So, it’s 1982, you’re 17 years old, you’re a bit bored, and one afternoon as you’re idly flicking through the pages of Smash Hits magazine…
Tracie Young was only 17 when she answered Paul Weller’s call for a new young female singer in the pages of Smash Hits in September 1982.
“That was just after I moved from Chelmsford to Hereford and I was unemployed and really bored. When I saw the advert I couldn’t believe it: it was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for”, she told Neil Tennant in a future issue of the aforementioned publication, just before the release of her debut single the following March.
Paul Weller’s post Jam offerings came in two varieties. One was his new band The Style Council – where the slicking of hair, and wearing a pastel shade Pringle jumper around your shoulders, like it was a cape, was actively encouraged. The other was his Respond Records label, the “new Motown” with Weller taking on the role of the “new Berry Gordy”. It was very serious, and Weller, ever the Northern Soul Boy suddenly started spouting off about “real music” and having his photo taken at Bar Italia to hint at his new found sophistication – which might have been seen as something of a rejection of his Punk fanbase. Some Jam fans certainly thought so.
Weller wrapped up his Jam career that same year with the uptempo “Beat Surrender”, and Tracie, apparently no longer unemployed and bored, found herself on Top of The Pops…in The Jam.
Respond had already released a couple of singles in 1981, one of these was “Been Teen” by our beloved Dolly Mixture, which bore the inaugural catalogue number of RESP1… but that was before Mr Pringle-Cape got all Motor City about the whole thing.
Signing Scottish band The Questions, Tracie and A Craze, Weller’s new creation started to take shape. Tracie and members of The Questions began to work together, even appearing alongside Weller and Talbot in The Style Council as the musical guests on BBC comedy show “Three of a Kind”, performing the Isley Brothers classic “Harvest for the World”.
From behind his bongos (seriously?) Weller comes across a bit like a trendy teacher, who’s finally convinced some of the people at youth club to sing some “proper music for a change”. It was probably good practice for everyone else involved, and definitely fed into the idea that, with the power vested by a pastel Pringle, he was now running the new Motown.
Tracie! gained an exclamation mark! and in March 1983 released her first solo single “The House That Jack Built”, written by Paul Berry and John Robinson of The Questions. The song, who’s title sounded a bit like “The House That Jack Built” by Aretha Franklin (1968), and who’s opening keyboard hook sounded a little bit similar to “Centerfold” by J Geils Band (1982) took Tracie! and the Respond posse into the UK Top Ten on 17 April 1983. The Respond Records revolution looked to be on it’s way.
Tracie never made it into the Top Ten again, and despite her feisty vocals and cool hat, her subsequent singles gradually drifted out of sight altogether. Respond themselves shut up shop in 1986, the new Motown dream in tatters, in a world not quite ready to be dragged back into the glory days of twenty years ago, or indeed lectured by Paul Weller about “proper music”.
Tracie Young has since carved out a career as a radio presenter with both Radio Essex and Connect FM, and in 2014 Cherry Red released “No Smoke Without Fire” her second album, recorded for Polydor, but never released.
At 17, it must have taken some guts to answer an ad in Smash Hits, and even more to jump into Wellers vision of a brave new world. Tracie has never confessed to being influenced by Punk, but with that kind of attitude…we think that somewhere she may have been.
You can visit Tracie on her Twitter HERE
Quotes from Smash Hits found on the excellent ifyouwerethere1980s HERE
If, like us you are still slightly intrigued by Weller’s vision of a cappuccino slurping utopia, populated by beautiful people, riding say, to a late night jazz club in Soho, on scooters, wearing 60s influenced fashions and reading French magazines, it seems to us that this was finally nailed some years later by the lovely St Etienne. And in an almost spooky twist of fate, Respond label dropout Debsy Wykes of the great Dolly Mixture, now contributes vocals to the very self same. Frothy coffees all round, à ta santé .