Cold Night In Soho CD - 2017
"variously serious, humorous and blasphemous, that lead one, unsuspecting, to an emotional climax that just reaches in and tears out your heart."
As cruel winter once again closes in there comes a time to look back on the year, but in the case of the Tiger Lillies it is a longer look, back to the band’s first steps in the racy and often heartless world of Soho in the 1980s.
The muse of song-writing beckoned to Martyn Jacques, the band’s leader and lyricist, and turned his head towards memories of the time he himself was living in Soho, amidst the prostitutes and drug fiends, the sleazemongers and local eccentrics who would all go on to populate his songs over the years. Before the widespread sanitisation of central London in recent times, the closing of the sex shops and the XXX-rated cinemas, there was risk, excitement and colour here, in all its gaudy and unexpected variety. All gone now, the frisson clinically ironed out, blandness installed.
So here we find a series of snapshots of a vanished Soho, such as the women trapped in the endless cycle of turning tricks in clip joints, with the threat of violence every day, in “Soho Clipper Blues”, or the career alcoholic of Soho’s legendary drinking dens whose stupor merges with the booziness of weekend drinkers in “Let’s Drink”. Starched soldiers of the Salvation Army made forays into these degenerate streets, on missions to reclaim souls for God, but the futility of their efforts is laid bare in the song of the same name. There is a continuing theme of religion and redemption in the following songs, “You Wouldn’t Know” and “The First Day”, but this is a world in which the odds are stacked against a win for good, and the cold passing of time (“Ticking of the Hours”) counts off our decades as mere numbers (“Go”). There is a risk, “In the Winter”, that we may all wind up frozen to death in a gutter (“Just Another Day”).
But it’s not all a walk down such hopeless one-way streets, and aside from these general portraits and scenic views there are some more personal songs in this collection. Some of the very first gigs the Tiger Lillies performed are memorialised in “Dance Floor”, which shows us the King’s Head in Islington’s Upper Street as it was until only a couple of years ago, a theatre pub with a corner for live music acts which could quite easily slip into the wildest turmoil. A little further north, in “Finsbury Park”, we discover how insalubrious that part of town used to be, and how a busker like Martyn would need to watch where he put his feet. Most interesting of all is the long and heartbreaking lament of the title track, which closes the album, looking back across three decades to a life lost in Soho, and a streetwalker with an unforgettable name...
The album will be released on 26 January, a week before a major solo concert for the Tiger Lillies at the Roundhouse in London, which forms part of the prestigious venue’s “In the Round” season for 2017. Significantly, this is also the band’s first album not connected to a theatre show in about ten years, thus representing a return to song-writing for the sake of the songs alone. To mark this high-profile occasion the album will be released in a limited-edition vinyl pressing featuring ten of the songs, as well as a CD in the usual way, with the full complement of 16 songs (six being therefore exclusive to the CD version).
Martyn’s singing and performance on accordion, piano, organ, guitar, together with lap steel guitar, harmonium and also darbuka, is as ever accompanied by Adrian Stout’s bass, musical saw, euphonium, guitar plus backing vocals, with drums by Timothy Remfrey.