Secrets of Soho (2006 – Indie)

Secrets of Soho

“Like all the best heart-flayed-open records, it’s a delicate yet powerful affair. String quartets lifting from the grooves like a flock of pigeons rising over Soho Square.”
Mark Beaumont, NME

“This solo album is a picturesque trawl through a thousand lost nights, with Life In A Day being particularly and poignantly lovely.”
Q Magazine

Secrets of Soho was the first proper album I made in London after moving back from the monastery in Thailand. I had long wanted to make an album about the turbulent times I had experienced in the area, along with my observations of the Soho sex industry. Working for the Maltese had been an eye opener and there were many stories I had collected about the working girls in Soho who had become friends of mine. I worked in that world before I signed to Sony, and after I was dropped. I often worked for the Maltese as an errand boy. Many of the ladies who worked in Soho treated me like a younger brother. I had great affection for them all, one in particular who became immortalised in the song Marina.

The songs became an account of everything from struggling with addiction (Killing Pain), Jimmy Dodger), to resuscitating a woman who had overdosed (Deal The Deck) and watching the goings on of the clip joints (The Girl On The Door).

The concept for the album only became concrete when I decided on the title (suggested to me by my friend and long term production manager Nim Arnold). I recorded the album in the famous Colony Room club. The manager of the club – Michael Wojas, gave me the keys on a weekend when the club was closed and said I could move in with my studio and record for three days as long as I was out by Monday morning. I took all my equipment and a sleeping bag and did exactly that. I set up a recording area directly under a huge Francis Bacon painting that was hanging on the wall and began laying the tracks down.

It’s definitely the most DIY album I have made. Only the string overdubs and double bass were recorded back at my flat on Brewer Street. The artwork was very important to me and included photographs all of my family and extended family during their Soho heyday. Like many of my albums, I got to present it live in a way that I was happy with – once. This was at the old Raymond Revue Bar in Walkers Court (at the time known as The Soho Revue Bar) with an incredible ensemble of musicians and the actor Ben Miller who portrayed me in a surreal way of presenting two versions of myself.

I rarely perform any of the songs from Secrets of Soho live today, except for Marina which has become a favourite among my loyal band of followers. It is probably still my favourite single song of my own that I love to perform live.

 

Tracks and Lyrics

1. Inside Out

This is after midnight
Anything can happen
You might fall in love
Or find a doctor to pop the potion
But we just night get ripped off

This is Sloanes and hobos
Helping each other out for a bit of brown
This is you and me
Inside out in the middle of the town

And we don’t believe in anything unless anything believes in us
Where a girl on the door gets a lift with a limousine straight back to Kings Cross
Where you get a lift from whatever In our prime
And surfing channels is a waste of time?

We just get inside out you know
We just get inside out you know
We just get inside out you know
We just get inside out you know

We’re just looking out
And waiting for a wave to waste the wreck we’re in
What’s the worth in worrying at all
There’s always someone who knows your pin
Yeah, all you need is love, but I’ve still got hope
I’ve still got hope

This is all we’ve got, so let us not
Forget to say a prayer to whatever substitute you use
To get you clean out of your head
There’s no great escape or hidden agenda

You’ve gotta keep moving through the crowds
You’ve got to face the world or lose

We just get inside out you know
We just get inside out you know
We just get inside out you know
We just get inside out you know

2. Marina

Marina’s on the door again
She’s calling in the boys from the rain
She’ll show you a show
If you got no where to go

One week shy of 53
Clutching books on numerology
There’s leak in her heart
She’s got nothing to start

And its easy to feel the cold when you think that you’re no one
And it’s hard to see places when faces don’t come out to show one

So Marina is dancing all alone
Like queen Elizabeth on a fag break down the road
And she’s dreaming of a summer that has no rain
To take her away from the boys in the line and the girls on the game

Her son she says is good with cars
Others say he’s behind bars
She won’t hear what they told her
One day he’ll pull up in a Roller

Her daily highlights picking out scents
The stingers bring ‘em down in price
It’s a treasure chest in polythyne
She really loves the latest Calvin Klein

3. Jimmy Dodger

I don’t want to see this anymore again
Why did I have to see it happen to a friend?
Here comes jimmy dodger, he stung me once before
His sleeping bag’s his mother
He only lives to score

And I said hey man what’s your tipple?
He said cocktail of white and brown
Are you pipe and foil? He said no I boil ‘em together
And pump ‘em down

Disappearing at 23

I don’t know why I tried to
Help him I was drunk
I told him all the same I said
You know the spirit is stranger than junk

And he’ll never know what lies in his soul
But whatever it is keeps him going
But jimmy forgets there was a time he use to let
Angels help him to grow his, help him get to know his.

4. England’s Getting Colder

Hello again, you’re bang on time
But winter did never fail to start in mid-July
Old Compton Street’s flashing with pride
There’s a country on every corner that meets the eye

But England’s getting colder all the time, it’s getting colder
You’ve got to give the love you’ve got to find the love you need
England’s getting colder all the time, it’s getting colder
You’ve got to give the love you’ve got to find the love you need

There’s still the occasional sun
You feel it when smiling is something that you have won
No, no don’t open the door ‘til you know what’s behind it is yours

England’s getting colder all the time, it’s getting colder
You’ve got to give the love you’ve got to find the love you need
England’s getting colder all the time, it’s getting colder
You’ve got to give the love you’ve got to find the love you need

5. Life In A Day

There’s a girl on the door and she’s flaunting her all
At the shy passers by who’ll pay all she affords
It was only supposed to be a short stint in the industry
Now she does a rock round the clock for the dough she affords
It’s taking her mind off the hoards
And it’s breaking her heart

Jo’s just gone and blown her life in a day

She’s stopped writing letters to mummy and her purse is so light
It’s that tight, she can’t buy the stamps
She’s through with freebasing and now she’s just chasing
And chasing, the big city ain’t what it seems any more
She’s high but she don’t know what for
And it’s breaking my heart

Jo’s just gone and blown her life in a day

She’s scratching around like a rat
Yeah, she’s out of her head
She just can’t go on, so she’s gone and got a gun
And pumped herself full of lead

Jo’s just gone and blown her life in a day

6. Actress

Actress, actress… you really stop the show.
Don’t you know how much more I would die to Know?
With a seaside stare and your English air….
My only care is when
I’ll be under your arrest again

So, temptress, temptress… play another part
For I’ve seen this role played too few times apart
I’m no also-ran or flash-pan-fan
I never cared to fake it
And if you keep on breaking hearts like this
You’ll make it

It’s hard to know where I should go from here
Run me through the script, a walk on would be fine
Thoughts of you to me are just as typical as
Props inside a pantomime

Actress, actress…
One more encore
Don’t leave just yet, without me, not yet
The crowds will always stand
One day you’ll find your perfect leading man
Until then I’ll do the best I can

7. Deal The Deck

From where I sat she looked so happy to be among the crowd
This little girl who lost her world screams nothing out loud
And as her face turned blue the room turned panic in a hurry
No-one knew why she was blue but they soon started to worry

She was there to dance all night but was stopped in her tracks to pay a price

We deal the deck and hide our hand
We deal the deck and hide our hand
We deal the deck why must we hide our hand?

I could not think I put my lip to hers to take away the blue
I blew her kisses three times through now what else could I do?

She began breathing deep and with a colour in her cheeks she fell asleep

We deal the deck and hide our hand
We deal the deck and hide our hand
We deal the deck why must we hide our hand?

And a moment was enough for me to see that forever has its end as well
Yes forever’s an amazing sell but you can’t buy the time from nowhere
No you can’t buy the time from nowhere
No you can’t buy the time and it’s time

For me to take her to the station sleeping all the way
I still wonder if she woke up or if she is still asleep today

8. The Colony

Taking the high life as far as it goes
All the way to a natural conclusion
Packing the good times into minutes that split
At the seams, you can sustain the illusion

Broken promises keep you hooked
Expectations lying dead on a shelf
A high, high hope won’t help you cope
You can listen to a prophet but you won’t hear till you tell yourself.

Life don’t get better than The Colony
Up and down
Life don’t get better than this
Round and round

Yeah J-walking’s a dream
But don’t get hit by the stream
The sweetest sweet is gonna swallow you whole
And don’t get used to the room
In your new hot air balloon
You may land and find you’re home
Bitter home

Champagne bubbling through your veins
But your bubble just might pop if you shout to loud
Just watch it, You can’t know enough
It don’t matter if you’re flush
It don’t matter if you’re down and out

Life don’t get better than The Colony
Up and down
Life don’t get better than this
Round and round

9. The girl on the door

How can you say to the girl on the door “You’re beautiful” or “Sweet”?
And make her feel human when you man you met her
When she was dressed up as meat

It’s on her mind, it’s on her time
It’s on the last shift of her night
It’s on your mind to say she’s one of a kind
But she won’t believe you when you tell her

You fell in love with the girl on the door

What must she think when she sits down to drink
And sink with those guys in the suits
Will she think of escaping for once
Or just making enough for her to shoot

‘Cause it’s on her mind, it’s on her time
It’s in her veins nearly every night
She works so much her wage is never spent well
And shit’s the only thing the people she knows will sell

You fell in love with the girl on the door

10.Tisbury Court

I lost my baby to another brother man
I was dealing with the devil slight of hand
Everybody thought that I was paranoid
I couldn’t love her in the way that she enjoyed

Summer nights too much wine
I cried and cried ‘til I was blind
I had to let it go or lose my mind

I had a sister when I was 23
She was a friend, a friend indeed
We used to laugh and sing together
Dancing on the front line
I thought we’d never
Lose each other, I love her still
But I gave her one of my poisoned pills

I’ve got love in a bag on my back
I wanna give it a spill

But I know I ain’t got a leg to stand on
But come to Tisbury Court and I’ll stand on yours

I had a friend, a Japanese gentleman
I used to see ‘im back when I was mental then
He gave me money every night
Told him I was hungry, he knew I lied
And all along he wanted to be close
But I was in and out for another dose
I nearly broke his heart when I became a ghost

And those folks down on the lane
They took me in, they gave me somewhere to stay
They had magic, they showed it to me
Like a long lost family
But I crossed the line, I caused them pain
And now I know I’ll never ever see them again
I made my bed now I’ve got to lie in it ‘til I’m sane

But I know I ain’t got a leg to stand on
But come to Tisbury Court and I’ll stand on yours

And mother, how did it end like this?
Oh mother, you can’t make it better with a kiss

But I know I ain’t got a leg to stand on
But come to Tisbury Court and I’ll stand on yours

11. Killing Pain

Lost again in theatre land, drunk and dull in the electric village
It’s killing me to quench my thirst in the waif and stray limousine spillage
Out comes another one from the big bad club dripping mink and champers
He thinks the waif wants his autograph ‘til she begs for a pound and scampers

And I’m no better, drowning in painkillers, high as a kite
But we wouldn’t be killing pain if we were all right
We wouldn’t be killing pain if we were all right

And I’m sucking it down into my soul
Then freaking out like a new born spastic
But I go back for refills man, I’m terrified and fantastic
Then the sun comes up through Soho
A second before I think I’ll die
I grab hold of the nearest hand for comfort
And you wipe out the night from my eyes

And the next day I’m still here between the pushers in gutters and booze
And in spite of all that

I keep killing pain ‘til I’m all right
And in spite of all that I keep killing pain ‘til I’m all right

I cannot see how to stop this flame from burning through me
‘Less the damsel turns for once and lets me drown before she’ll use me
Let me drown in your distraction and teach me to sleep at night
Stop me from killing pain and make me all right

And my heart is beating in most peculiar ways
I keep it quiet to stop the idle talking

But then you know that
Every cripple finds his own way of walking
But then you know that
Every cripple finds his own way of walking
His own way home