay respects to one of the most contemporary influences in his life.

The difficultly was the temperature. It was so beautifully hot and I refuse to be one of the Brits who bemoan the cold and the heat! The only difficulty was in deciding what to wear. Cool clothes are not always loose and summery. The temperature gauge hit 30 degrees and I decided upon the leatherette trousers (again as always grateful they were not real leather), Paul Smith inspired Papillo Birkenstocks and a Kurt Cobain T shirt. A friend asked on Twitter whether the tee decision was wise. I wanted to reflect those who died too young, without wearing an actual Amy t shirt. Kurt is also a member of the awful 27 club.

I met Ange for a swift gossip and glass of red at the Bucks Head. We fortunately managed to drown out an unskilled busker as he murdered Creep by Radiohead.

Once inside the museum we were met by 8 foot display screens rotating images of Amy from school days to Back to Black performances. Part of Back to Black was playing. The song still sounds so fresh, and the emotion emanating from Amy still devastating.

Up a few steps, and a glass display cased the gingham dress immortalised by Amy in the Tears Dry On Their Own video. At its base were a pair of pink ballet pumps, another of Amy’s signature looks.

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The main reception was being held in a function room, and we were greeted by the Mayor dressed in a smart suit and adorned by his livery collar. We chatted to a few other patrons over a glass of wine and canapés. In typical British reserved fashion we danced around the canapés and watched for someone to breach the artificial barrier and grab a morsel, thus signifying it was in order to dive in!

The Mayor officially opened the semi formal part of the reception with a short speech of thanks and expressed his support and passion for the Foundation and invited Mitch Winehouse to speak.

Mitch warmed our hearts and brought a tear to our eyes as he spoke proudly of Alex and Riva, co-curators of the exhibition, and of Amy. He spoke of the last time he saw Amy alive, and how they had enjoyed moments pouring over old photos of the family. Amy had previously lost a suitcase full of photos in her various moves and found them shortly before her death. Mitch cited that the suitcase was part of the exhibition. Had Amy not insisted her Dad come to her home on the way to the airport and look at the photos, he would have been off to New York and missed this precious last time with his daughter.

Entering the actual exhibition was like entering Amy’s world. Quotes taken from her application and audition to the Sylvia Young School were printed in her handwriting on the wall. Her school uniform hung ‘pieced together from various members of the family’ Mitch informed.

Videos of early performances at school led toward one of her Grammy’s.

The open suitcase of photos provided a visual feast of Amy’s family. ‘Amy lived for her friends and family’ Mitch’s words rang in my ears.

The key exhibition picture printed to 6 feet shows a posed Amy, pre beehive, in front of a fireplace, one elbow resting on the mantle and the other arm over her head pulling her hair off her face. The chimney breast adorned with framed pictures of legends and Vogue covers, martini and khalua bottles in the grate, their usual purpose changed to candle holders.

And then the fridge magnets….  I am not sure why this part of the exhibition moved me so. I think it’s because it’s so simple and normal. I love a good fridge magnet and own around 20, which are functionally displayed on my own fridge . Amy’s were funny with ‘It’s better to have loved and lost rather than to live with this psycho for the rest of your life’ down to the poignant ‘It’s Sinatra’s World, we just live in it’. I stood and imagined Amy opening her fridge door and smiling at the quips and puns before her.

After having a look around the gift shop (I think there should be a law necessitating visits to any gift shops where available), and purchased a notepad with the lyrics to Tears Dry on Their Own printed in Amy’s hand on the inside cover, we went back into the reception and had an opportunity to speak with Mitch Winehouse, who graciously allowed us to have our photo taken with him.

After thanking him for sharing so many of the family’s private memories with the public he proudly asserted that Alex (his son and Amy’s brother) was responsible for the exhibition along with his wife.

We spoke about the Foundation and Mitch explained that he really had to do this in Amy’s memory, and she would have wanted him to do so. She was always helping people, even when they were undeserving. Mitch went on to detail the amount of help they have managed to provide already, and supply almost 100 ‘down on their luck’ youngsters a meal every day, which is a fantastic achievement.

We spoke somewhat about Amy, and I talked to Mitch about the Hammersmith concert I wrote about last week and explained my perspective as an audience member. Mitch talked about the difficulties they had with that tour, and how Amy would perform divinely one evening and then struggle the next. That very evening in Hammersmith Mitch had found Amy with Pete Doherty and had to remove him from the room.

Mitch told us of the birth of the beehive credited to Amy’s great friend and stylist Naomi.

Amy loved shopping, Mitch told us, and had an account with Selfridges and would come home laden, really laden with so much, too much, that he would have to take most of it back the next day!

We spoke about his book and I thanked him for providing a frank insight into struggling and living alongside an addict daughter who also happened to be a phenomenal worldwide talent. For anyone who reads who hasn’t read it I would highly recommend it.

I could go on, as there were so many little tales he shared with us, as he generously spent time talking. Mitch doesn’t always get the best coverage by the press but I can tell you all now, that he is an articulate and passionate man, who is also very earnest in his storytelling, which is why he probably gets a rough deal from the press sometimes.  I was so moved I offered to help with all the sales, marketing and fundraising for the foundation!

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Ange and I left the building full of emotion and gratitude to all involved in this event and for giving a glimpse into the world of Amy Winehouse.

TNW

Beehive Fanatic

Amy Winehouse would have been 30 years old this year, and it’s hard to believe it’s almost 2 years since her untimely death. This week your Boulevardier wants to talk about his relationship with Amy and her music.

Starting right back in 2006 I hadn’t consciously listened to any off Amy’s music until I started to hear Rehab everywhere. It seemed to be on the radio, on the television, and tickling your ears wherever you went. Who were Ray and Mr Hathaway she sung of? Mr Hathaway would unfortunately be a harbinger. Amy was referencing the late great Donny Hathaway who had also left this mortal coil too early in life, albeit for different reasons.

This was 2006 and iTunes was starting to gather momentum, and as a relatively new user I enjoyed the instant response it provided. If I wanted an album I could download and be listening to it within a few minutes. I could also just select a few tracks. (Remember when Amazon felt so modern where you were able to order album online and get it within a couple of days!) I took the plunge and downloaded the entire Back to Black album and started listening.  I didn’t love it on first listen, but it was good enough and different enough to keep going. I was drawn to the 60s sound next to modern arrangements and beats. Amy’s voice was breathtaking. The tracks Back to Black and Addicted started to stand out, and I couldn’t get Back to Black out of my head.

From there a complete immersion into Amy’s sound occurred, and I don’t think I listened to any other music, or rather no other music meant so much to me until at least 2008. Someone who is no longer a friend, but who I reasonable amount of time with in 2007 often remarked that ‘I listened to Amy Winehouse on a constant loop’. English was not his primary language, but he accurately summed it up.

With the growing success of Back to Black Amy’s personal life, which didn’t appear to be in a similar ascendency, was plastered all over the tabloids and internet.

I loved her look. I loved that she had taken 60s hair and makeup and turned them into something very modern, punk even. She was a punk to me. She found a way to rebel lyrically against the outward sugar of most of the 60s girl groups she emulated, The Crystals aside.

The beehive was iconic and I loved it. I really wished there had been a male alternative.

Her tattoos also added to her urban raw look. She worked effortlessly to bring a real urban cool back to Camden. Reports of wild nights at the Hawley Arms only added to the urban myth.

I have to confess heading to the Hawley Arms a couple of times in the vain hope of bumping into Amy, maybe getting a photo, and if I was really lucky having a chat. The best I got was seeing the Amy doll which stands 5 inches tall standing at the back of the downstairs bar.

Concerts were announced in 2007, and I got 2 tickets to see Amy at Hammersmith Apollo for Saturday 24th November 2007. I was really excited and my good friend Jane agreed to go with me. She knew I was obsessed with Amy’s music and loved live concerts where artists provide their face to face interpretation of their tracks.

However, Amy’s press coverage was getting worse and I was avidly following, but really couldn’t ignore it with regards to the concert. Her benders seemed to be getting worse, along with continuous allegations of drug taking. A lot of press put blame on her then husband.

The DVD release of one of her concerts ‘I Told You I was Trouble: Live in London’ perked me up as the performance was breathtaking. So all Amy needed to do was to stay away from the demons in her life and give a fantastic performance at Hammersmith.

Blake, her husband, was on remand at the time, and not only was the case not looking good but bail had been refused, and this seemed to affect Amy so much.

Jane and I met at Hammersmith underground station expectant of a great concert. We had a couple of drinks in a grotty pub near the tube station to get our buzz started, and headed across to the venue. The bar queues were extensive and several people deep. Everyone seemed intent on having a party! Jane and I decided to double double up, and had our respective vodka and gin and slimline tonics in pint glasses to accommodate the quadruple measures.

We excitedly headed into the auditorium, following another ticket check. We later discovered that it was not official, and a tout had taken our tickets! Fortunately we did not need them again.

We finished our drinks, expecting Amy to be on, but she was running late, so Jane headed back out to the bar and refilled our mammoth portions. Still no Amy! The crowd was getting restless, particularly as her gigs had been rather hit or miss.

I said to Jane ‘This is ridiculous! How do you think I get out the back to see what’s going on and gee her up?’

Jane was amused, laughed and called me delusional.

She eventually came out onto stage. Mitch Winehouse reports in his book ‘Amy My Daughter’ that she was only ½ an hour late, but I think it was nearer to 1 ¼ hours. I guess it depends on perspective.

About a 1/3 of the songs sounded OK, but most of them seemed a little off, and the entire experience made me feel nervous. Amy was clearly distressed, and so ‘not there’ I felt like a voyeur. I could have cried. I have never seen so many people leave a mainstream gig before until the end. I was determined to stay to the end, willing Amy to snap out of it and perform as we knew she could. She kept on digging her hands into her beehive and scratching her head. The hive was swaying from side to side, and I thought it was going to topple her over.

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I was upset, which turned to angry and I set about posting on line the next day and looking for a refund, as did so many others. Mitch countered in the press and asked people to give her a chance. At the time I was dismissive of his reaction and thought of my invested money to see a great concert, and that I was not there to support a charity. However, after reading his heartbreaking book, he was a father trying to keep his daughter alive and happy, and desperate for support. I completely get that and respect him. On reflection, I am glad I got to see Amy live, even if not at her best.

Months and years started to pass, Amy was no longer with Blake, and seemed to be getting her life on track and I longed for new music.

The news of her death on 23rd July 2011 hit hard. I remember watching the live news, and hoped so much it was not Amy. It was.

I visited her home, a beautifully restored Victorian Villa on a residential square in Camden. The tributes and flood of support was amazing.

Most of my friends recognised how much Amy and her music had meant to me, and lots posted on my Facebook wall to commiserate her death, knowing how upset I would be.

I have got to know and love all of her music, including the posthumous album. Even the music Amy had ‘thrown away’ or not completed was amazing.

I this week attended a private view of a new exhibition ‘Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait’ co-curated by her brother and sister in law.  Her legacy lives on. Next week’s blog will provide more detail.

To me she is one of the greatest musical talents of our age, and her voice will live forever. It’s a shame she is not here to live life and enjoy it.

TNW       

Trampling on Blankets

Saturday 6th July and it was time to start the day which would end with 70s and 80s legends aplenty. More on that later, as there was the morning to deal with first.

I was woken abruptly by the postman buzzing at 8.45am, but at least the Richard Ward shampoo and conditioner had finally arrived! (read Celeb Hair Blog for further information).

To spin or not to spin? A quick check in the mirror and last night’s hair had almost survived. Some rearranging and lots of hairspray and I would not need to redo it! Spinning was more likely in this eventuality.

My iPhone told me that the temperature was going to hit 28 degrees! Fabulous!

Spin was tough as usual but as always peppered with the instructor, Kathy’s wit and insults making it fun, funny and  good! And it was her last class for a couple of weeks with imminent holidays, so  very glad I went!

Home, Daft Punk on, and time to start getting ready. Shower completed, but outfit not yet defined. Hmmm I might be delayed. After streaming through the racks in my wardrobes several times I settled upon an All Saints white T shirt with explosive clouds on the front and denim shorts.

Facebook was starting to warm up and various other old friends and school friends were coming out of the woodwork to confirm they were attending the festival. This could be a mini school reunion.

Finally ready, and time to head to Wisteria Lane in Berkhamsted (aptly nicknamed as two good friends live next door to each other) for a pre Chilfest chill, where my good friends were waiting and preparing a sumptuous mid afternoon buffet and endless jugs of Pimms. The sun beat down upon us as we listened to oodles of 80s music.

It was almost disappointing to leave this perfect England garden afternoon and haul our sunkissed bodies to Pendley Meadow. We were not allowed picnics or to bring in alcohol, so reliving our naughty school days, we entered with our Evian bottles emptied of their intended contents and filled to the brim with vodka. This foresight would indeed serve us well, but more on that later.

We arrived at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and there was a buzz in the air. I had my small green manbag which was dutifully searched. The attendant asked if I had alcohol in there and when I answered in the negative, he said ‘Why not!’ and laughed. We found a good spot just over halfway back and laid out our non matching picnic blankets to create a patchwork effect. Diet coke was purchased from the ice cream van with the purpose of mixing with the vodka, but there was a problem. The queues for the actual bars for those wanting beer and wine were humungous. People were reporting having to queue for 30 minutes plus. The situation worsened and patrons were queuing for upwards of an hour and a half! Several members of our party headed to the pub, and others to Tesco to get some drink. That was disappointing but the show must go on, and we had flowing vodka to keep us sated.

A good friend Luisa was there with her husband and brother and I headed down for a ‘hello’ and catch up. She was quite near the front. I had a wry smile as this was no Glastonbury, and picnic blankets were set out with deck chairs aplenty. Territories marked out with side glances at anyone who came close to the corners, but it was all good spirited. I think it was indicative of the average  attendees age!

We then saw another good school friend Jo, who despite having tremendous health problems was there in her deck chair enjoying the sun with her friend Lu. Irrespective of the weather Jo has a very enviable sunny disposition.

First on stage (although I had been performing since arriving) was Hazel O’Connor who looked great in a coral dress, and treated us to her yet strong voice and blasted her old hits, the highlight of which was Will You.

Next came Carol Decker . We headed down towards the front for a close up and sing along once the first few chords of Heart and Soul hit our ears. This was followed by a beautiful rendition of China in Your Hand.

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We were getting more and more into the spirit as the vodka also took greater hold over us.

We headed back out of the crowd. I hunted down another friend Chele (pronounced Che (as in the South American dictator) and lay), who had been without her husband for over an hour while he queued for a drink! We found him and chatted for 15 minutes or so during which time Midge Ure started his set but the queue only progressed about 4 feet! We took a couple of photos and one massive plus was that one of Che’s friend’s mistook me for ‘someone from the telly’. I guess I have that star appeal!  I then left my hopeful friends in the queue, again grateful for the foresight of the vodka stash, and went back to the picnic blankets. Midge Ure was singing Dancing with Tears in their Eyes, and I had a flashback to the haunting video of a nuclear holocaust, as families headed home to die together. Nostalgia filled the fields.

Howard Jones was next on stage. Another friend Iain and I headed down towards the front again as Howard churned out the old hits, putting a new dance spin on a couple and demonstrating his ability with electronic music. Iain and I agreed, in an older kind of way ‘Modern electronic doesn’t have a patch on this!’. Howard’s voice was pretty unchanged but he did look like a little old man, maybe even hobbit-esque as he moved around the stage, with hair nowhere near as impressive as his 80s heights.

We reassembled as a group and headed into the crowds for some Rick Astley and Tony Hadley, the vodka taking its hold on pretty much all of us.

The party didn’t end there, and we walked to local friend’s home for an after party. The bar flowed freer, we pumped up our jam and danced until a little after 2am.

Suffice to say Sunday was a much quieter affair!

TNW

Bedsit Disco Queen

Last Sunday the Boulevarider left the sanctity of his Crouch End, and headed to the Southbank, to hear Tracey Thorn read from her autobiography Bedsit Disco Queen.

I had booked the tickets a month or so previously and invited my good friend Alison, who is also a massive Tracy Thorn, and Everything But the Girl fan.

I had already read the book and in fact ordered it as soon as it was out, and really enjoyed it. It was fantastic to hear how Tracey felt about her band, their records, and their success. It was even better to hear her read extracts on BBC4 as part of the book promotion. Hearing her tone gave slant on her musings, and she seemed to be sending herself up quite a lot for some of her younger views, particularly around integrity of music, and not ‘selling out’.

So it was now time for one better! To actually see her read from her book, and hopefully to get my copy dedicated and dreaming of a photo opportunity!

I woke early (not sure if it was the excitement of the book reading or just had sufficient sleep!) However, it’s not my habit to wake at 7.15am on a Sunday!

I relaxed in bed, checking Facebook, Twitter and enjoyed a leisurely assam.

A text from Alison arrived to say ‘Miserable news… I am not very well L Thought I’d be OK but have woken with a disgusting cold, the sweats and sore throat. Honey I don’t think I am going to make it. Soooooooooooooo disappointed.’ Suffice to say, so was I. Not only was Alison the perfect person to go to this event with, and a massive fan, but I wanted to see her, and have a good catch up.
Fortunately two other friends Ange and Tony were also going so I wouldn’t need to fly solo. But I didn’t want a good ticket to go to waste and set about advertising its availability on Facebook and Twitter.

After porridge and blueberries I headed to Virgin Active for an hour to complete a biceps and triceps workout left over from last session, being too tired to complete it then.

Now, what to wear? With a potential photo opportunity I didn’t want to let myself down with less than perfect style! After a few outfit changes it was the leatherette jeans (current favourites), black t shirt with outline of Amyesque rockabilly chick on the front singing into an old style microphone, and platform, polka dot creepers.

I met Ange, Tony and Fabrizio (the saviour for Alison’s ticket courtesy of Ange) outside the Dominion and we headed into Centre Point. We thought to walk through but Fabrizio had other ideas and had booked us into the bar and viewing gallery on 32nd floor! Spectacular! Views across London which outstripped views from the London Eye or the Gherkin.

Expectantly we headed across to the Royal Festival Hall at 6.30, not wanting to be late (show starting at 7.45… God I was turning into my parents!). No one else was yet there and we enjoyed a beautiful drink on the 5th floor balcony, one watchful eye on the doors to the suite to ensure when a queue grew we were near the front. As we chatted and laughed as the sun lessened its glare up popped Paul Burston and his husband! This was turning into a Literary Salon reunion!

7.20 and I went back to the bar to ensure glasses were refilled so that we would not dehydrate during the performance.

As I came back up the doors were opening and we shot into the venue, being some of the first in there, and with unreserved seating I moved towards the front and selected the second row. A bold Tony announced ‘Get the front row as its available!’

So there we were, us four, front row, eagerly expecting Tracey Thorn and Suzi Feay (literary journalist and Tracey’s interviewer). Tracey Thorn was going to be 10 feet in front of us. I can’t speak for the others but I was getting very excited!

It felt like an age wait, but I believe they came out on time. After introductions Tracey read from her book. She selected a section following the release of Eden, and Everything But the Girl became better known across Europe and embarked on a tour of Italy. Tracey read in a beautiful animated way bringing the story to life, and I could see her and Ben Watt crossing the Ponte Vecchio in Firenze, pursued by hoards of fans, only to hear them shouting ‘Matt Bianco! Matt Bianco!’. The entire room laughed, and Tracey set the tone for the evening as engaging, sharing and witty. It was wonderful to soak up. My teenage years were filled with Eden, Love Not Money, and Baby the Stars Shine Bright, alongside A Distant Shore and North Marine Drive, BUT I never seemed to find much of what Ben and Tracey actually said or thought at the time. I am not sure whether this was a lack of press coverage or my choice of reading material!

Suzi Feay guided Tracey seamlessly through memories from meeting Ben at Hull University via the tanoy having only arrived a few minutes earlier, through taking a break to raise the children, and ultimately to the writing of the book (very little rewriting – lucky lucky Tracey!), and recording new material.

Tracey vivaciously described times huddled into a telephone box to speak to Paul Weller who already had number one singles under his belt, the love of tape, and a lack of love for technology! She explained how she felt when finding out that Kurt Cobain loved some of her music!
The atmosphere in the room, made me feel as if it was just the three of us… Tracey, Suzi and me, sitting at the pub catching up. I so wanted to ask some questions, and get Tracey to expand on certain points. I fortunately managed to stop myself.

However, as if by my sheer will, Suzi opened up the questions to the audience. I really wanted to ask a question and many possibilities shifted through my racing mind. The first question was asked by an audience member and another was requested. I thrust my hand in the air, the words of my question jumbling in my mind as the roving microphone approached.

I wanted to say ‘Hi Tracey. I really enjoyed the book. It’s taken you into forgotten memories. Has this instilled nostalgia enough for you and Ben to go on the road as EBTG, and perform some of your wonderful musical moments?’

The actual question was at least twice as long, less succinct and delivered with a nervy voice!
Tracey answered with wit and grace and explained that she was not a particularly nostalgic person and always looked forwards rather than back, and not to say never, but it was unlikely!
Boooooo – I wanted to say but instead smiled! It was only my selfish longings that wanted to boo. I was at school when Eden came out, and as one of my favourite albums of all time, I dream of the day I can hear EBTG perform songs from it, or even better the entire album!

Other questions followed where everything from George Michael to bob hairstyles were discussed, and continued to evoke fantastic discussion from Tracey!

All too soon it was over, but Tracey was to sign copies of the book in the foyer.
My copy was already signed, as I ordered from the first batch available from Buzzin Fly, but I wanted to get it dedicated, get something signed for Alison and ask for a cheeky photo.
Tracey obliged all three!

It was a fantastic day, culminating in a brilliant evening spent with friends, and listening to an amazing and understated talent.

I do hope they tour again, and write other books (Tracey confirmed she was writing again), and release more music (Tracey’s recent solo material has also been really good), and give me other opportunities to beg for concerts!

So if you read this Tracey Thorn, and I am going to post a link to your twitter thank you very much for your music, book and giving us the chance to speak with you! (Any chance of a retro tour?lol)

TNW

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