Monday, 1 March 2010
Towers of London
"Towers of London when they had built you. Did you watch over the men who fell? Towers of London when they had built you. Victoria's gem found in somebody's hell ..." sings my childhood idol Andy Partridge on XTC's unusually forthright Towers of London. For no matter how impressive the Victorian architectural achievements were, there was a huge price to pay in terms of human life. The architects may have monuments built so we remember their names, but who remembers the families of those who fell by the wayside? Andy explained the thinking behind the song to an XTC fansite thus: "I saw an engraving of workmen building something under London - I'm not sure what - but they were in this huge underground corridor, with a hole in the top where the sunlight was coming in, and there was a pit pony down there, with a half-dozen navvies. And I thought, I'm going to write a song about London, but I'm going to write it from the point of view of the people who actually built it - the 'navigators' or canal builders. They were people who dug the canals, people who dug the Undergrounds - basically the labourers of the Victorian era, who were known as navvies. A lot of them were Irish, or people from the West Country, or from up north in England, so they were considered to be stupid yokels, generally, and they were looked down on, largely, by the population. You know, 'expendable' types."