An extraordinary achievement. A moving, funny and beautifully written memoir by musician, DJ and writer Ben Watt which carefully chronicles his parents' lives, their marriage and their decline into old age
Ben Watt's father, Tommy, was a working-class Glaswegian jazz musician, a politicised left-wing bandleader and composer, whose heyday in the late 1950s took him into the glittering heart of London's West End, where he broadcast live with his own orchestra from the BBC's Paris Theatre and played nightly with his quintet at the glamorous Quaglino's. His mother, the daughter of a Methodist parson, Romany, schooled at Cheltenham Ladies' College, was a RADA-trained Shakespearian actress, who had triplets in her first marriage before becoming a leading showbiz feature writer and columnist in the sixties and seventies. They were both divorcees from very different backgrounds who came together like colliding trains at a fateful New Year's Day party in 1957.
Romany and Tom is Ben Watt's honest, sometimes painful, and often funny portrait of his parents' exceptional lives and marriage, depicted in a personal journey from his own wide-eyed London childhood, through years as an adult with children and a career of his own, to that inevitable point when we must assume responsibility for our own parents in their old age. Covering several decades, and drawing on a rich seam of family letters, souvenirs, photographs, public archives and personal memories, it is a vivid story of the post-war years, ambition and stardom, family roots and secrets, the death of British big band jazz, depression and drink, life in clubs and in care homes, and a strange alliance with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. It is also about who we are, where we come from, and how we love and live with each other for a long time.
About the Author
Born in 1962, Ben Watt is a musician, songwriter, DJ and author. His first book, Patient: The True Story of a Rare Illness was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, voted a Sunday Times Book of the Year by William Boyd and shortlisted for the Esquire Non-fiction Book of the Year. He is perhaps most well known for his twenty-year career in alt -pop duo Everything But The Girl (1982?2002). He is also an international club and radio DJ, and since 2003 has run his own independent record labels Buzzin' Fly and Strange Feeling. Having recently returned to songwriting and live performance, his first solo album for thirty years is expected in 2014. He lives in north London with his wife Tracey Thorn and their three children. Follow him on Twitter: @Ben_Watt (www.benwatt.com)
Neither sentimental nor savage, yet often wise, moving and entertaining within the same paragraph, Romany and Tom is a major achievement to rival any of Watt's recordings Guardian You know when everyone last month was going 'Ben Watt's Romany & Tom is amazing?' I've just read it. It really is Caitlin Moran Romany and Tom may be the most beguiling book you'll read all year ... He has a songwriter's gift for the deft phrase, while his powers of observation and recall are quite extraordinary ... Rather like Watt's musical compositions ... this book is at once downbeat and uplifting Mail on Sunday A poignant, life-affirming work Financial Times INCREDIBLE ... I read it in two huge gulps. It's funny, incredibly moving, beautifully written, really thought-provoking Alexis Petridis Forget Morrissey: Romany & Tom is the most beautiful, compelling memoir by a musician you'll read for a very long time John Niven [An] elegantly written and clear-sighted memoir ... Romany and Tom is a tender work infused with the understanding that this is the final chapter of two rich and complex lives ... Watt's reluctance to sentimentalise the experience makes it that much more powerful, cutting to the heart of the frustrations that come with caring for one's parents who were, not long ago, just like us Independent on Sunday It is a beautiful book, a story which will resonate with many and in many different ways. There are moments when I laughed and parts when I had to stop reading for a bit, draw breath and then continue Gideon Coe, BBC 6 Music Watt has written about personal trauma before in his 1996 memoir Patient. This ... pulses with the same combination of clarity and kindness. Unsentimental and humane Telegraph Closely observed, brilliantly written and unsparing David Hepworth As a DJ and one half of Everything But The Girl (with his partner Tracey Thorn), Ben Watt knows better than most the impact fame can have on identity. But in his poignant new memoir, Romany and Tom, he channels that knowledge through his parents' lives Harper's Bazaar
Number Of Pages: 368
Published: 26th February 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 13.5 x 2.7
Weight (kg): 0.41
Edition Number: 1