I guess everyone has slightly different experiences of Soho – it reminds me of the sign, no longer there at 7 Meard Street, which previously housed artist and writer Sebastian Horsley (1962-2010) that read: “This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address.“Then there’s the Soho Theatre, which has one of those bars so loud I have to gasp to have a meaningful conversation in there. Friendly staff, however.
Barb Jungr and Mike Lindup have created songs about a Soho that is part generational Soho and part contemporary Soho. It’s a curious combination in some ways, but it’s a combination that works, in the sense that it’s not entirely nostalgic, and therefore appeals to a wider audience than just those old enough to recall the heady days of “dirty cinemas”, sex shops and strip and peep shows there.
The problem, if I can call it that, with a song cycle of this nature, even if it is still a work in progress, is that there will be elements of life and the history of Soho that will not be covered. There was, for example, an outbreak of cholera in Soho in 1854. There are a number of religious groups based in Soho, and not all Christian churches – the Radha-Krishna temple on Soho Street, which is part of the Hare Krishna movement, a branch of Hinduism, was funded in part by George Harrison. And I was once told on one of those open-top tour buses with live commentary — not always the most reliable source, I know — that “Soho” was a rallying cry in the 17th century.
Either way, these songs are a good collection, with a variety of musical styles deployed: there’s even a call-and-response number, and more often than not the lyrics bring a smile, if not outright laugh, and not always in a light way. . True to the hardcore nature of the Soho ecosystem, one landlady sings that she wouldn’t ask any of her staff to do anything she wouldn’t, before telling her audience that she regularly disposes of vomit, blood and broken glass. , among other things.
There’s a song called ‘Pretty Girls Shouldn’t Go to Soho’, which pretty much says it all – I remember walking through Soho to pick up a hit home after the theater one night. It was, as the younger generations say, “standard”, at least for this time of night. But a woman behind me said loud and clear to her partner that she really didn’t like being pushed around. (This happens by default rather than deliberate acts, due to the amount of foot traffic.) Nice guys shouldn’t go to Soho either, and the same goes for non-binaries. Or maybe they should, and one experience should be enough to put them off for life.
This would be especially true if someone, nice or not, got into an altercation with a burly bouncer – an early number, “Bouncer Man,” tells the story of – well, bouncers, who can’t – not be seen and heard everything. , but I’ve seen and heard a lot more than the rest of us. This story of a formidable but resilient part of central London is recognizable and relatable for those of us who know it, and an eye-opening revelation for those who don’t.
Comment by Chris Omaweng
With a set of 4 fabulous singers: Lucinda Lawrence, Robbie Noonan, Nate Rogers, Manon Taris
With a trio of breathtaking musicians: Mark Edwards – piano, Arnie Somogyi – bass and Darren Beckett – drums
This cycle of songs, begun before the pandemic, now emerges in a first-ever ‘work in progress’ performance celebrating the wonder and darkness inside this fabled, world-famous square mile of London. Soho.
A new cycle of songs
by Barb Jungr & Mike Lindup
June 20 at 7:00 p.m.
Living in Zedel
20 Sherwood Street
London W1F 7ED