Soho albums timeline.
Original Noise. Recorded 1987.
This second attempt at recording a debut album was rejected by Soho’s record label, Virgin. ON was self produced by Nigel and Tim at their friend Kevi Kev’s studio, a bedroom in his parent’s semi in Barnet, north London. Guitar and vocals recorded in the bathroom, as is traditional. One quieter session had to be postponed until Kevi Kev’s huge cat had bumped noisily down the stairs and recording was scheduled around Kevi Kev’s day job and his parent’s tolerance, all a long way from the recordings for the final version of the album (which was given a desultory release around a tour support with Boy George in his druggy period), which took place in the expensive Orinoko studio in south London. Relations with the label at this point were at the stage wherein the latest A&R person nixed continued use of Soho’s regular black and white logo because “black and white is out this year”. Original Noise presents the group as they were live at this point, with production arrangements kept to the minimum and vocals shared fairly equally between J&P and Tim.
Goddess. Recorded 1989.
This was the album that featured Soho’s one genuine hit, Hippychick, built around a sample of The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now track. Recorded at ex Bow Wow Wow bass player Lee Gorman’s studio above a carpenter’s off the notorious Hackney Road, Goddess was influenced by De La Soul’s Daisy Age sampledelica and managed to slip in a plethora of bites from various unlikely artists, some of who’s rights holders noticed (not least Johnny Marr) and others who thankfully didn’t. At the time the album did well and Soho toured extensively in the UK and Europe and across the USA, notably on a double header tour with Jesus Jones in 1991, although by now, without Nigel who had parted company with the group before the album was recorded.
Thug. Recorded 1991.
Reflecting the end of the second summer of love and the entrance of what became known as rave into the mainstream, Thug is darker, with distorted guitars to the fore. The recording saw arguments developing between Tim and co-producer Lee Gorman, who briefly played bass with Soho, which resulted in Tim being locked out of the studio for the final mixes. The album featured a version of the late Serge Gainsbourg’s Bonnie & Clyde wherein the protagonists were replaced by ‘Hamed & Jacques’ - a gay French/Algerian couple, as a direct provocation aimed at the fascist Front National, at that point doing very well in France. The alteration had the blessing of Gainsbourg’s daughter, Charlotte. Several other tracks referenced politics in a blunt manner, including Claire’s Kitchen, detailing then Prime Minister John Major’s affair with a Downing Street caterer, over a year before the story broke and Hawk, which places The Nation Of Islam amongst ongoing attempts to ‘divide and rule’.
Baby Baby Baby Baby. 1992/3.
The more natural follow up to Goddess was produced by Tim London at the group’s studio in Hoxton, in east London. Again touching on social and political matters, and once again taking aim at the Nation Of Islam on 1/2 Caste Estate, castigating Israel’s ‘broken bones’ policy on Corpse On Your Tongue, telling the story of a prostitute in the then un-gentrified Stamford Hill in Baby Baby… and detailing the travails of ‘driving whilst black’ in the dancehall influenced BMW. The only track that saw release was Goodbye, a hopeful wave to John Major who, despite this, was re-elected as PM in 1992. The track was part of a limited edition 12” given away to those attending a secret show at London’s 100 Club.
Yard & Dubwise. Recorded 1993/4.
After hearing these recordings Warners signed up Soho for a five year deal, commencing with the release of Yard and its accompanying dub version album, Dubwise. Again recorded in Hoxton, Yard was an attempt to create a more mature sound as the three remaining members of Soho hit their thirties. Jacqui was pregnant with her and London’s baby, named before birth and also in song as Charlie (Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, now a journalist at The Guardian and editor of gal-dem magazine). The album also celebrated the vividly multi-cultural Hackney, a borough in London that had been home for many years. The label put the release on what seemed like interminable hold and, eventually, Soho escaped the deal via an unnoticed clause in their contract (much to Warner’s annoyance) and the albums were never given a full release. After some prodding Warners eventually released Yard digitally last year although Dubwise remains unavailable.
Another London. Recorded 1994/5.
Free of a label once again, the next album took on some of the rhythms from the burgeoning Jungle/D&B sounds blasting from Hackney pirate radio stations. Subject matter was uncharacteristically personal and occasionally abstract. The lyrics for God Wishes To Be Aware Of Himself were taken almost wholesale from William Blake and Swedenborgian texts which explore how god lives within every human. Hotel dwells on the experiences of anyone who’s business means they spend inordinate amounts of time in cheap hotel rooms (like musicians…). Darker and a little more claustrophobic than previous releases AL was given a release in Germany on a confused but well-funded indie label who thought they were tapping into London’s Junglist scene. Of course, despite the tracks that featured sped up breaks and low sonic bass lines, the style couldn’t have been further away.
Soho. Recorded 1996.
Track two, Fabulous (Like Billie Mackenzie), tells the story of the two times Jacqui & Pauline very nearly spoke with the minor genius mentioned in parenthesis in the title. The first time it was the late 80s, J&P (who were/are huge fans) were told to expect a phone call from Billy who wanted to talk about collaborating. The phone rang and they heard a gruff, Scottish accent asking for them but they were so nervous they hung up without answering. The second time was when he boarded the same flight to America, looking impossibly glamorous and J&P were too embarrassed to approach him and apologise. Other tracks on this sunnier album dwelt on lesbian love (Deep Space Diver), the UK class system (Sunday Morning), the future that never happened (Psychedelic Dream), a murderer (The Charmer) and a love song to London (London Between the Fires). Apart from on the group’s Bandcamp, this album has never been released.
The Family BC. Recorded 1999.
Conceived around a concept based on the remarkable book City Of Quartz by Mike Davis which told the story of the evolution of Los Angeles, this album was also an experiment in playing with what were considered very unfashionable influences in the late 90s: the close harmonies and acoustic guitars of the West Coast singer/songwriter scene epitomised by CSN&Y as well as surf guitars, soft synth pads and studied middle American accents. There were a small number of shows at this time, including, appropriately, a performance at a surfer’s hostel in Cornwall the evening of the solar eclipse of 1999. Lyrics also rooted the album firmly in California (or a version of such), reminding the listener that the sun, surf and yoga has an underside and that both the state and its wealthier citizens are built on fault lines both geographic and psychological.
The end of the century brought with it for the group a feeling of weariness caused by years of being out of step with the music industry and a desire for new endeavours. The Family BC album was shelved whilst they organised a move to Edinburgh, Scotland from their rapidly changing (but nevertheless still beloved) Hackney and, again, has only ever been available as a download on Soho’s Bandcamp.