Book Review: Bedsit Disco Queen

by Amy Zimmerman

A bored teenager starting a garage band isn’t exactly novel. What’s fascinating is what happens after, according to British Indie Rock Star Tracey Thorn’s new memoir, Bedsit Disco Queen. While Thorn has sold nine million records as one half of the band Everything But the Girl, she started as a humble, self-trained punk guitarist, eventually making a name for herself with her stunning vocals and songwriting skills. 

Thorn’s music career ignited in the London suburb of Brookmans Park, where she started The Marine Girls, an all-girls post-punk experiment that now boasts some serious cult cred. According to Thorn, “All the other bands we knew were either groups of boys, or groups of boys with a token girl, but we had an inkling that the only way to be in charge was to do it without the boys.”  The Marine Girls’ two DIY albums won them tons of critical acclaim, and launched Thorn’s musical career. After The Marine Girls broke up, Tracey started Everything But The Girl with her boyfriend and fellow University student, Ben Watt. Chronicling her eighteen years in Everything But the Girl, Thorn describes how the number of women in the industry decreased, while sexism flourished. While Thorn’s adolescence was marked by creative expression, experimentation, and wildly unexpected commercial and critical success, she describes her career as a series of ups and downs, as well as a continuous struggle to wrest creative control from the hands of demanding record executives. Of course, it’s not hard to see why mainstream record companies might disapprove of Thorn’s lyrics, which are sprinkled throughout the book: her writing style is so straightforward and confrontational, not to mention blatantly feminist, that even her apolitical songs come across as radical. One verse from 1985’s “Trouble and Strife” reads, “From the cradle to wife to grave/Unless I stand in the way/As the open world of a tomboy girl/Closes in with growing strife/For my own sake I’ll comfort take/In the knowledge that I’d never make a wife.”

In addition to being a lyrical badass, Thorn is a gifted memoirist. Her writing is spare and to the point, but with an added intelligence and sense of humor that reads more like a charming best friend than an anti-establishment rock star. Bedsit Disco Queen is also chock-full of celeb cameos that’ll warm your alternative heart, from Paul Weller to Morrissey to Courtney Love. In addition to giving you a fantastic tour of the 1980’s British post-punk scene, Thorn also gets personal: the heart of the memoir is Tracey’s relationship with her husband and musical partner, Ben Watt, who she met and fell in love with at the tender age of eighteen. So if you like music, romance, or kickass women (and seeing as you’re a BUST reader, we’re thinking you do), you should definitely pre-order a copy of Bedsit Disco Queen, which is set for release on March 15th.  

Bedsit Disco Queen, $17.50,

Image via Amazon

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