Eyebrow to an elbow, across a scar. And stars are laughing as the
Wind bites - doesn't leave a mark... because the Tower stands
Impregnable - a beacon in the dark.
And no one names a crime committed, no one blames a soul. Their cases
Heard so long ago - forget about parole. And faculties are failing
Because they're really rather old. And sick. And tired, much too
Jaded. How they weep, 'cause how they hate it.
Sky dye on her fingers. The air was turning blue, as captain
Whispered, 'Blindfold's optional - you wouldn't like the view! She
Shook her head and shouted back, "I'd like to see this through." Then
Joined the line of hostages - was 13th in the queue.
Rusty chains and armoured pillows stuffed with silver pins.
Collecting lives like butterflies, keep them all locked in. Tattoo
With a star, write a number on the chin... It's not for turning.
Slowly learning. Stomach churns, the fire's burning... No one has the
Key to the Tower.
And if you listen carefully, you'll hear a baby cry. Torn screaming
From her mother's womb - the lady nearly died. But the torment never
Stops, it's written right across the eyes of George and Jeannie,
Charlotte, Renie, Uncle Geoff, Cousin Julie, Audrey, Johnny, Andy,
Mandy, Algernon. And Barbarella, Shelly, Napoleon. Winston, April,
Philip, Roland, Barry, Sally, Patrick, Me! Me! Mimi...
An article on the Tower:
The Captain as a recurring archetypical character makes an appearance here.
Concerning the names of those "in the Tower" at the end of the song:
Georgie could be several Georges including George Duke of Clarence who, in 1478 was sentenced to be executed for "Compassing the death of the King by necromancy", but was murdered by drowning in a butt of Malmsey wine in the Bowyer Tower before the sentence could be carried out. Also George Neville Archbishop of York, Sir George Browne, and others.
Jeannie could be either Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford imprisoned and beheaded in 1542, or Lady Jane Grey imprisoned in 1554.
Johnny could be several Johns including John Balliol King of Scotland, John II King of France, John Gerard, S.J. (an English Jesuit priest), John Comyn, Sir John de Mentieth, John Legg, Sir John Oldcastle, Friar John Randolph, John Stacey, John Frith, and many others.
Of course this song depicts a scene in the re-opened Tower of an envisioned future and these names may have been chosen for the way they sounded, or names personally known. Certainly "Uncle" and "Cousin" have more of a familial ring to it.
Barbarella is a character in the movie of the same name, played by Jane Fonda. This may refer to Poison Barbarella, which is the name under which Julia Niblock Waller appeared on certain Legendary Pink Dots' releases during the 1980s after leaving the group Attrition.
The next group appear to be referring to, respectively, Percy Bysshe Shelley, (sometimes spelled Shelly, though this could be a woman named Shelly) - one of the major English Romantic poets, Napoleon Bonaparte - a military and political leader of France (though this could be Napoleon the XIV who sang the novelty song "They're coming to take me away"), and Winston Churchill - prime minister of England during World War II.
The last few are the names of the Legendary Pink Dots themselves, trapped in this future - April White, Philip Knight, Roland Calaway, Barry Gray, Sally Graves, Patrick Wright, and Edward.
Although Edward states that the early names of albums were not quite intentionally named after tarot cards, the symbolism of the Tower card seems appropriate:
There are certain places that hit you very hard. The Tower (1984) is basically about England, but it wasn't an English city that inspired it. It was Nuremburg, Germany, which is almost paradiselike, in its way. It's an extremely beautiful city. You're so aware of its history. It's sort of got this scar that cannot be removed, and a melancholy amongst the young people and a defensiveness amongst a lot of the older people. You're constantly feeling this as you're walking the streets. The Tower was an interesting one, a political future-shock album - the Tories (Thatcher's Regime) had just got back into power and I was screaming with out rage, wrote a whole album about the political trends in England. I put my heart and soul into that one, it got really acclaimed in Holland and France - but not in the country it was written for.
I believe in England it is worse. I don't like the way England is turning into a kind of Nazi Germany, and you are getting all the signs: first the decay, a hard sort of government that is there, that is gradually becoming harder and harder, much more subtle than the way Hitler did, for sure, but the racist laws, the fact that if you come from India you now need a visa. And they have such a huge backing even among working-class people; firebombs against immigrants' homes, families are known to have been killed by sort of equivalent of Nazi stormtroopers.
- Is that what "Vigil-antis" is about?
Yes. I detest that. I am totally apolitical. I don't go for any particular party that exists, or has ever existed, but for me there are degrees. Fascism is like the lowest of the low. There's a lot of aspects to what is called Communism that I detest, too. In fact, if I'm honest I think the only politician I could say I ever really respected is Gandhi. I can't relate to any others I can think of, at all.
The Tower is one of the oldest political prisons in the world:- the Tower of London. We're taking the premise that if you take things to their logical conclusion of the trends in England: they are going to be saying 'why don't we open the Tower?' But it will be for the deviant, and the deviant can be any colour other than the white, the deviant can think in any angle except the straight line, the deviant can be just plain ugly. They will reopen the Tower and they will turn it into Tower Town, the Tower Complex. "The Tower" itself musically as well as lyrically reaches back to the time when the Tower was a political prison, in the Middle Ages. But it's mixed with futuristic overtones; ultimately you get something which is timeless, 'cos that was always another thing about the Pink Dots: we destroy the concept of time, I suppose in a way like the surrealist paintings. "Island of Jewels" goes even further, lyrically it is set 5 years on from "The Tower", when it is turned into Tower World, that's actually when the cataclysm comes. It was a reaction to a particular occurrence. When I was living in England, the Conservative government had been in for 4-5 years and there was a general election. For the first time in my life ever I voted, for Labour. And the Conservatives just got in again. I couldn't believe it. "The Tower" was written in anger, and that's why we say "You chose your grave. Now lie there"
- Why did you do ISLAND OF JEWELS as a sequel several albums later?
Because it didn't go away. It got worse.
- What prompted the move abroad to Holland?
I had a Dutch girlfriend, who had a big influence on me moving specifically because my girlfriend lives here and I never felt particularly comfortable in the East End of London. It was a tough childhood. I'd never seem to be able to completely shake that off, the only way to really do it was to get the hell out of the country. . and I finally left England and went to Holland to live. It was the first country which acknowledged our music properly, you know. We'd just brought out The Tower in England, which was a really important album to me, because it was all about England. It was about a trend that I saw in England, like this growing fascism type of thing - it was a real scream against it, and it was ignored! Apart from David Tibet, who did a review in Sounds, but even that was six months after the album came out. I just thought, well, 'Damn You', but it was praised in countries like Holland and Germany and countries like that. Holland seemed a good country to live - the country that appreciated us the most at the time..I mean, I have to eat, I have to live, and I want to live on the music alone. I couldn't keep up this double life, going to boring jobs during the day and trying to work during the evening. I wanted to make a step and if I'd made a step in England then the whole thing would have fallen flat on its face, 'cos I couldn't play anywhere, couldn't survive, and here I can. It also forced me to try to make a living out of music without any kind of jobs. I haven't had a day job since '84. In the early days it was very, very hard. I mean it was even difficult to buy food and things like that for a while.
A further year was to pass before Phil and other members of the band were to emigrate