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)
INCREDIBLE . I read it in two huge gulps. It's funny, incredibly moving, beautifully written, really thought-provoking Alexis Petridis 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 Forget Morrissey: Romany & Tom is the most beautiful, compelling memoir by a musician you'll read for a very long time John Niven Closely observed, brilliantly written and unsparing David Hepworth A poignant, life-affirming work Financial Times Everything But The Girl's Ben Watt has written Romany and Tom about his jazz musician father and actress mother "who came together like colliding trains in 1957". This tender biography also explores family dynamics Sunday Express 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 An absorbing and moving memoir of his parents ... Watt writes beautifully as he explores the vicissitudes of marriage, the travails of old age and the changing role of the grown-up son Bookseller Watt is made of particularly fine stuff, possessed of a shining intelligence The Times Watt is such a responsible, deft writer that you feel straightaway you're in good hands ... he wants to tell you something about the world William Leith, Mail on Sunday He writes with a songwriter's eye for the telling phrase Robert McCrum, Observer
Number Of Pages: 368
Published: 1st March 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 13.5
Weight (kg): 0.41