Reading Tracey Thorn’s memoir Bedsit Disco Queen was a treat. A thoroughly enjoyable trip through the world of real independent music in the 1980s (as opposed to the sterilised indie we are fed these days, which is really just a slightly edgy offshoot of a major label) and Tracey’s narrative voice gave the book a wonderful presence.
But reading her second book Naked At The Albert Hall is an entirely different experience. Less memoir and more, as the subtitle suggests, ‘the inside story of singing’, we now have a rather dry, potted history of singing through the decades. It’s clunky and flows badly, and feels all the more of a disappointment after the unbridled pleasure of Bedsit Disco Queen.
Part-way through reading Naked At The Albert Hall I attended an event with the Bristol Festival of Ideas where Tracey was talking about the book, what she learned from writing it and her own wide-ranging experiences of singing. In person, she brought the subject to life, she illuminated it and made it funny and fascinating. The section she read from the book was, in her voice, wise and witty… and I left the event wondering what I was doing wrong.
So I returned to the book and I started reading the second half with renewed energy, trying to channel Tracey’s voice as I read it and to envisage the passionate woman I had listened to as the narrator of this unwieldy and slightly turgid book. But no joy. This may be a book I need to return to in a few months and see with a fresh perspective.