Monday, April 1, 2019
Soho (E don't wanna E don't wanna E don't wanna E)
The Observer, January 6th 1991
by Simon Reynolds
The day their single 'Hippychick' entered the US Top 30, Soho were evicted from their squat in Hackney. Since then 'Hippychick' has scaled the American charts and has sold over half a million copies; not bad for a record that cost £300 to make and a day to record.
Tim London (the group's architect) and the singing twins Jackie and Pauline have just returned from weeks of superstar treatment in the States, to the squalor of their new, structurally unsound flat above an East-End drycleaners. It's unlikely that they'll have to put up with the "carcinogenic fumes" much longer. 'Hippychick' is about to be re-released in the UK, and Soho's days of penury and anonymity are surely numbered.
When it was first released in Britain earlier this year, the single grazed the Top 75 and enjoyed minor success on the dance scene. Punters focused on Soho's "witty" sampling of the guitar riff from The Smiths' 'How Soon Is Now'. It seemed as if dance culture was exacting revenge on Morrissey for his "burn down the disco/hang the DJ" crusade of a few years ago. So far Soho's impudence hasn't provoked any comeback for the ex-Smiths: in fact, Johnny Marr (who wrote and played the riff) is said to approve.
But in the USA, where The Smiths are only known on the college radio scene, people responded to 'Hippychick' as a seething, hardcore dance track. "In the States they just treat that riff as a noise," says Jackie. "It could have been a fart being sampled for all they care."
Another thing the Americans haven't picked up on is the song's political content. "It's a conversation between a young woman and her ex-boyfriend who's a policeman," explains Pauline. "She's on a demo for the miner's strike. She's saying she's not a hippychick, she's not gonna sleep with him to change his mind, she's got no flowers for his gun."
Soho are sceptical about the hippy belief that "love and peace" are all you need to change the world, a naive idealism that's recently been revived by rave culture, with its Second and Third Summers Of Love. On the cover of 'Hippychick', Soho revive some different slogans from pop history: "hippies roll over, yuppies fight back", and the old Sex Pistols line "never trust a hippy".
"Did you ever read a book called Playpower by Richard Neville?" asks Tim. "There's a lot of good ideas for resistance in that book, but they were never followed through because drugs got in the way of intellect. It's the same now."
"Ecstasy stupefies people and makes them passive," adds Jackie. "It turns them into teddy bears."
"All this stuff about the new Summer Of Love," continues Tim. "It's more like the Summer of Having a Good Time. It's no different from Saturday Night Fever, or Mod days; it's just a tradition of young working-class kids dancing and getting out of their heads."
Despite their dance-floor success, Soho are primarily a pop group. They were reared on radio music (Slade, Gary Glitter, Barry White) and passionately believe that the seven-inch single is still pop's most concentrated and sublime form of expression.
"The late Seventies were when the single was at its best," says Pauline, "the post-punk days when you could come home with an orange Day-Glo single by X-Ray Spex." Accordingly, their forthcoming LP, Goddess, is more like a collection of singles than an album.
'Hippychick' is a typical Soho hybrid. Tim's groove is sultry techno-funk, but the twins' vocals have more in common with West Coast psychedelia than soul, and approach the eerie, forbidding quality of Grace Slick on Jefferson Airplane's 'White Rabbit'.
The album reflects Soho's radical politics and feminist affiliations. "The LP was originally supposed to be all about strong women," explains Jackie. The title track namechecks female role models like Rosa Luxemburg, Emily Pankhurst, Diane Abbott and Dusty Springfield, as well as "friends of ours that we think are right on and pretty cool."