Tracie v. Paddy (and Wendy) – Pop-spat-stic!

traciesqFollowing on from Paddy’s singles review in the Record Mirror in April 1984, one of the singers he had critiqued, Tracie, took it upon herself to shoot back via the letters pages. It’s not exactly Blur v. Oasis, but nothing beats a good pop spat, all laid out below.

It’s worth reminding ourselves who Tracie Young was, and indeed is. She was the slightly sulky looking Paul Weller teen protégé who was featured on the Style Council’s classic “Speak Like a Child”. Weller had signed her to his Respond records label having been impressed by a demo tape received following an advert in Smash Hits magazine.

Apart from “Speak Like a Child”, her chart pedigree was broadly similar to Paddy’s eventual record, with one No 9 hit (“The House that Jack Built”), and one 24 (“Give It Some Emotion”). However at this point Tracie was the established star and Paddy the wannabee contender.

The song being reviewed by Paddy, “Soul’s on Fire”, managed 73 only. Tracie had heard the Style Council playing the chorus and asked Weller for the song: he’d agreed provided she wrote the verses. Paddy pointed out in the review the chorus had been inelegantly welded onto an unrelated verse, and probably that was the reason she was a little touchy about it.

Tracie is now a local radio DJ in Essex.

Finding these clippings – for which I’m indebted to the impressive memory of Paul Howden in the Sproutnet Facebook group – was a lovely little stroll down memory lane. Tracie is one of those people you do remember if you really think about it, a very typical early 1980s white soul singer with firebrand tendencies and a bit of a motor mouth. Someone who did care about what she did and about the world around her, but never likely to be more than an also ran in pop history.

Meanwhile most of the “next big things” championed in the magazine were to fall flat. And I was also amused at a two star hatchet job dismissal of the Blue Nile’s classic “A Walk Across the Rooftops”: no one ever quite misses the obvious quite so spectacularly as a 1980s music journalist. But even if hindsight bears Paddy out in his singles review – it’s a diabolically poor single – well done Tracie Young at least for having the chutzpah to take him on.

The offending review...
The offending review…


Tracie responds...
Tracie responds…


Top Trolling by Wendy... The reference is of course to "Pretty Young Thing"
Top Trolling… The reference is of course to “Pretty Young Thing”

8 thoughts

  1. Hilarious. Fair play, that’s a funny piece and fairly written. Yep, it was a naff single, the result of conflict between PW and me over choice of single. And it was a naff compromise. Ah well, I was young and touchy, and unschooled in handling the media. This is a good piece. Wendy though – oooh she was a bit of an arse 🙂

    1. @ Tracie Young, between you and Tim you have both made my day….I have put in a good word for the “Far from the Hurting Kind” reissue on the Sproutnet Facebook page.

    2. Lovely to have you commenting Tracie. It was fun researching and writing the piece. And that drummer is shit hot 😉

    3. Ahh… so interesting that Tracie and the Sprouts should have an inter-related story, one that I was completely unaware of. And I want to add to it, because I think you’ll all have a good laugh at my expense. 😉

      Summer of ’88 – my band, The Way, had just recorded our ‘All Thy Might EP’ with Angelic Upstarts’ Mond Cowie. Although it was a very power-pop-punk-funky affair, at the time I was a big Sprout fan and wanted to make something more soulful and symphonic. Now, I had been a fan of Tracie since the off too (she took my ‘gig virginity’, at The Leadmill in 84), and I’d heard through a friend in ‘Ver Biz’ (in this case, Phill Jupitus) that she’d been released from her contract with Polydor, so I sent our EP off to Weller’s (lovely) henchman, Kenny Wheeler, asking if someone from Respond could put the demo in the hands of Ms Young. Within a week I had a call back from Mr Wheeler, and a few days later Tracie was on the phone. Within a month we met in London, got ourselves new management, and Tracie began diligently travelling all the way from Chelmsford to my mum’s attic in Mexborough (a 300+ mile round trip) in her little car, every Sunday, at her own expense. One weekend I went down to Chelmsford to stay at her house and work through our vocal harmonies. It was there I learned how tough she’d had it. She was only a young lass when Weller propelled her to the front on The Jam’s farewell TOTPs appearance, and she really had been through ‘the wringer’ that is the music business, spat out the other side; and yet her love for performing with a band remained undimmed. She certainly wasn’t ‘in it for the money’ because the majority of the gigs The Way played were Trade Union benefits, Anti-Apartheid rallies etc. We were always ‘out-of-pocket’. The fact was, I had the girl I wanted in my band.

      Now I began to think about a producer. I’d recently met and befriended someone you probably all know and love here, Andy Pawluk, and we were having a chat about this backstage when The Way played Tyneside Pigsty. He suggested I try and approach Paddy, but he DAREN’T give his number to anyone. I said I didn’t want to go through Kitchenware as they’d never even sent a rejection letter to every demo we’d sent… so I decided to call Mond. Within a few days he came back to me with ‘a number’, but that I was never to divulge where I’d got it from (it’s been 30 years – who gives a….). Intrepidly, I began dialling that ‘Consett’ number… and it was answered by none other than Martin. I admit, I was a little nervous, but we ended up having a great chat for about half an hour, and at the end (because Paddy was out) he graciously said he’d pass on my details about the band and it’s line-up (which also featured Groove Armada’s Andy Cato and Faithless’ Jonathan White – I plucked the majority of my players from the ‘Doncaster Youth Jazz Orchestra, and believe me, we were one of the tightest live bands in the country).

      24 hours later, I get a call from Kitchenware head-honcho, Keith Armstrong, stating in no uncertain terms that ‘under no circumstances should you ever try to contact Paddy again’. I often wondered why. After reading these clippings, I now know.

      Let me tell you, from the heart of my bottom, Tracie Young really did have a ‘soul on fire’ – she still does, as she showed when she cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats for a children’s cancer hospice recently – and I’ll always be glad to call her my friend.

      p.s. A quick word on ‘Respond’ – I think Weller’s original intentions were good, but once he quickly got sucked into the album-tour-album-tour cycle with The Style Council, he took his eye completely off the ball. As soon as the singles failed to chart high enough, he just as quickly lost interest in all his acts. Maybe if Weller had been canny enough to have a ‘hands off’ approach – let someone else dictate to and run the label – they might have been able to sign some the more credible acts of the time, Smiths, Bragg, Scritti, Redskins and (heaven forbid) the Sprouts. Personally, I just think Solid Bond Studios had a really weird sound that never quite sat well with me ears, like their tape machine needed a good demagnetizing/aligning.

      1. Great story. I have to say that when I posted originally I knew nothing about Tracie beyond dim memories from way back. But she is a lovely, genuine person and it’s been a delight to interact with her a little and learn about her from those who know her better. She comes out with nothing but credit.

      2. Andy Pawluk isn’t mentioned as much as you think, but thanks for bringing it up. I always loved “shoebox full of secrets”. Really enjoyed your bits on Respond. My ears aren’t good enough to notice the sonic issues you raised but I liked a lot of the releases, and thought most of the singles in particular were great.

  2. I don’t actually remember this tune, although I do remember some of Tracie’s other stuff. I found it on YouTube (a 12″ mix anyway) and it does sound a lot like the Style Council. I like it a bit more than Paddy does. I think the chorus works with the verse except for the timing somehow .. it sounds like a dodgy edit to me

    Agree with Paddy about PYT though. Shamone!

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