The two first met in 1983, when Thorn was just starting out as the singer with Everything but the Girl – though much of their relationship has been conducted over the years through letters and costly phone calls, Thorn in London, Morrison in Australia.
As her book, My Rock’n’Roll Friend, developed, Thorn realised that an in-person reunion was required; they hadn’t seen each other in two decades.
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“I was nervous because I didn’t know what I would say,” Thorn admits. “I worried whether we’d still hit it off, or even if she would still be keen on the book idea.”
Arriving thoroughly jetlagged after a 24-hour flight, she reached Morrison’s door in Queensland, knocked and held her breath. When Morrison opened it, she was holding a knee-length skirt, and addressing Thorn in mid-sentence, as if they had last seen one another five minutes previously.
“So, do you want this skirt? I’m throwing it away, it makes me look fat. You can have it.”
If this was not quite what Thorn was expecting, she could not have been entirely surprised. “She always was a loose cannon, Lindy,” she says. And it is this very quality that makes My Rock’n’Roll Friend such a captivating delight. Few will know who The Go-Betweens were – they never had a hit – but this is mostly a book about what it is like to be a woman in rock: overlooked, undervalued, stifled, sidelined.
Morrison is an enormous personality, wilful, contradictory and slightly terrifying, and Thorn brings her quite splendidly to life on the page. The book also looks at the pair’s enduring friendship, Morrison taking a very young and shy new pop star under her wing and encouraging her to claim her own space in a male-dominated industry.
“When we first met, I was only 20 and she was 31,” says Thorn. “We were opposites, and I didn’t know who I was yet. Lindy offered me a set of possibilities: Who am I going to be? What’s it like being a woman surrounded by men? And how do you navigate that situation? She was exciting to be around.”
Thorn, 58, has had an intriguing post-pop career. After splitting the band in 2000 so that she and her co-founder husband Ben Watt could focus on raising their three children, both have since pursued individual projects: solo albums, dance labels, books.
Thorn herself has written three books, each a variation on the music memoir. And so while many former pop stars might concede their best years are behind them, Thorn seems just to get better. In My Rock’n’Roll Friend, she has written the most perceptive music book since Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
“I did wonder, after a few years of parenting, whether I had completely retired my creative side,” she says, “but after my first book, [her 2013 autobiography] Bedsit Disco Queen, all these opportunities came my way. I wrote that book in a spirit of exploration, so I do feel I have been very lucky.”
Lindy Morrison, meanwhile, has given her blessing to My Rock’n’Roll Friend. “She says
she thought it was revealing but true, and that I’d been very kind about her. So that was nice.”
A relief, too, as close collaborations can often test a relationship. “Oh, our friendship has gone through lots of different phases, and so this is just another strand of the story,” Thorn says.
“But every now and then I will get an email from her, with no surrounding niceties, picking me up on some error I’ve made that she has only just discovered. But that’s fine, I’m fine with that, I am. I really am.”
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My Rock’n’Roll Friend by Tracey Thorn is published by Canongate, at £16.99