That Time Ian Brown Rode A Tiny Bicycle Backwards Through Turn-Of-The-Century Soho

By M@ Last edited 9 months ago

Last Updated 17 October 2023

That Time Ian Brown Rode A Tiny Bicycle Backwards Through Turn-Of-The-Century Soho

For more of all things London history, sign up for our new (free) newsletter and community: Londonist: Time Machine.

Ian Brown riding a curve-handled bike across a soho street in the rain

Ian Brown's 2001 masterpiece offers a nostalgic look at a vanished Soho.

London in 2001 was like a new city. We'd just got the London Eye, Millennium Dome, Jubilee line extension, Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge, a new-look British Museum... it was all going on.

But Soho was a different story. The area was largely unchanged from the 90s, 80s or even 70s, with an unfathomable variety of dive bars, gig venues and and late-night hangouts. Sex shops were everywhere. Some streets had "Models upstairs" signs on every door. It was shabby; it was shady; it was so very human.

Former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown captured the essence of this lost Soho in the video to his 2001 hit F.E.A.R. His simple formula is to ride a bike through a drizzly Soho, then reverse the film so he appears to be going backwards.

His route takes him from Gerrard Street in Chinatown (not yet festooned with thousands of hanging lanterns), across Shaftesbury Avenue into Soho proper. Brown manoeuvres his comically undersized bicycle along a litter-strewn Wardour Street before weaving into Walker's Court — home of the Raymond Revue Bar and a parade of sex shops.

Ian Brown riding a bike past a blue-shuttered Sex Shop

His rearward progress ends in Berwick Street market — also famous from the cover shot of Oasis's "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?". The street has undergone fairly comprehensive redevelopment in the ensuing couple of decades, so it's good to see it how we remember it.

It's a glorious video to a glorious song, and offers a glimpse into the old Soho that is gradually slipping away. As Brown observes in one of the song's many FEAR acronyms, "Forgive Everyone And Remember".