Naked At The Albert Hall – The Inside Story Of Singing by Tracey Thorn @ViragoBooks #bookreview #nonfiction

Happy Sunday and welcome to my first nonfiction review of 2022!

I bought Naked At The Albert Hall last year and have been trying to get to it ever since! Finally it made it to the top of the reading pile.

The Blurb

In her bestselling autobiography Bedsit Disco Queen, Tracey Thorn recalled the highs and lows of a thirty-year career in pop music. But with the touring, recording and extraordinary anecdotes, there wasn’t time for an in-depth look at what she actually did for all those years: sing. She sang with warmth and emotional honesty, sometimes while battling acute stage-fright.

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.

What Did I Think?

I’ve loved music for a long time, I learnt the trumpet and piano at school and was in various musical groups. But I was never a confident singer, well in public anyway. I’m happy to belt out tunes when I’m alone but when someone is listening, I’m not so assured in my abilities, despite “being able to hold a tune” (the hubby’s words not mine). So to be able to find out more piqued my interest when I read the blurb to Naked At The Albert Hall.

The book is a mixture of Thorn’s personal anecdotes, her thoughts on other performers and interview with others in the music industry across a winding ranging of vocal related topics. The discussion around various voices across the years is fascinating. Thorn’s description of Guy Garvey’s singing is perfect – nothing bad can happen while Guy is singing. I adore that man’s voice and yes, it is like a big comforting hug.

It was interesting to read about different performers’ anxieties. For me, I hate being in the spotlight whether it was doing a solo trumpet piece in front of a handful of people for my GCSE music or a training session at work where I know what I’m talking about, I still get nervous. But to hear people like Tracey Thorn or Alison Moyet talking about the anxieties they experience is kind of comforting in a weird kind of way.

Throughout Thorn references a number of books both reference and fictional which have been added to my wish list – not what I expected!! And she’s added to my playlist. So many artists or tracks I’ve not heard of. But then at the end, there’s a reading list and a track list including both those referenced in the book and additional extras. I need to explore both these more to expand my literacy and musical repertoire !

This is a really fascinating read about singing and singers. Having listened to Thorn talk passionately about subjects that mean a lot to her, I could hear her voice resonating as I read. If you’re expecting a memoir, think again. This is part memoir, part opinion and part interview all of which melds together into one musical read.

Who is Tracey Thorn?

Tracey Thorn was singer and songwriter with Everything But the Girl from 1982-2000. At that point she semi-retired from the music business to bring up her children. She has since recorded three solo albums, Out of the Woods, Love and Its Opposite, and Tinsel and Lights, and published her autobiography, Bedsit Disco Queen. She lives in London with her husband Ben Watt and their three children.

2 thoughts on “Naked At The Albert Hall – The Inside Story Of Singing by Tracey Thorn @ViragoBooks #bookreview #nonfiction

  1. Great review Claire and great to get some snippets about yourself too. I learnt to play trombone at school, but prior to that played 2nd corner (badly) in a brass band. I love Guy Garvey too, I’ve seen Elbow twice -second time I went on my own without the OH so I could enjoy it! His voice melds with the music so well and his writing is pure poetry.

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