Artist: Everything But The Girl
Title: Each And Every One
Description: single; album track, Eden
Label: Blanco y Negro
Release date: 1984
First heard: 1984
Maybe you should just think twice
I don’t wait around on your advice
I didn’t see jazz coming. The Lovecats by The Cure was a curve ball in 1983, at a time when my musical core was defined by doom and gloom and minor chords. It opened my ears to brushwork and double bass and Django Reinhardt-style guitar. It’s amazing how a jackknife in direction by one of your pet bands can broaden your mind in an instant. It was the year I stopped being a sixth-former and became a student and fumbled towards a sartorial identity. Oxfam raincoats, big hair and ripped t-shirts initially. But something happened during that one-year foundation course at Nene College: I met Dave.
Dave Keech, a fellow art student from nearby Kettering with a much more mature palate – and palette – was a jazz aficionado. He listened to it, understood it and played it. And he got me into it. I made cassettes of artists like Duke Ellington and Count Basie and Dave Brubeck and Ella Fitzgerald (her standard of Too Darn Hot came to epitomise the hot summer of ’84). This was trad jazz. Swing. I wasn’t ready for modern jazz yet. But I remain grateful to Dave for blowing away so many of my post-punk prejudices, and for leading me towards a flat-top.
So by the time I arrived in London in September ’84, away from home for the first time, I was primed to welcome in the jazz- and Latin-infused wave of pop music already happening in the pages of the NME and Smash Hits. This was the breezy, horizontally-striped time of Weekend, Sade, Café Bleu, Carmel and, at the forefront, rising as ambassadors from the defiantly wispy Pillows & Prayers swoon-iverse, Everything But The Girl.
Before my first next-door neighbour at the halls of residence, Stephen Clasper, got me into ABC’s Beauty Stab, he flooded the corridor with the irresistible clean air of Eden. An already hardened Smiths fan, I was alert to melancholy, and here was a whole slab of it, with plaintive brass, school-orchestra percussion (what is that hollow, ridged wooden thing you scrape a stick across?) and voices spun from silk. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt share everything, including the vocals across the album. But the opening track – and the revelation for me – Each And Every One, is Tracey’s, with a bit of Ben on backing (“Slam the door” “Much too dear”), I think; it might be Tracey multi-tracked.
(It’s funny how it seemed OK to think of them as Ben and Tracey, even though we didn’t know them. I met them in 1990 around the release of the super-sophisticated – and thus slightly more remote – Language Of Life album, but it was as if I already knew them, so intimate and heart-on-sleeve was their music.)
That they were a couple made Everything But The Girl so much more significant and authentic when they crooned these gorgeous, heart-tugging songs. Theirs was a kitchen-sink romance, more about a dare-I-say domestic togetherness than a fleeting quickie, or a passing moment of bruised ribs. Lyrically, they draw too upon past relationships, whose failings still resonate even when you’re in a stable one, so when Tracey sings to a lost love, “And your kind of love is the kind that always disappears,” we wonder if she’s fearing the same of the current one. (I have no way of knowing, as Tracey is commendably guarded in her otherwise revealing memoir, but one wonders aloud if by writing songs about sour times, they exorcised them from their own home life.)
Even though it’s the second album Love Not Money (another that I hungrily taped from Stephen) that bears the monochrome, photographic sleeve, like Woody Allen, I always see Eden – and Each And Every One – in black and white.
Maybe it seems unfair to cite the first song of an artist’s first album as my all-time favourite – after all, I’ve consistently drawn comfort and joy from their subsequent work, from the harmonica-infused Native Land, through the captivatingly orchestral agit-prop Little Hitler, to Toddy Terry’s wipe-clean Missing, and into Tracey’s lovely recent solo work, like Grand Canyon and Nighttime – but you can’t match the feeling of the right music in the right place at the right time.
Just a few years after punk, and its independent spirit was alive and well and jazzy. Who saw that coming?