Matt Abbott: With just under two weeks to go until the single release, I guess it’s about time that we revealed the B-Side to ‘Breakfast at Sylvia’s’; and where better place to do so than AMBY? The track is called ‘The Queen of Chelsea’. It’s a very simple and playful and charming song about a carefree and fun loving individual, and the intention always was that at face value, the listener would never really feel the need to dig beneath the surface. It’s catchy and is hopefully quite easy on the ear, and that’s pretty much all there is to it.
And there’s quite a significant reason for that.
The song is inspired by, and I guess in many ways is a tribute to, an incredible woman called Tracey Wilkinson. For me, Tracey was above all things a wonderful friend. I would relish the afternoons spent laughing and gossiping in her company, and she would find herself enraptured over the most insignificant corners of the conversation. Any room was improved with Tracey as an occupant, and I don’t think anybody quite took as much from life as she did.
On top of this, she was a wonderfully gifted musician. Anybody who has listened to our debut album will be aware of her beautiful backing vocals and her keyboard playing that contributed so much to its soulful signature sound. Her “call and response” lines in ‘This Song Is Definitely Not About You’ wonderfully captured her charismatic and mischievous personality, and her harmonies at the end of ‘A Few Quiet Drinks’ are a testament to how powerful and graceful her voice could be.
Anyway, more importantly than anything, Tracey was MiNI dOG’s soul mate for the last 15 years of her life. By his own admittance he is a blessed man for having shared a decade and a half in blissful union with this woman, and having known her for just a third of this time; I know how lucky I am to have called her a friend.
I don’t want this blog to feel sad, same as we didn’t want the song to feel sad either. If I’d have written a mournful ballad for Tracey when she died, I know she’d listen to it and roll her eyes. She never did quite embrace the melancholic work of The Smiths. She’d sooner stick The Cure on and dance around the kitchen in her marigolds than take a moment to reflect on Morrissey’s tortured soul. But I hope, above all else, that if she listened to ‘The Queen of Chelsea’, she’d smile and nod her head to the chorus; and probably scald MiNI dOG for sampling her backing vocals from yesteryear, saying “I could have done a better job than that if you’d let me!”
The complications that led to Tracey’s untimely death arose from the fact that she suffered from a truly horrendous disease called Cystic Fibrosis. On her many remarkable roads to recovery she had a double lung transplant, and year after year, scare after scare, she constantly defied the odds and continued to live when the doctors would grimace and warn that the end was always nigh. You see I guess that’s the only way to be when somebody tells you at the age of 11 that you’re probably going to be dead in a few years, and that pretty much every year for nearly four decades (sorry Tracey), you were constantly told that a year or two maximum was all that you could hope for.
When she and MiNI dOG used to go down and visit Chelsea for a few days, Tracey felt more alive than anybody on the planet. This was her red carpet; this was her place on the earth, and as she rode down the King’s Road on her mobility scooter, it was an immeasurable grin and a defiant two fingers up at the world that accompanied her royal parade. Buckingham Palace was replaced by The Stockpot, and whilst countless numbers in her surrounding area would shell out fortunes for nuggets of enjoyment, Tracey was the person taking all of life’s pleasures for a fraction of the expense, and if you were measuring fulfilment, no fortune could compare.
One of my favourite memories of Tracey, and there are many, was when I arrived at 6×7 Studios in Sheffield to record some vocals for our early demos. This must have been summer 2007, and it was a beautiful sunny day. In fact I’m pretty sure we were recording ‘Red Lipstick’ and ‘The Thrill of Thirty Seconds’. Anyway, when I arrived, Tracey was sat in the garden; completely in awe of a butterfly that danced gracefully before her. Apparently she’d been sat transfixed by the butterfly for a good hour or so, and I couldn’t help but stand and watch her in amazement in return. She squeezed every last ounce of pleasure that life had to offer, and most would have to live two hundred years before they laughed as much as she did.
So I hope you enjoy the song in the spirit that it was intended. If not, fine; it doesn’t matter. It’s nothing more than a pleasant little pop song that I wrote to remind me of how frivolous my friend was. And after all, as her motto went…we’re here for a good time, not a long time. So why waste time worrying about anything?