Marine Girls – On My Mind





Although I have purloined many of my father’s records, one of the joys of returning home to Paris is seeing what else I can discover in his treasure trove of forgotten artefacts. One such foray provided me with a cassette by a band called Marine Girls which in turn led me to this single. Listening to the cassette, I realised that, whilst not the lead singer, this was the first recorded output of Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn who is the guitarist in the band whilst the majority of vocals are taken by Alice Fox whose sister Jane plays the bass (there is no drummer). Now how wise this arrangement is, is open to conjecture as Alice’s ability to hold a tune is tantamount to  Def Leppard’s drummer being asked to hold two sticks to play the drums . Nevertheless, what it does create is a charming naivety which allied to rudimentary playing of their instuments seems to sum up the do-it-yourself ethos of the time.

The band allegedly split after an argument between Tracey and Alice following a gig in Glasgow. Now it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if it was an argument about lead vocal duties as, quite sensibly, on ‘On My Mind’ Tracey takes over to sing her own song in a manner that Alice would have found quite impossible (i.e. well) relegating Alice to the b side. The song starts with Tracey’s gently strummed guitar, a precursor to ‘Smalltown Girl’ on ‘A Distant Shore.’ Then, high in the mix, although given the rudimentary production I’m not sure there was a mix, the bass is prominent carrying the melody rather than the guitar. When Tracey starts to sing, it is quite apparent how far she has come as a vocalist since that first cassette, ‘Beach Party.’ The song itself is a love song but one which involves call and response with Tracey singing a line which is then contradicted or refined in some way by the response given by Alice and Jane: “You got me feeling so happy / (Feeling so sad).” This call and response format in the song serves as an excellent insight into the contradictory emotions felt by the protagonist who is falling in love: “I look around for someone new / (Wasting her time) / But no one can compete with you / (And that’s a bad sign).” Even when “I get home to slam the door and shut the world outside,” she discovers the object of her affection is “On my mind.”

For the first time on record here, Tracey seems to get inside her lyric and invest the song with real emotion that makes you believe in the heartache she is enduring. Yes it is an adolescent love she is feeling here but this is an adolescent band formed in the sixth form in school with Alice being Jane’s younger sister. For an adolescent band expressing an adolescent love, this is an incredibly mature work and paves the way for the brilliant ‘A Distant Shore.’ For me, Tracey Thorn, along with Sandy Denny, is one of the great English female vocalists of the last fifty years (Dusty was Irish) and ‘On Your Mind’ is the first real indication of that talent.

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