So, what am I doing at the Soho Theatre on Sunday 23rd September? In a nutshell, I'll be presenting a live performance of my next album with my band and an amazing cast of guest musicians, actors and singers.
"I am the Soho Hobo, I was born to spin a hustle, it took time to find my mojo, but I found it on the Dean St shuffle. No I can't stop this excursion, it's in my family roots. My granddaddy filled the Revue Deville, my mother was a teenage nude."
So, although the quote from my song 'The King of Soho' is accurate, it's not as seedy as it sounds. My grandfather's career took him all the way to playing a lead role at the RSC and my mother Polly Perkins, became a recording artist as well as being an accomplished actress. But yes, she was also the youngest ever nude to pose at The Windmill Theatre. But coming from a theatrical family had little to do with the beginning of my career as a singer and songwriter, until now. In 1995, NME journalist Roger Morton (who went on to manage Razorlight) described me and my first band Jocasta in this way:
"Tim is not Mr Superflash, this round glasses coathanger boy, like a Thom Yorke, or Billy Corgan, he's at the helm of a distended, inflated, killer melody machine..."
Well, the glasses have gone, and I'm not quite a coathanger anymore, but the killer melody machine is still there, only this time, it is fuelled by the participation of some other artists who I am privileged to be working with on my new album, namely Gary Kemp, Jessie Wallace, Ray Gelato, Jud Charlton, Peter Straker and burlesque dancer Miss Giddy Heights.
It is true, I have written more songs about Soho than any other subject over the course of 18 years and 14 albums, and perhaps any other songwriter for that matter. But the only other constant in my work, other than Soho, is writing songs that encompass the opinion of more than one character. Of course, for many years, I have settled with singing these songs entirely by myself, until this new album, where I have suddenly realised how much fun it is to share the story of a song with another artist, particularly if that artist is an actor.
My first communication with Gary Kemp was on Facebook back in 2010 when I was working with a mutual friend (Paul McGann) on my album Sonnet 155. Gary and I stayed in touch ever since. This year, I asked Gary if he'd like to be interviewed for the book I am writing 'Soho Heroes' and from that moment, a friendship began which has resulted in us recording one of my new songs about Soho together. Working with a songwriter who is also an actor and understands how best to deliver a line is, for me, having all your Christmases at once. We'll be performing the track, or 'hymn' 'Neon Glow' at the show.
But the key ingredient to re-connecting to my theatrical roots (my grandparents both performed with Max Miller in the 40's) happened one special day in 2007 by way of watching a BBC drama called 'Miss Marie Lloyd'. Two things happened to me as I drank up the story of the Queen of The Music Hall (and arguably the first British Pop star). The first was the enchantment of the English language and how much can be said with so few words in a song. The second was the heart driven performance of one of our finest actresses and an extraordinary singer: Ms. Jessie Wallace.
In a twist of fate that shall always remain a magical moment to me, I met Ms. Wallace at a public event where we talked about Marie, London, and in particular, one of Marie's songs that I had already recorded for this new album. In fact, Ms. Wallace insisted that I sing the song to her, there and then, on the spot. Of course, I obeyed. It can't have been too bad as she will now be joining me on stage at this show to perform a song that I have written called 'On Every Soho Street'.
These are just two of the GIANT TALENTS that will be joining me for the show and there are many more. But I have just about hit the word count requested for this blog. If you love London, and Soho as I do, we hope to see you there.
Here's a short film that begins the album: Manners On The Manor
Tim Arnold 'The Soho Hobo'
Tuesday 11th September 2012