Have Everything But The Girl gone missing? Or do you just not want to talk about it?
Hull has been noted for brief 90’s girly duo Scarlet and more recently solo artist, Calum Scott. But back in the 1980’s, the city gave us Everything But The Girl, the duo formed in 1982 by Tracey Thorn (b.1962) and Ben Watt (b.1962), a singer and a songwriter, who met at university and formed both a long term musical relationship as well as a more private, intimate one as well. They took their name from the signage outside a local furniture shop, which read “Turners – Everything But The Girl”. Having spent their time performing in local pubs and releasing solo albums, Thorn and Watt joined forces and were signed to Blanco y Negro Records. Their first effort was a Cole Porter song from 1932, “Night And Day”. Whilst only showing face at No.92 on the UK singles chart, the duo were preparing to release their debut album.
That came in 1984 along with their first original song, “Each And Every One”, which broke the UK top 40, while the album, “Eden”, climbed to No.14, gaining a Gold certification some years later. The album was repackaged later that same year with additional tracks that has been recorded but not used in the initial release and that lead to two further singles being issued, although neither would follow “Each And Every One” to the most important part of the singles chart. Ben and Tracey would almost become journeyman artists for some time afterwards and while their albums “Love Not Money” (1985) and “Baby, the Stars Shine Bright” (1986) found decent chart positions, their singles did not. Only “Come On Home” in 1986 gave them a near-miss, stalling at No.44. It would take a Crazy Horse song, “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”, later made famous by Rod Stewart, to bring them back to commercial and mainstream success in 1988.
The song would peak at No.3 in the UK in the Summer of 1988, only two places lower than Stewart’s had achieved when it topped the chart in 1977. Their recording would also produce a top three hit in Ireland and deliver another Gold disc for their album of 1988. “Idlewild”. Further success was met with their next album “The Language Of Life”, in 1990, which would not only head into the top ten at home, but broke the US top 100 albums, even though no singles were afforded any commercial interest. 1991’s “Worldwide” was perhaps an unfortunate title as it too failed to find any audience ‘worldwide’. The duo went back to recording other people’s songs next in order to get a hit. Their 1992 “Covers” EP saw them offer up their version of Mickey & Sylvia’s 1956 track, “Love Is Strange” as well as songs from Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper and Elvis Costello. The ensemble climbed to No.13 in the UK, their first top 40 showing since “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”, nearly four years earlier.
1993 would bring a cover of Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York” and their own composition, “I Didn’t Know I Was Looking for Love”, both of which missed the UK top 40, although the latter found greatest success in the hands of singer Karen Ramirez (where is she now?) in 1998, when she took the song into the UK top ten and around the world, under the shortened titled of “Looking For Love”. EBTG’s next album was delayed after Ben suffered a number of health setbacks culminating in several operations to save his life. Fortunately, he made a recovery and began working with Thorn on new material in 1993, releasing the album, “Amplified Heart”, the following year. Initially neither the album, nor its singles, “Rollercoaster” and “Missing”, demanded any interest, but in 1995, the latter track received a remix from an acoustic balled into a cool, brooding dance number by American producer, Todd Terry.
“Missing” took the clubs and, eventually, the charts by storm, making the top ten in over twenty countries worldwide and reaching No.2 on the US singles chart. At home, “Missing”, equaled “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” in peaking at No.3, but sales have ensured that the song to date, has received a Platinum award for more than 600,000 units shifted. Everything But The Girl were now on a roll and the success of “Missing” ensured that their next project, entitled “Walking Wounded”, was a global success. The title track and the single, “Wrong”, gave the duo a second and third consecutive top ten hit in the UK, whilst “Wrong” would top the US dance chart, with the album making No.4 on home soil and No.37 Stateside, becoming their first and, to date, last studio album to gain a Platinum certification. Ben and Tracey closed 1996 with a best of, which featured a remix of their 1990 single, “Driving”, bringing the track into the UK top 40 for the very first time, while the album gained a second Platinum disc in less than twelve months.
Further American success came in 1999 with the album, “Temperamental”, which featured no less than THREE number one singles on the Dance chart! “The Future Of The Future (Stay Gold)”, “Five Fathoms (Love More)” and the title track all achieved this, while the former two both reached the UK top 40 as did the album itself. While there has never been any formal announcement that EBTG had parted or ended, “Temperamental” remains their last studio work as of this writing (2022). Only another hit collection, “Like The Deserts Miss The Rain”, in 2002 produced another UK top 40 single, “Tracey In My Room” (No.34). Tracey focused on her solo career, which has produced four studio albums from “Out Of The Woods” (2007 – UK No.38), to her most recent, “Record”, in 2018 (UK No.15). She has collaborated with many other artists and acts over the years, perhaps the best known and most successful of these was co-writing and performing vocals on Massive Attack’s 1995 hit, “Protection”.
Ben Watt has found work as a DJ and a producer, working with artists as diverse as the former Terence Trent D’Arby, now Sananda Maitreya, rapper and singer Estelle and Suede’s Bernard Butler. He has released three studio albums, “Hendra” (2014), “Fever Dream” (2016) and “Storm Damage” (2020). He was been a BBC radio presenter and formed the record companies Lazy Dog, Cherry Jam and Buzzin’ Fly Records. His studio albums have all been released through his Unmade Road label. Ben has also been a successful writer with his initial autobiography, Patient – The True Story of a Rare Illness, in 1996, charting his battle with Churg-Strauss syndrome and the 2014 story of his parents entitled Romany And Tom. In 2009, after 27 years together, Ben and Tracey finally married, having previously had two children together! But what of Everything But The Girl? or do they just not want to talk about it…?
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