All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


It feels like I have known The Tiger Lillies for a very long time.

I first met Martyn and Sophie in London not long before they were burned out of their Soho flat by an unscrupulous landlord. He was bent on getting rid of them and claiming the insurance.  We had been together in the country for the weekend and returned to the city on the Sunday evening.  I said goodbye to them but heard by phone-call later that they had lost everything - clothes, photographs, instruments and all the music they had recorded for years.  All gone up in smoke.  The weekend had been a Buddhist retreat so I suppose it was a brutal practical lesson in permanence

It actually kind of turned out all right in the end and the band have gone from strength to strength since despite being largely ignored by the music press and industry (well, in the UK at least) - a fact I feel a certain resonance with.

Strangely, we have never shared a bill until this weekend in
St Petersburg.  That was very nice and I do hope we can do so again someday.  Oh and that reminds me, here is the original of the song 'Someday' that Martyn recorded for me a few years ago. 

Quite wonderful and I hope you enjoy it.

They are a very stylish band and very nicely turned out indeed so it was an aesthetic pleasure too.  And it was also wonderful to be back in Russia with our old friends there and to make some new ones. St Petersburg is such a beautiful city.  It is built on a marsh and I heard that the gas that is still released from beneath the surface is addictive and so people keep returning.  I can believe it.

If you were at the show and witnessed the ritual massacre of the great pink elephant, I salute you.  


This sinister object is a Victorian water tower in the back streets of Kennington.  It is one of the few remains of The Lambeth Workhouse where children were "taught to read but not write" and where Charlie Chaplin spent part of his childhood.  The childen would have seen it from a window in their dormitory.

It also appeared in the strange short film "The Black Tower' where a tower seems to follow the narrator around London.

I think I know that feeling.


Only one British prime minister has been assassinated (although, perhaps understandably, there have been several attempts on the lives of others).  In 1812 John Bellingham shot Spencer Perceval through the heart in Westminster.  I am not particularly political by nature but Bellingham was a local.  He lived in Millman Street and had his best coat adapted by another local - Mr Taylor of Guildford Street - with a special pocket to conceal a pistol.

At first thought to be a radical, it turned out that he was apparently just disgruntled.  I say 'apparently' because there is a third more sinister version of this story but at his trial he was said to have held the prime minister responsible for a series of collective wrongs, neglect and abuses by the government which had ruined many lives.  (The continued heavy police presence around teflon Tony Blair's luxury London lair might suggest that people could still feel that way).

He languished just south of Clerkenwell in Newgate prison briefly before being hung there at the gates on 18 May.  He was cleanly shaved, impeccably turned out and, as Samuel Pepys had said of another condemned prisoner:

'As cheerful as a man could be under such circumstances'.

Newgate was probably the most feared building in the British Empire.  It stood in various incarnations for almost a thousand years and was a terrifying temporary home to a vast range of characters - saints, sinners, heros and villains, real and imagined.  Countless innocents died there in addition to the guilty - disease taking many before the executioner could. It finally was brought down at the beginning of the twentieth century.  All that survives of it now apart from folk memory and some inherited language is a stretch of wall in a very private garden.  I managed to make it a visit courtesy of my new friend the wife of the Dean of St Pauls.  It is so tranquil there now it is almost impossible to imagine the horrors that went before or to realise what may still lie beneath the flowers.

The clothes of the executed were by ancient perogative awarded to the hangman and could be sold on for considerable sums due to their curiosity and alleged curative value.  I saw a 'Bellingham's Cravat' for sale a couple of years ago in an old shop on Lambs Conduit street.  The shop is now gone but if you ever come across the cravat do let me know.


I am slightly ashamed to confess that I only saw the film Cabaret for the first time about three years ago.  I had always been put off by the theme song 'Life is a Cabaret' - a staple of of bad end-of-the-evening karaoke sessions and sad end-of-the-pier crooners.  Once seen however, never forgotten.  The music, the lyrics, the routines, the acting and the clothes are all genius of course but also there is the sadness and the sense of impending doom. Plus there is monkey song scene "If you could see her through my eyes" which simultaneously manages to articulate a very poignant expression of true love  - and be one of the funniest routines ever committed to film.  
It was a great pleasure to DJ before the showing of the film on Thursday at the beautiful Somerset House.  How often is it possible to play Kurt Veil, Tom Waits, Berthold Brecht and Lotte Lenya and get away with it never mind be egged on?  
I am now looking for a knitted pattern tanktop so I can be as elegant as Michael York.  In an ideal universe I suppose I would be a combination of him and Joel Grey whose turn as the MC of the Kit Kat club is simply jaw dropping.  
This film beat The Godfather to the Oscar.



Cabaret and Cabaret is one of my favourite films so I am pleased to be DJ ing before the outdoor showing at the very wonderful Somerset House on the north bank of the Thames this Thursday evening from 7.30pm

Glad rags and cushions (but hopefully not umberellas) advised..