When Paul Weller broke up The Jam in 1982 they were the biggest band in Britain which gave him a lot of clout to do what he wanted. Besides forming The Style Council, he had a go at being a pop mogul by starting his own record label called Respond and put an ad in Smash Hits looking for a girl singer to join this Motown-wannabe of his. One of the young hopefuls who answered that ad was 17-year-old Essex girl Tracie Young — or Tracie! as she was initially known on her record sleeves – who made her singing debut on The Jam’s final single Beat Surrender.
Like Joanna and Susan in The Human League, Tracie was an “ordinary” teenage girl (who could sing) with the appeal of the pretty local lass who had a Saturday job in Boot’s and danced around her handbag at the High Street disco in the evenings. While you probably wouldn’t attempt to chat up Kim Wilde at a disco — too cooly Bardot glam — Tracie was a girl you might fancy your chances with. On Top of The Pops she looked like the siren of the Sixth Form in her denim jacket, pencil skirt, and white high heels and was voted “Most Fanciable Female” in the 1983 Smash Hits readers’ poll.
She was no shrinking violet pop puppet though, and had a row with Weller over his production of her records, especially The House That Jack Built which he sped up and put a lot of tinny synths and drum machines on. He wanted her to sound like a modern pop star, not “a little soul girl” in his words.
While I agree with Weller, the production was a bit naff but that didn’t stop her first two singles from being hits. Unfortunately the other acts on Respond like The Questions and A Craze didn’t do so well and by the time Tracie’s debut album Far From the Hurting Kind came out in 1984 she wasn’t having hits either and it only got to #64 in the charts which is a real shame as it’s a rather good album.
Download: Soul’s On Fire – Tracie (mp3)
With the lack of hits Weller lost interest in Respond and the label went belly up in 1986 leaving Tracie at Polydor where she recorded a second album No Smoke Without Fire which was never released. Pop career over, she had a family and then a second life as a radio presenter.
But last month — huzzah! — that second album finally saw the light of day a mere 30 years after it was recorded. I’ve not heard the whole thing yet (hasn’t been released in the States) but I do have extended mixes of some of the singles that are on it. How these weren’t hits is beyond me, Invitation especially shows what a great singer Tracie was becoming. One of the bonus tracks is the b-side curio 19 which takes Paul Hardcastle’s hit and turns it into an anti-vivisection protest song.
Download: Invitation (RSVP Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Download: I Can’t Leave You Alone (Pick n’ Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Download: 19 (Wickham Mix) – Tracie Young (mp3)
Nice to know that Tracie is doing well these days and didn’t become some pop casualty — she was a bit too sensible for that. Some of us are still carrying a little torch for her.