there’s a certain melancholy about neon…something beyond it’s own surface joy. it could be her history of broken promises,or her flock of deluded dreamers searching for a better life on the rain soaked pink blue pavement. i see death there as well .. damaged livers,exploded hearts,and charred lungs from the drugs, drink and smoke sucked into fragile bodies, giving glow and a moments mercy for when living becomes painfully dull … there’s violence too, where things go ugly and the cops get called.
yet for all of that, there’s a kind of enlightenment under those neon signs that no village bible will readily offer up….it’s a gravity defying alternative to standing in some green field breathing in the clean sanctimonious air around real people, listening to real music, while drinking real ale.
soho’s more like a mirror.it gives you just enough rope to hang yourself with. you find out what you’re all about in her company.there’s an orgy of lies and illusion tumbling through those neon tubes leading toward a more fair minded understanding of our human ways.. in soho you don’t cross your legs and read a book…you get peeled open and become one.
am i being too pretentious or wayward for you? would you prefer something more sensible?..a little less creative perhaps….only that would be inappropriate, cause soho’s very much about creativity…i’m thinking of elton john working as a tea boy in a publishing house on denmark street, or serving customers in a record shop on berwick street on saturday lunch times…i’m thinking of long john baldry on wardour street pleading with elton to not marry that girl in his song ‘someone saved my life tonight’ …. i’m thinking of david bowie’s rites of passage there…i can see marc bolan doing bar work and punters on old compton st for new clothes..i’m thinking of marianne faithful homeless, sleeping outside trident recording studios on saint annes court, leading to artistic rebirth on her record ‘broken english’. i’m thinking of a manager i had doing the footwork that got me my first solo record deal at CBS on soho square… i understand now that i didn’t receive those breaks purely on the merit of my talent,but also on the back of a managers connections to other connected animals who partied so hard together under her broken neon crown ….. he died this year … we’re all gonna die.
dear reader..next week(if i’m still alive) i’m off to see georgie fame and the blue flames play in ronnie scotts. the young georgie would walk home from soho to earls courts late at night after playing the flamingo club in the early 1960’s. funny how musicians get their exercise.
a few days ago i stumbled on a strange pop up shop on brewer street (sewer st to those who love her). this pop up shop was selling old neon at a rather high price..turns out it’s the original signs made by a boy called chris bracey..he learned his trade by making electric signs for prostitute dens and stripper clubs in the area,and because of that, went on to make neon for movies like bladerunner….oh yes…he also made the fairy lights for that brill movie starring bob hoskyns called ‘mona lisa’..through soho he found his artistic voice,but he died early and recently of cancer. the present neon skin around the west end is dying too… it’s all up for sale…it’s almost as if soho is vomiting up on it’s own neon.
everyone who cares is rightly worried that plundering corporations will kill the red lights, but i have deep faith in the filth of our human spirit..thing is,even if they sell it all out to beancounters and breadheads, those cocks will still need to get their rocks off … and beancounters are often terribly boring people… therefor, they themselves will usher the whores and artists right back in again to blow some nocturnal magic into their barren designer underpants …… so unless the new corporate generation suddenly finds itself praying to some celibate god,i don’t see soho going anywhere anytime soon.
over the years i’ve done my own little cluster of movie clips around the hallowed ground … i do them to invigorate my interest in music..it always helps..here’s one for a song i wrote about the very thing i’ve been talking about here..it’s called ‘smell the urine..isn’t it divine’