❉ We exclusively preview the brand new album from singer-songwriter and activist Tim Arnold.
It cannot be denied that lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus has been a huge strain on all of us. However, in the midst of all the frustration and effort to remain on an even keel, Tim Arnold left London in March when lockdown was first announced. He grabbed his trusty guitar, a microphone and his laptop, packed a bag and went into a quarantine ‘bubble’ with his partner and her children in leafy East Sussex. His new album, his twentieth album release, When Staying Alive’s The Latest Craze is a result of his lockdown experience and the family life that went with the territory.
Tim has said of the experience that lockdown left him at odds, like many of us he experienced a wide range of disparate feelings; the joy and comfort of being close to his partner and part of family life, and the anguish and helplessness at being separated from his much loved Mum, actress and singer Polly Perkins who lives in Spain. He said, “When Spain closed their borders I didn’t know when I would see her again. I felt extremely torn between my situation in the UK and the separation from my Mum. Everyone is dealing with this crisis in their own way and making this album was the medicine I needed to help me through the pandemic”.
Writing and recording the new album in a new location is second nature to Arnold, who’s extremely adaptable in that regard; his first album was written in a Thai Buddhist Monastery and his 2006 album Secrets of Soho was written in Soho’s famous Colony Room.
The album was a labour of love and the sanity check Tim need to keep himself on an even keel. He remotely gathered together his trusted allies to help him. The album’s artwork was created by Canadian artist Steve Iggulden and his partner photographer Charlie Granby in Liverpool.
The track One Percent (1%) has the same kind of vibe as Kate Bush’s Lily whose lyrics touch on the necessity to protect oneself from the diversities of the human condition in all its extreme gloriousness and hideousness in equal measure. The lockdown period has certainly polarized personal opinions in many, be they positive or negative. In contrast, The Wonder is a reminder that not everything has been awful during lockdown and we should stop and appreciate what we do have; Nature in all its beauty and the memory of a world that was healing itself from the effects of human intervention. Pollution levels improved, wildlife was more visible and nature’s resources were untouched by humans.
The latest single from the album, Nothing on Earth is a reality film of Arnold’s trip to Spain when lockdown was lifted, to see his Mum in July of this year. It’s a beautiful visual travelogue of both the physical and emotional journey Tim took to go to Spain at the first viable opportunity.
Tim says, “Musically the song was was built over a waltz time signature that had been going through my head all the way out of London when I left. It’s the first song I wrote when I began to document my experience of lockdown this year. Not knowing when I would be able to see my mother again has been one of the hardest experiences of my life. I have recorded and filmed everything I have experienced in lockdown. I wanted to film this for my family and on behalf of all British citizens who have not been able to see their parents who live abroad.”
It’s a song that is wholly relatable to so many of us who have missed not only parents, but children, siblings, friends and other family members during the world pandemic. It’s forced us to appreciate what we have in our lives and be grateful for the relationships that we have perhaps previously taken for granted. It’s been the time to re-group and savour the precious moments we share as ‘family’, whatever format that takes.
The first single Weird Now is a spoken/sung tune written in May 2020, two months into the quarantine period, which can be summarised by the lyrics “I miss people. I miss friends. Starting to feel weird now” but it also highlights the positives of lockdown like the cessation of killing of wild animals and sea life, and people coming together in a positive way online.
Another Record That Changed My Life is a montage of a number of Tim’s fans holding (rather unsurprisingly) records that changed their lives, and which form the lyrics of the song. It was Tim Arnold’s response to the Facebook ‘10 Album Challenge’ that became so popular during quarantine. Instead of posting ten albums, Tim wrote a song about ALL of his favourite albums and asked fans and friends from the UK, Italy and Canada to collaborate on the video for the song. The song will be used to promote UK Charity ‘Help Musicians’ of which Tim was a beneficiary at the beginning of lockdown. The charity’s Financial Hardship Fund has helped thousands of musicians in the UK when working for a living became impossible in the light of the pandemic.
The song Change of System includes the names of NHS frontline workers who have sadly died from COVID-19 whilst working to protect others. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice to save lives and Tim’s beautiful song is a tribute to these people to show that they are appreciated and is a legacy to their lives and the precious work they carried out. They will never be forgotten. Key Worker also covers the same theme, recognising the awfulness that many unsung heroes on the front line go through during the course of doing their daily jobs, and the abuse that they frequently face.
When Staying Alive’s The Latest Craze is a musical recording of this crazy time in our collective lives. It’s an uplifting album which tackles the truth with a dose of reality and compassion.
❉ ‘When Staying Alive’s the Latest Craze’ by Tim Arnold is released on 16th October via all digital platforms. Currently available for pre-order: Click HERE.
❉ Ange Chan is a freelance writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry. She was also prolific contributor in the anthology collection Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon) and is a lifelong lover of music, having first been published in the 1980s music press. As well as being a frequent contributor to the pop culture website We Are Cult, she is working on her long-standing third novel Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots.