Tracey Thorn was born on September 26, 1962, in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire, England, and grew up in nearby Hatfield. In 1980, she left her first band the Stern Bops, with whom she played guitar and sang, to form another group with two of her classmates. Collectively known as The Marine Girls, they played local school cafeterias and private parties, and released a cassette of original tunes entitled A Day By The Sea in March 1981. The mail-order only tape sold a dismal 50 copies, but that didn’t discourage the girls from releasing a second cassette called Beach Party the following August.
In February 1982, Tracey and her bandmates were invited by reknowned radio DJ John Peel to record a Peel session at BBC studios in London. The following month they released their debut single “On My Mind,” featuring Tracey as the lead vocalist on In Phaze Records. The song was picked as the NME’s Single of the Week and was quickly reissued under the more prominent Cherry Red label.
Shortly after the release of “On My Mind,” Tracey formed a musical partnership with guitarist/singer/songwriter Ben Watt and they christened Everything But the Girl. The duo, who met while they were both studying at Hull University, released a three-track EP which featured their rendition of the Cole Porter standard “Night and Day,” as well as two original compositions.
A Distant Shore, Tracey’s debut solo mini-album was issued in August 1982. One of the tracks, “Plain Sailing,” was released as a single and later appeared on the Cherry Red compilation entitled Pillows & Prayers, which also featured “Lazy Ways” from The Marine Girls, as well as a Ben Watt solo recording. These early efforts revealed the twosome’s folk, soul and jazz influences that would be further developed on subsequent recordings.
The duo signed to the independent Blanco y Negro imprint and released their debut album Eden in June 1984. Issued as Everything But the Girl in the States, the LP cracked the top 15 on the British album charts and produced three minor hit singles including “Each and Everyone” and “Native Land.” Their sophomore release, Love Not Money, became their first top 10 LP in the UK, and included “When All’s Well” and “Angel.” 1986’s Baby the Stars Shine Bright, recorded with a full orchestra, faired poorly on the charts and spawned the minor hit “Come On Home.”
In 1988, Everything But the Girl released Idlewind, their fourth album for Blanco y Negro. They scored their first top 10 British hit with a cover of the Danny Whitten song “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” which Rod Stewart had recorded in 1980. The duo’s version climbed to No. 3 in the summer of ’88. 1990’s The Language of Love included the track “Driving,” which became their first chart single stateside when it cracked Billboard’s Modern Rock and Adult Contemporary charts. 1991 saw the release of their sixth LP, Worldwide, followed by the British EP Covers, which was issued as the album Acoustic in the U.S. along with additional tracks.
The future of Everything But the Girl seemed uncertain when Watt fell ill in 1992, diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease known as Churg-Strauss Syndrome. He eventually recovered and the duo returned to the studio to record Amplified Heart, which was released in August 1994. That same year, Tracey contributed her distinctive vocals to two songs featured on Massive Attack’s Protection album, namely the title track and “Better Things.” She collaborated with Massive Attack again in 1995 on “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game,” which appeared on the Batman Forever soundtrack.
Although initially released as a track on their 1994 album, “Missing” found a whole new life after American DJ Todd Terry remodeled it into a danceable New York house remix in 1995. The single, issued that summer logged 14 weeks in the British top 10, peaking at No. 3 that November. It became a huge smash the world over, including in the U.S. where it went all the way to No. 2 in February 1996.
The success of “Missing” as a dance track prompted Tracey and Watt to return to the studio to record an electronica-oriented collection entitled Walking Wounded. Released in the spring of 1996, the LP spawned three top 20 UK hits in the title track “Wrong” and “Single.” 1999’s Temperamental continued in the club music vein, and provided the duo with four top five dance hits in the U.S.
Partners in music as well as in life, Tracey and Watt have three children together. Their twin daughters were born in 1998 and their little boy arrived in 2001. EBTG went on hiatus in 2002 and Watt focused on DJing while Tracey took time off to raise their children. Like the Deserts Miss the Rain, a compilation of EBTG’s club hits, was issued in 2003.
In 2005, Tracey returned to the studio to record vocals for the track “Damage” by German dance duo Tiefschwarz, while a collection of EBTG remixes entitled Adapt or Die: Ten Years of Remixes came out in 2006. Nearly a quarter of a century after the release of her solo debut, Tracey emerged with Out of the Woods in March 2007, featuring the single “It’s All True.”