A Tribute To Soho Through The Decades (By The People Who Were There)

❉ Icons Marty Wilde, Chrissie Hynde, Boy George, Marc Almond, Mari Wilson, and others celebrate Soho’s legacy in song.

“If there’s one thing that needs to survive through the challenging times ahead its Soho’s ability to bring people together to recreate, reimagine and transform the future.  Don’t go changing that spirit.  But let’s try to change everything else. Whatever happens across the world, Soho is a symbol of survival”. – Tim Arnold

Tim Arnold.

On 3rd December Tim Arnold will release a Christmas single Don’t Go Changing Soho with an impressive list of contributors, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas single, which co-incidentally was released on 3rd December some 35 years ago.  In the true spirit of Christmas, the song will be released as a free download, so please share with your friends and family, and spread some much-needed Christmas cheer.

So, who is Tim Arnold you may ask?  To define him in a few trite words is somewhat of an impossible task.  The man is a tour de force who is passionate about Soho’s past, present and future; to many he lives, breathes and sleeps Soho.  He is also a songwriter, producer and enabler whose vast network of friends, and his boundless energy and enthusiasm helped (along with co-founder Stephen Fry) to originally bring about Save Soho in 2014It is a coalition of artists and performers, residents and politicians that came together out of concern for the future of Soho’s historic role as a national platform throughout the UK, for the performing arts.  The movement was launched following the closure of Madame Jojo’s, a legendary Soho institution, and that action brought the Soho community together.   Thanks to Tim and friends’ sterling efforts, the venue was saved, and developers of the area are now consciously considering the impact their actions will have on the historic and cultural soul of Soho.  I’d call that a win!

Tim himself started exploring his passion for music from a young age and is from a showbiz family; music literally courses through his veins, with his twentieth album to be released in 2020. His maternal grandparents performed alongside Max Miller during the war years and his mother, the actress Polly Perkins (who also features on the single) was a ‘Windmill girl’.

Chrissie Hynde and Tim Arnold.

The single Don’t Go Changing Soho celebrates that rich musical and theatrical culture of the West End which is embedded within the very streets of this special golden square mile of central London.  It features such musical icons as 1950s Rock n Roll pioneer Marty Wilde, The Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock, icons whose careers started in the late 1970s and thrived in the 1980s including Chrissie Hynde, Boy George, Marc Almond, Mari Wilson, and Gary Kemp, and rising star Emily Ca­pell who is currently touring with The Selecter and will support Madness in Dubai next March.  The single also features The Buzzcocks’ Danny Farrant on drums, Tim’s bass player Peter Hajioff and Ivor Novello award winning songwriter Guy Chambers who plays piano.

Glen Matlock and Tim Arnold.

Representing the theatrical world are actress and ex-Windmill girl Polly Perkins, and Jonathan Hill who is the longest serving lead violinist in the West End, having played in the orchestra on Les Miserables for many years.  The song was mixed by Tim’s long-standing collaborator Ben Pelchat in Toronto.  All of the aforementioned artists have a special connection with Soho, and their stories are unfolded in part within the song, through the decades.  The final verse of the song was originally written in 2014 with David Bowie in mind before he sadly passed away in 2016.  Boy George took up the part in David’s place.

Boy George and Tim Arnold.

Tim said “It was a great privilege to begin my journey in music, living in Soho and walking in the footsteps of creative giants who passed through Soho over the last fifty years.  The song is a Thank You for twenty years of musical inspiration it has given me.  Soho is the ultimate gift for anyone whose life is driven by music.”

He went on to say, “I feel incredibly lucky that in all my work in Soho, I have received the most incredible support from people.  Not just from within Soho, or even London, but from all over the UK and from many supporters overseas from all parts of the world.  They have brought the most magical experience and love to me, and for that I am truly grateful and humbled.”

Don’t Go Changin’ Soho (Lyrics)

My Soho was the ‘50s, we were rockin’ at the 2i’s
My Soho was the ‘70s, and it was naughty, but it was nice

In my Soho there was legroom for every class, for every creature
And my Soho welcomed eccentrics, 
in fact it made them the major feature

And we’re still blazing a trail of free expression

For all the freaks who never found a home, because
Soho’s in our hearts forever.
Soho forever in our hearts will be a home


So don’t go changing Soho ’cause we won’t know what’s hit us when it’s gone
No don’t go changing Soho. Give back to Soho so it carries on

My Soho was the ‘60s, it was swinging in old Blighty

My Soho was the ‘90s, it was changing, but it was mighty
In my Soho we were melting Victoriana with our amplifiers
And my Soho brought the chains in
Who were mad enough to put out our home fires

And we’re still blazing a trail of free expression
For all the freaks who never found a home
Because Soho’s in our hearts forever

Soho forever in our hearts will be a home

So don’t go changing Soho ’cause we won’t know what’s hit us when it’s gone
No don’t go changing Soho
Give back to Soho so it carries on

My Soho was the 80’s, new romantic and death defying

From the gutter to the glamour, we touched the stars, electrifying
My Soho had it’s heroes, Though it seems today that most of them have gone
So let’s build for tomorrow,
So tomorrow’s Soho Heroes can belong

So don’t go changing Soho
’cause we won’t know what’s hit us when it’s gone
No don’t go changing Soho
Give back to Soho so it carries on

The song was recorded over a period of four years and those involved have given of their time and talents freely and most generously out of their love for Soho.  In the spirit of friendship and altruism, their parts were recorded at Tim’s flat over tea and biscuits without any shred of formality.  The video was produced in its entirety by Tim himself.

The song was originally brought to the public’s attention via an initial performance by Marc Almond at the Soho Theatre for the album launch of Tim’s album, The Soho Hobo in 2014; the album went on to win BBC London’s Album of the Year in 2015.

Marc Almond in the studio.

Marc has had a well-publicised relationship with Soho over the years which exists to this day.  When we got chatting to the manager at our meeting place, we mentioned Marc’s name in passing and he deftly produced a photo of himself and Marc from his phone, proudly stating what a gentleman Marc is and how much he spoke fondly of Soho.  Marc discusses his love for the area, what it means to him and the loss of iconic buildings to coffee shops and boutique hotels here…

There are also a number of cosmic occurrences around the whole ethos of the song; when I met Tim to talk to him about the project, we met at the original site of the 2i’s coffee shop on Old Compton Street, and where we were sitting was where the stage would have been located, where Marty Wilde had performed in 1956; we were sitting at the actual birthplace of Rock n Roll in the UK.  Marty also worked with Tim’s Mum, actress Polly Perkins back in the day and she too features on the single and in the video.

Soho past… and present. Tim Arnold.

It’s a classic example of Soho’s history perpetuating its legacy across the decades, which is what the song is all about.  The next generation of Sohoites is represented by rising star and uber-talent Emily Capell who will doubtless take the baton of that unique spirit and carry it forward into the future, creating yet further legacies within Soho.

Coincidentally, to re-emphasise the spirit of Soho, Marc Almond, Mari Wilson and Emily all appeared on the same bill at Mari’s 35th Anniversary show at Bush Hall, and a further ‘small world’ moment occurred at that show for me personally, as Mari’s pianist Chris Cottell is the brother of a girl I was at school with in South Wales, some forty years ago, just as I was discovering my own musical tastes (including my love for Marc’s music).

Tim said, “Since we began working on the song (in 2015), so much has changed in the UK and all over the world.  Between the fantasy of fake news and the indigestible reality of climate change, we’re yearning for big changes and new stories.  If there’s one thing that needs to survive through the challenging times ahead its Soho’s ability to bring people together to recreate, reimagine and transform the future.  Don’t go changing that spirit.  But let’s try to change everything else. Whatever happens across the world, Soho is a symbol of survival”.

­

The artwork for the single was created by iconic dancer, mime artist, David Bowie and Kate Bush mentor and one-time Bateman Street resident Lindsay Kemp who began his illustrious career in the clubs of Soho.  It was given to Tim as a birthday gift by Lindsay and is the perfect tribute to him; Tim met Lindsay through Lindsay’s love for The Soho Hobo album and the pair worked closely together on Tim’s What Love Would Want single, where Lindsay signified the role of ‘love’, in the true spirit of Soho.


❉ Don’t Go Changing Soho is released on 3rd December 2019 as a free download as well as streaming sites.  If you would like to be the first to see the video, then please subscribe to Tim’s YouTube channel to receive a notification as soon as its published.

❉ Ange Chan is a regular contributor to We Are Cult and is a writer of novels and poetry.  Her current long-standing, ongoing project is her third novel Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots which she hopes to see published in 2020.

Like this feature? Why not support us on Patreon?
No announcement available or all announcement expired.

1 Comment

Have your say...