Book Review: “Heart and Soul” by Carol Decker

One of my favourite bands in the 1980s was T’Pau and I have previously done a post about their album Essential (which is an absolute bargain, and you should pick up if you don’t have a copy).

As I noted in my review of Essential, like me, T’Pau hail from Shrewsbury. That was one of the reasons why I liked them. It was (well, still is) rare for anything of note to come out of Shropshire (the Industrial Revolution and Charles Darwin being about the only other things), so it was quite something when they burst onto the scene. The timing couldn’t have been better for me personally. I was disillusioned with Shrewsbury and Shropshire and T’Pau helped me to find a way to like aspects of the area, while putting other aspects (mostly people and a particular school) out of my mind.

T’Pau were, without doubt, one of the groups I listened to most during my high school days. And yet, they hardly figured at all once I was at university (musically, they took me very naturally from many of the bands I listened to in the 1980s to Roxette, who dominated my music listening for much of the 1990s). T’Pau seemed to just disappear. I still listened to Bridge of Spies, but I was unaware of any new material. In fact, it wasn’t until many years later that I discovered that there had been any more music. After that, from time to time, Carol Decker would pop up on TV programmes and I was aware that she was doing some of the 80s nostalgia concerts. I often wondered what had happened. And then, on social media, I discovered that there was an autobiography… and then found that it was sold out. And there didn’t seem to be any second hand copies available (which is usually a good sign about the quality of something). Then, early in 2022, I saw Carol/T’Pau post that some additional copies had been found. So I pounced and got myself a copy. It’s not just any copy – these books are signed too.

The first thing to make clear is that the book was first published in 2016 and the copies that are now on sale are from that print run, so there’s already a 6 year gap. But, honestly, that doesn’t matter too much – though I do hope that there will be an update one day.

The book itself reads like an interview and although Carol comments on writing it, that the page above says “As told to Andy Richardson” is perhaps telling. It really doesn’t matter. The feel of the book is as though you’re in a pub with Carol and she’s recalling key memories and moments of her life. It’s very natural. It’s a shame that Andy or Carol didn’t pick up on all the typos and little mistakes here and there, but they don’t overly distract.

One aspect of the conversational style of the book is that there are gaps and also parts where the book doesn’t follow a standard chronology. As I’m used to reading Japanese books, I’m quite used to this less non-linear style and it doesn’t bother me at all, but I could imagine some readers wondering why more editing wasn’t done to bring everything together more chronologically. Because it’s more natural, that’s why.

As I said, there are perhaps also some gaps. I don’t know whether this was because Carol wasn’t pressed on certain points to provide more detail, she couldn’t remember them, or whether they just weren’t considered significant. For example, when China In Your Hand got to number one is discussed, but facts like it being the UK’s 600th ever number one are missed (something that I got very emotional about at the time). Also, when discussing the tours, very little detail is given about each or many of the concerts. Of course, this could be that there was little memorable about most of them. I have seen such gaps with autobiographies such as Nasher’s “Nasher Says Relax” and Holly Johnson’s “Bone In My Flute”) (both of Frankie Goes To Hollywood), for example. Understandable, but a little frustrating for those of us for whom that was a key connection with the band since it was then when we were in the same building with them.

On the topic of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, as T’Pau came just as Frankie disappeared from the scene, I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t get a mention in the book – but I was on the look out since I’m writing a book about Frankie and their fans. While Frankie weren’t there, Paul Morley – who was one of those that was at the record label where Frankie were – does get a mention. I wasn’t surprised that his interaction with Carol was to be a complete tit. On the subject of tits, Carol doesn’t hold back with somewhat colourful and explicit descriptions… and we even learn that she flashed her tits at Bryan Adams during a concert and that she says that she had a great pair. There’s no photo evidence in the book to support this… or is there?

Having finished reading the book, a number of things stood out for me. First, how funny it was reading about places that were a part of my own life. Not only does Shrewsbury get a lot of mentions, but I can picture where Carol used to live having walked past it and gone to school nearby. Also, I went to Salop Music Centre when it was in its old location on a few occasions (most notably to buy a guitar) – so I’m sure that I would have come across people mentioned in the book and, who knows, perhaps even Carol was in there one time (as this was before T’Pau had their first hits). I also wonder whether our paths crossed when, for example, I went to Belgo’s – which I discovered used to be run by her partner (now husband).

I also enjoyed the part where Carol mentions diving onto barracuda, not knowing them to be dangerous. I guess this support Mayor Vaughn’s observation in Jaws.

But, one of the things I took from the book is how things could have been so different. Just like any group in the music industry (though it can apply to individuals in the wider world too, of course), there are moments when people can point to how different things could have been had certain people done a better job. I have recently read about some of this in relation to Roxette, and now I have read about it in relation to T’Pau. Had record management and labels done things better, T’Pau could easily have gone on to have had many more records – even if perhaps the group membership may still have needed to alter. Yet, let’s not escape the fact, T’Pau had a huge album and some massive hit singles – the overwhelming majority of acts can never get to make such a claim.

I found reading all of the aspects of problems with working relations and Carol trying to cope with this and depression, all very relatable. They will also be themes that will be coming up in my next novel. Reading “Heart and Soul” has really helped with that as well as being very interesting to fill the gaps in my knowledge about Carol and T’Pau. I really enjoy learning more about the people who have brought me such joy through their music, for example – I’ve already mentioned two such books, but others include “Pet Shop Boys versus America” and “Pet Shop Boys, Literally” (although not autobiographies) and I’m now listening to the audiobook of Richard Blade’s autobiography)

Overall, I really enjoyed my pub-like experience of hearing/reading about Carol – it would be great to have the opportunity to see T’Pau in concert again one day (I know there are 80’s revival events, but I would prefer a full concert) and perhaps even get to have a chat with Carol in an actual pub over a drink. Until then, I will just have to keep listening to the albums and re-read the book from time to time.

If there are any copies left, you can get them at https://caroldeckersignedautobiography.blogspot.com/?m=1

#FloreatSalopia

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