Everything but the Girl

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Everything but the Girl
Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt in 2022
Background information
Also known asEBTG
OriginHull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
Years active
  • 1982–2000
  • 2021–present
MembersTracey Thorn
Ben Watt

Everything but the Girl are an English musical duo formed in Kingston upon Hull in 1982, consisting of lead singer, songwriter, composer and occasional guitarist Tracey Thorn and guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter, composer, producer and singer Ben Watt. The group's early works have been categorized as sophisti-pop with jazz influences[3][4] before undergoing an electronic turn following the worldwide success of the 1994 hit single "Missing", remixed by Todd Terry.[5]

The duo have achieved four top 10 and 12 top 40 singles in the UK[6] and received eight gold and two platinum album BPI certifications in the UK[7] as well as one gold album RIAA certification in the US.[8] Their cover of "I Don't Want to Talk About It" reached No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart in 1988, a feat later matched by "Missing", which charted high in several countries and reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1995 and spent over seven months on the UK Singles Chart for the "Missing" remix, which led to a Brit Award nomination for Best British Single.

Their ninth album, Walking Wounded (1996), entered the UK albums chart at No. 4, and spawned the top-10 singles "Walking Wounded" and "Wrong.” The band went inactive in 2000, with Thorn declaring she would no longer perform live.[9] Thorn and Watt, who did not publicise their romantic relationship while active,[10] married in 2009,[11] both released solo albums and said it was unlikely Everything but the Girl would be active again.[12]

However, in November 2022, Thorn and Watt announced an album had been recorded for release in the second quarter of 2023. Fuse, the band's first new material in 24 years, was released on 21 April 2023. It charted at No. 3 on the Official UK Album Chart, making it the highest charting album of their career. In a 5-star review, The Guardian said: "Still staking out pop's frontier after 40 years. It is audibly made by people with a deep love for and understanding of the music they're inspired by … a comeback worth waiting for."


Formation and early years[edit]

When Thorn and Watt met, they were both attending the University of Hull and both had contracted with the independent record company Cherry Red Records as solo artists.[13] Thorn was also a member of the trio Marine Girls.

1985 view of Turners, with the slogan Everything but the Girl

They formed a side-project[14] as a duo and adopted the name Everything but the Girl from a slogan used by the Hull shop, Turner's Furniture[15] at 34-38 Beverley Road, between Norfolk Street and College Street.[2][16]

Everything but the Girl's debut EP,[17][18] with a "samba interpretation" of Cole Porter's "Night and Day",[19] was released in June 1982.[2] After steady sales and exposure on the Cherry Red record label's 99-pence promotional Christmas 1982 compilation album entitled Pillows & Prayers, the single was reissued in August 1983.

Later, the pair, separately, each, had solo album releases through Cherry Red. Thorn's 1982 LP was A Distant Shore, an eight-track mini-album. Watt's 1983 debut LP, North Marine Drive, was the follow-up to his 1982 5-track EP Summer Into Winter, featuring Robert Wyatt.[2]

On 5 January 1983, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, as Everything But the Girl, made their live debut at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and performed with Paul Weller.[20]

Thorn and Watt, as Everything but the Girl signed to Blanco y Negro Records.[citation needed]

Recorded in September 1983,[21] in May 1984, their debut album, Eden, was released, reaching No. 14 on the UK Albums Chart, spending 20 weeks on the chart.[6] It featured the single "Each and Every One", which reached No. 28 on the UK top 40.[6] Thorn wrote in 2016 that her lyric was misunderstood as a lovelorn lament, when it was actually a response to the patronizing tone her earlier all-female band Marine Girls was written about by male music critics.[22]

In spite of their early history as established independent artists, newcomers Everything but the Girl were considered part of the "lite-jazz/neo-jazz-pop"[23] music style, later[24] known as "sophisti-pop", alongside other British acts such as Carmel, Swing Out Sister, Sade, Matt Bianco and The Style Council. Both Watt and Thorn were guest musicians on the Style Council's Café Bleu album,[2] while Everything but the Girl worked with producer Robin Millar who simultaneously also produced Sade's debut album in the same studio, alternating between collaborating with the two bands.[25]

A later version of the album, Everything but the Girl, was released in the United States on the Sire label, containing six tracks from Eden,[26] two UK singles and four alternate tracks,[27] the six substitutions replace the second side.[23]

The 1985 album Love Not Money was the band's second studio album release, and signalled a move away from jazz and Latin influences to more traditional electric guitar, bass and drums arrangements. The US edition included two songs not on the original UK release: a cover version of the Pretenders' song "Kid" and "Heaven Help Me".[citation needed]

The next year the band released Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, recorded with an orchestra at Abbey Road Studios.[2] They revealed the album's inspiration by their choices of B-sides for the single releases: songs from Bacharach and Jimmy Webb on the 12" versions (as well as a cover version of Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces"). The first single from the album was "Come on Home", followed by "Don't Leave Me Behind".[citation needed]

In 1988, Everything but the Girl released Idlewild. Blending acoustic instrumentation with sequenced drums and synthesisers, it reached No. 13 on the UK Albums Chart, spending 15 weeks on the chart.[6] A cover version of Danny Whitten's "I Don't Want to Talk About It", previously a success for Rod Stewart, was released as a single shortly afterwards. It reached No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart[6] and was added to the latter issues of the album.[2] Around this time, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions asked Thorn to contribute vocals to the song "Big Snake" on their final studio album, Mainstream.

1990's Los-Angeles-recorded "slick, commercial"[28] album The Language of Life was produced by Tommy LiPuma and featured notable US west coast and US east coast session musicians, including Omar Hakim, Vinnie Colaiuta, Lenny Castro, Joe Sample and Michael Brecker. Stan Getz contributed a tenor sax solo on the song "The Road".[2] The single "Driving".[2] received heavy rotation on American adult alternative radio.[citation needed]

In 1991, they released the self-produced album Worldwide. It charted at No. 29 on the UK Albums Chart.[6]

1992 saw the release of the acoustic Covers EP. It reached No. 13 on the UK top 40.[6] The lead track was "Love Is Strange". It also included cover versions of Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest"; Cyndi Lauper's "Time after Time" and Elvis Costello's "Alison".[2] These four tracks were included on the US only album, Acoustic.[2]

In the summer of 1992, the duo was forced to curtail recording and touring for several months when Watt developed Churg–Strauss syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease. Hospitalised for 10 weeks, and enduring several life-saving operations, he subsequently wrote a memoir, Patient, about his near-death ordeal.

In 1993, Everything but the Girl released two EPs in the UK. One featured a cover version of Paul Simon's "The Only Living Boy in New York". The other spawned a subsequent top 10 UK hit, "I Didn't Know I Was Looking for Love",[29] for Karen Ramirez.

Worldwide acclaim[edit]

1994 saw Everything but the Girl release their seventh album, Amplified Heart, a hybrid of folk rock and electronica featuring contributions from guitarist Richard Thompson, double bassist Danny Thompson, drummer Dave Mattacks, and producer/programmer John Coxon. Producer Todd Terry remixed the track "Missing", and when released as a single, it became an international success.[2] It reached the top ten around the world, including the US, where it peaked at No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100.[2]

While recording Amplified Heart Thorn and Watt wrote lyrics and music for two tracks – "Protection" and "Better Things" on Massive Attack's second album Protection. Thorn sang lead vocals on both. The single "Protection" reached No. 14 on the UK top 40.[30] The album reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart.[30]

Buoyed by the recent successes and out of contract at WEA, Everything but the Girl released the self-produced Walking Wounded in 1996 exclusively licensed to Atlantic Records for the United States and Canada and Virgin Records for the Rest of the World. Featuring collaborations with Spring Heel Jack and Howie B it ushered in a new electronic sound for their own work. It charted at No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart and spawned two top ten UK singles – "Walking Wounded" and "Wrong". Two further singles – "Single" and "Before Today" – reached No. 20 and No. 25 respectively.[6]

In 1999, the duo followed it up with their ninth studio album, Temperamental. It charted at No. 16 on the UK Albums Chart.[6]

The duo performed their final show at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2000.[31]

Extended hiatus[edit]

"Self-awareness is a dangerous thing: by about the third or fourth record, people were throwing comparisons at us and you have to be very tough to withstand it. And by the end of the '90s, we were playing to 5,000 people a night. I'd stand on stage, looking out, thinking, "I don't want to be this big."

Ben Watt in 2012, recalled a lacklustre feeling from the late 1990s, during the latter years of EBTG.[32]

Between 2000 and 2022, there were no new recordings from Everything but the Girl. In 2002, 2004 and 2005, the duo curated compilations of their material. The 2004 compilation, Like the Deserts Miss the Rain, was a DVD release that included footage of a 1999 performance at the Forum venue in London, UK, for which John McKenzie and long-time collaborator Martin Ditcham performed alongside the pair as session musicians.[citation needed]

From 1999, Watt concentrated on DJ and production/remix work, finding success as one half of Lazy Dog, with partner Jay Hannan, and collaborating with Beth Orton on her 1999 album Central Reservation and her 2002 album Daybreaker.[33] Watt then proceeded with a new angle on his solo career that included launching the Buzzin' Fly record label in 2003,[34] and becoming the part-owner-founder of the Neighbourhood and Cherry Jam nightclubs from 2002–2005.[35] Watt released a string of club-oriented productions including the Bright Star EP, with producer Stimming and British singer Julia Biel, on Buzzin' Fly in 2010.[36]

In 2005, Thorn co-wrote and recorded vocals for the song "Damage", a collaboration with German band Tiefschwarz that appeared on their Eat Books album. Thorn's second solo album, Out of the Woods, was then released in 2007,[37] followed by her third solo album, Love and Its Opposite, in 2010.[38] In October 2011, Thorn released a cover version of The xx's "Night Time", on which Watt played guitar and sang backing vocals. This was their first recording together in over a decade, although it was not an Everything but the Girl release.[39]

In an April 2011 interview, Thorn was asked whether she would ever work again with Watt as Everything but the Girl. Thorn responded, "Yes, we do keep saying we are nearly ready to maybe do some work together again. There are certain obstacles, some practical, some psychological, that we would need to overcome. But it may well happen."[40] A collection of Christmas songs, Tinsel and Lights, for which Thorn recorded cover versions of Christmas songs with two new original songs, was released in October 2012 on Buzzin' Fly's sister record label Strange Feeling.[41] Watt and the couple's children provided backing vocals on the original song "Joy".

In 2012, the band's first four albums were reissued by Edsel Records as "deluxe" double CDs, with demo recordings and other additional material. At the time, Watt explained that Warner Music Group still maintained control over their back catalogue: "our big fear was that one day we'd wake up and they'd have reissued them, without telling us."; when the representative from Edsel, a company that specialises in reissued material, made contact, the couple decided that the time was appropriate. Additionally, Thorn stated that the thought of reforming the band and playing live filled her "with cold dread"—upon re-listening to the early Everything but the Girl records, Thorn experienced a sense of "Gosh, well, I'm not really that person any more."[32]

A second tranche of Demon/Edsel reissues, covering the four albums released between 1990 and 1994, was announced in September 2013. According to the Everything but the Girl website, "Once again, Ben and Tracey have helped at every stage of the process, sourcing demos, rarities and memorabilia for the releases."[42]

The band's final two albums, Walking Wounded and Temperamental were given the deluxe treatment and were reissued by Demon/Edsel on 4 September 2015.[43]

Watt paused his association with record labels and DJ activities to return to his folk-jazz singer-songwriter roots in 2014. His first solo album since 1983, Hendra was released on 14 April 2014. It featured collaborations with Bernard Butler, formerly of the band Suede, Berlin-based producer Ewan Pearson and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. The album won the 'Best 'Difficult' Second Album' category at the AIM Independent Music Awards 2014.[44] It was included at No 27 in Uncut's Top 75 Albums of 2014.[45] He followed it up in 2016 with Fever Dream. It continued his relationship with Bernard Butler, and added guest cameos from MC Taylor of North Carolina folk-rock band, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Boston singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler. It received a 9/10 review in Uncut magazine.[46] In a four-star review, The Guardian said: 'In his early 50s, he is making some of the best music of his career.'[47]

In addition to solo music projects, both Thorn and Watt have written books. Thorn's 2013 memoir, Bedsit Disco Queen, covers a significant portion of the history of Everything but the Girl as a band.[48]

In July 2017, Everything but the Girl reclaimed the rights to eight of their albums, plus the American rights to Temperamental and Walking Wounded from Warner Music Group; this catalogue will now be distributed through Chrysalis Records under licence from Watt's Strange Feeling label.[49]

Comeback and Fuse[edit]

On 2 November 2022, Thorn announced on Twitter that a new Everything but the Girl album had been recorded and would be released in spring 2023.[50]

The first single from their 11th album Fuse, "Nothing Left to Lose" premiered on BBC Radio 6 Music on 10 January 2023.[51] Fuse was released on 21 April 2023 and features "Nothing Left to Lose" along with nine more original songs, both electronic and acoustic.[52] On 9 August, they released Live at Maida Vale, a four track EP featuring live in studio performances of three Fuse songs and 1996's "Single".[53]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Work Category Result
1990 D&AD Awards[54] "Driving" Animation - Wood Pencil Won
1996 MTV EMA Themselves Best Dance Nominated
Viva Comet Awards Best International Act Won
Brit Awards "Missing" Best British Single Nominated
Ivor Novello Awards The Best Selling Song Nominated
2000 Billboard Music Video Awards "Five Fathoms" Dance Clip of the Year Nominated
2007 BMI London Awards "Missing" 3 Million Award Won




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External links[edit]