Thursday, 9 October 2014

From a Distant Shore

I'm really enjoying the Tracey Thorn book Bedsit Disco Queen (which my brother Phil got me for my last birthday - or was it the one before?) Tracey Thorn always amazed me because, somehow, she was a year younger than me and yet I bought her album A Distant Shore when I (and she) were still at university! She was studying English at Hull while I was studying English at Bangor. I could never figure out how someone younger than me had released an LP by the time I was 22, and she must have only been 21, but then I think Roddy Frame was only 19 when Aztec Camera released the dazzlingly brilliant High Land, Hard Rain in the same year. Now that I'm 53 it's easy to understand how people younger than me may have released records ... but when I was 21 or 22 it was impossible to comprehend!

Bedsit Disco Queen is a fascinating, understated memoir of that weird post-punk and pre-New Labour time when I was finishing university, being unemployed and, eventually, starting my training as a mental health nurse; the strange hinterland between my youth and meeting the wonderful woman who became my wife. I never liked Everything But The Girl that much, despite the early promise of A Distant Shore, but Bedsit Disco Queen is a terrific testament to being young in the early 1980s ... CND marches, miners' strikes, Jamming magazine, Billy Bragg and The Style Council.

I occasionally buy The New Statesman and Tracey Thom's column is one of the highlights. I think her writing for New Statesman is even better than that she displays in her book (which was written over a number of years). So, thanks to Phil for the very thoughtful birthday present!

Meanwhile,Tracey Thorn's partner and musical collaborator Ben Watt is also now an author (as well as resident DJ on BBC 6 Music's electronic music show 6Mix.)  I'm a big fan of podcasts and have a backlog stored on my i-Pod. This week, I heard the BBC's Open Book podcast from February, featuring Ben Watt talking about his memoir of his bohemian parents Romany and Tom. While I might not be the world's biggest Everything But the Girl fan, I have great respect for Tracey and Ben, who have combined a political and artistic sensibility in the various media of memoir, songwriting, broadcasting and journalism, over three decades, in a way that is wholly admirable.

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Tony Gillam is Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Wolverhampton, a freelance writer, trainer and musician. He is the author of 'Reflections on Community Psychiatric Nursing' (2002) and 'Creativity, Wellbeing and Mental Health Practice' (2018).