It’s now 40 years since Tracey Thorn dipped her toe into the murky waters of the music industry, initially with the help of one of her best friends at school, Gina Hartman.
The duo established Marine Girls, with Tracey on guitar and Gina taking on the tasks of vocals and percussion. In due course, the duo would be joined by the Fox sisters – Jane and Alice.
They fully embraced the DIY recording culture that had been promoted by the punk/new wave scenes, and their first self-financed release was A Day By The Sea, 12 very lo-fi tracks on a cassette tape. This led to an offer from In Phaze Records, a label whose owner and producer Pat Bermingham took care of everything from a small mobile studio in his garden shed and was every bit as DIY. The first release on the label was Beach Party – a further cassette-only issue of 16 songs, a number of which were newer versions of tracks that had been on A Day By The Sea.
There was a charm and innocence to Beach Party, no surprise when the ages of the performers were 14-17 and they were still very much learning how to play and sing. The entire length of the album was under 30 minutes and this also made for very short and occasionally shambolic live appearances, but there was enough about them to begin to gain a decent reputation and within a few months, the debut cassette was reissued on vinyl by Whaam! Records, a new label that had been started up by Dan Treacey of The Television Personalities.
By now, Tracey Thorn had moved to Hull to attend university and Gina took the decision to leave the band. The remaining trio managed to keep things going and before the year was out, they had recorded a debut 7″ single, issued jointly by In Phaze and Whamm?
This was really the first commercial release, as everything prior had been recorded for cassette-only projects, notwithstanding an eventual re-release on vinyl. It was also the longest and most ambitious piece of music they had written and recorded to this point with Tracey stepping forward to take the lead vocal. It was Alice, up to this point the principal vocalist, who took the lead on the b-side.
A number of journalists on a number of the UK music weeklies were captivated by Marine Girls and there were a number of fawning articles and features. This led to Cherry Red Records offering a contract, the first fruits of which were to reissue, and make more widely available vis improved distribution, the debut single in May 1982. The contract also allowed the band members to embark on solo projects, to be released by Cherry Red, and Tracey was first out of the blocks with the album A Distant Shore in August 1982, followed by a 7″ single just before Xmas:-
The following month saw a new 45 from her group:-
In March 1983, the album Lazy Ways was released, an LP that would make the Top 50 on the end of year list with the NME. By then, however, Marine Girls were no more. Tracey was concentrating on a collaboration with her boyfriend, Ben Watt, on a new venture, while Jane Fox had issued her debut single in May 1983:-
She would later find her own collaborator in the shape of Owain Barton (known to all and sundry by his surname) and in September 1983, the duo released this:-
….and then a self-titled mini-LP.
A couple of footnotes.
Jane and Alice Fox would jook up again with guitarist Lester Noel and drummer Steven Galloway in Grab Grab the Haddock and released two singles in 1984 and 1985 as mentioned here previously on the blog.
The posthumous diaries of Kurt Cobain revealed that Lazy Days was one of his Top 50 albums of all time. Tracey Thorn would later also discover that another huge fan was James Murphy of LCD Soundsytem.
This started out as a posting on the On My Mind single. It’s amazing how my mind drifts off and things expand as a result of now having more time on my hands. I’m not sure if it is entirely a good thing.