Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Feature | 8 October 1988 | Photo: Mark Baker

SOHO
LAGER FRENZY


Timothy London, the self-elected chairman of the board, pops his head in to say hello. But beyond that, he's happy to leave the talking to Jackie and Pauline, Soho's singing twins. He says it's in view of
featsoho
what the band's new single is all about. Anyway, he's busy. Soho are mixing tracks for their debut LP and Tim and Nigel, aka techno witchdoctor Dukey D, are hard at it.

"'Hold Me Down' is about beer boys," begins Jackie. "It's sort of a result of personal experience. I think most girls have had to put up with lager swilling antics, haven't they? The B-side, 'More Of A Man', is about beer boys too, only that's not so subtle. I'm really proud of that song because Tim used to sing the lead vocal and now we do. Also, we produced it ourselves. We recorded it in this tiny studio in someone's house. I did my singing in the toilet.

"I don’t think it would have been sensible to try to put it on the A-side, though. Our record company wouldn't have been very happy about it and we don't have all that much control. We have to please them. Any group that says they've got total control is talking bollocks. You have to do what they say. Anyway, 'Hold Me Down' is a strong song. It's a bit of a disco record really, a sort of hi-NRG punk."

•••

It's a fitting description. Angry at the labelling of their music as house, something which their first single, "Piece Of You", prompted by default, "Hold Me Down" sees Soho sprinting through the 130s to somewhere around the 145 bpm mark. That's fast. Very fast. It clatters along like a rear end aflame, out of control train, with pots and pans of percussion dangling from every open window. It also features an illogical number of guitar solos and the sound of cars skidding to a smash. It's a scorcher. Even if the bassline sounds like New Order.

"What?! Have you actually heard it?" asks Pauline.

I nod.

"Oh. Well, all right. I don't think it does, but that's okay, that's a compliment. I'd be happy if we could get into their league, up there with the big buggers. We like New Order. That last one should have been a monstrous hit, that do-do-do-days one. I can't think of the title, but I know the tune."

Pauline launches into a full throated, full length rendition and her twin joins in for the second verse. Then they sing me an Age Of Chance song. They reckon that every band has one good song. Well, most. So what's Soho's?

"Ah, we're different, we've got several," says Jackie. "Hundreds. We've got something for everybody. It's because we listen to lots of different things – pop, reggae, house, hip hop. Most people think that because me and Pauline are black, we're going to be into doing Anita Baker type songs. But because we had quite a strict upbringing and weren't allowed to have our first record player until we were getting on in years, our introduction to music came through Radio One and Radio Luxembourg, which meant it was broad pop oriented."

"And we used to go over to Anton's across the road and listen to punk, which we thought was great, and, oh God..." bounces Pauline, elbowing me in the ribs with unnecessary savagery. "...Status Quo! Yeah! And Gong! Anton was a student and he was into that sort of thing too. A lot of our black friends have totally different tastes in music to us, they're all into Alexander O'Neal and stuff that's really boring. But then, there are all these white people who are just into jangly guitar bands and that's as bad. You should have an ear to everything. We loved jazz and salsa and African too, like the original African version of 'See Jungle'. Have you heard that?"

And they start to sing again.

•••

There's been an excessively long gap between "Piece Of You" and the new single. In the interim, Soho have been taking a rest. Or touring in Europe, playing one gig in a French mental hospital where the patients live in the sleeping carriages of a disused train and the architecture features stone hands and heads thrusting out of the walls. Or busy recording an LP which their record company rejected because it sounded too indie. It depends who you talk to. It’s probably all true.

But there is a general agreement that having a second stab at their debut LP has improved the band.

"We sound more like a proper pop group now. That's the label we want to operate under, then people have less of a preconception about you. Radio One said we were housey and they wouldn't play the first single during the day for that reason. They said they'd got their quota of house for that month or whatever. That was sad, but it got to number 75 anyway. A lot of people liked the video. It was a jolly, bright little thing."

Soho have no plans to make a video for "Hold Me Down". Not unless it shoots into the charts. It's their record company's decision and an odd one since quite obviously...

"Yeah, I know," anticipates Jackie.

...a significant part of Soho's appeal is their visual...

"Yes, it is," says Pauline.

...image.

"Exactly," they triumphantly chorus.

If they were to make a video for the single, what manner of delights would they offer?

"I think it would have to be leathers, wouldn't it Pauline?"

"Definitely. Some big, strapping fella in leathers on a Harley Davidson with me grabbing hold of him from behind," she giggles. Her sister is shrieking and shaking her head in a mixture of mock excitement and fury. "Well, okay, maybe not. No, no, no, I know, some big fella in leathers doing the washing up while I'm sitting there having a little read."

Is that your idea of an ideal man?

"Yeah. 'Do as I say, boy!' Actually, something that isn’t too well known is that this is
our band. The others do as we say. Nigel's pretty easy to manipulate, but Tim's a bit of a bugger, isn't he?"

He is too. He sometimes even wears a funny hat on stage. Not that
he thinks it's funny, you understand. It's just one of the many frills of a Soho live performance, all whirls and swirls and sweat swashed confusion. It's based on the often forgotten premise that, once in a while, people still want to have fun. Always at the centre of it are the twins – arms waving, legs pumping, faces contorted into every exaggeration of every expression imaginable.

"We can't dance," says one of them. "We get asked how often we practice and how we work at the routines, but if you watch closely you'll notice that it's all out of time, both with each other and with the music. We just jump up and down and stomp around like idiots. We look like a couple of elephants. I'm sure that if we don't make it, it'll be because we're not particularly slim. We're not very pretty either and..."

"What're you talking about?" screams the other. "We'll do all right, we've got blonde hair. We're Blondie with bollocks. That's what that girl out of The Primitives said, wasn't it? They're not, but we. Look at us! Maybe we should spray our hair silver..."

"Blondie with bollocks," snorts the first in disgust.

•••

There is a deadly serious side to Soho. They've got a love song – "No we haven't, it's a
lurve song" – and they've got one called "Burn Your Houses", which documents the mindless persecution of Asian families in their own homes by right wing thugs.

Moreover, they believe that they will, sooner or later, be up there with the big buggers – and that's not only because twins are highly fashionable right now. If they didn't think that, they'd have already returned to their day jobs. The boys would have gone back to the fishmongers and the girls would have dusted down their uniforms for a spot of psychiatric nursing. Jackie would again have dispensed exactly the correct amount of the correct tablets to the wrong patient. She's about to go into the gory details when Tim and Nigel appear.

"Everything all right?" they politely enquire. "We're not going to say anything, we don't want to contradict the girls. We're on a wage now and how much we get depends on how well we do. So we have to be careful. Mind you, if you want to know about guitar heroes..."

Tim is about to mention Robin Trower when the tape recorder clicks off. It's the little things in life we should be thankful for.

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