Beth Miller

Writing and tea


The Absolute Spit

Posted on August 20, 2021 at 6:40 AM

From the back you’d really think he was Bowie. My friends and I nudged each other excitedly, though we knew it wasn’t really him. Small venue, inexpensive tickets: no way was it him. But on the other hand, it REALLY looked like him - his frame, the stance, the way the jacket hung down.

The band tore into the opening bars of Jean Genie, and the main man finally turned round to face us. From the front the resemblance was less uncanny. He was a little fuller in the waist than the Thin White Duke, and his cheekbones wouldn’t cut you like a knife. Plus his outfit was anachronistic, my pedantic mate Johnno pointed out: he was styled as Bowie from the Young Americans era, not as Aladdin Sane, oh, do shut up Johnno, and listen! Because by god, the voice! He’d got the exact same voice! The absolute spit!

This wasn’t my first tribute act. As a student I saw Voulez Vous – very good – and the Bootleg Beatles, the granddaddy of them all. But the Bowie tribute was the first time I realised how much I loved that whole sort of is/sort of isn’t vibe. Not to mention the joy of hearing classic songs done live and accurate, the respectful homage of the entire thing.

And of course, there’s the puns. Tribute names are a goldmine for the pun lover. By Jovi might be my favourite, though Wrong Jovi really makes me laugh. I also have a soft spot for rival tributes Noasis, No Way Sis, Oasish and Oasis Maybe. Ah, there’s so many: Proxy Music, Nearvana, Fake That, Pink Fraud…

When I saw Into the Limelight, my tribute love crystallised into the germ of an idea. This BBC Arena documentary (still available on iPlayer) featured the Limelight Club in Crewe, now sadly defunct. There were several stand-out stars, but my favourite was Wayne Ellis of Limehouse Lizzy, whose thoughtful and melancholy reflections on life as a tribute act stayed with me for years.

Where were the women tributes, I wondered, and lo, the Graham Norton show answered. It presented an Adele tribute competition with a twist – the real Adele, unrecognizable in prosthetics, took part without the other competitors knowing. It’s a masterpiece of television, and every time I watch it I well up when Adele herself takes to the stage.

The plot of my fifth novel, Starstruck was forming in my head. Adele pretended to be her own tribute act – but what if she swapped places with one of her impersonators? Would people be able to tell that the person playing the massive arenas wasn’t her? And what would it be like if she took the tribute act’s place, performing in less glamorous venues…

Thus Sally Marshall was born. Hardworking and gutsy, she’s been a tribute act for twelve years, performing as Epiphanie, the world’s biggest megastar. One ordinary day, she comes home to find the real, actual Epiphanie sitting in her kitchen. When Sally picks her jaw up off the floor, she discovers that Epiphanie wants to make her a life swap offer she can’t refuse…

The final chapter takes place at Tribfest, when Sally takes to the stage and reveals - well, I don’t want to spoil it.

Starstruck has just been published by Farrago and is available in paperback and ebook. More here:


Categories: Novel