The King Of Sunset Town.

[Track Info] [The Lyrics] [Explanation]

The King Of Sunset Town - Track Info

Track 1, from the album "Seasons end" - Album Version 8:01
Lyrics by Steve Hogarth & John Helmer.
Published by Charisma Music Publishing Co. Ltd.,
Bondor Music (LDN), EMI Music Publishing Ltd.

The King Of Sunset Town - The Lyrics

A ragged man came shuffling through
A puppet king on the 4th of June
And butterflies from all around
Settled on his paper crown

A pretty sight it seemed to be
An avenue of eternal peace
But he said, 'What is here can soon burn down...
I'm the king of sunset town'

Watch a big wheel turning round
Some go up and some go down
Some go thirsty some just drown
'That's the law round here'
Said the king of sunset town

And in the night he comes to me
And the square becomes a battlefield
Of staring eyes that can't explain
The insanity and the greater game

Watch a big wheel turning round
Some go up and some go down
Some go thirsty some just drown
'That's the law round here'
Said the king of sunset town
'That's the law round here'

A ragged man came shuffling through
The corridors of this white place
And as he lay his body down
I saw the scars that lined his face
And injured souls came to his bed
To hear the stories he would tell
Of butterflies and summertimes

And everyone assembled here
Remembers how it used to be
Before the 27th came
This place will never be the same
He said
['I'm the king of sunset town']

Watch a big wheel turning round
Some go up and some go down
Some go thirsty some just drown
'That's the law round here'
'That's the law round here'
Said the king of sunset town
['I'm the king of sunset town']

Copyright 1996 Fraser Marshall, Matthew Anderson & Bert ter Steege.


Jon Berger said: The Song was written by John Helmer about homeless people in London, but Steve Hogarth thought it did not have enough impact.

Steve Hogarth: "We were recording the album when the troubles in China began. We saw it on the news and we were shocked. The lyrics of Sunset Town had never said enough for me, so I asked the boys if I could rewrite it again." (Source: "Freaks Nederland", nr 16. oct '89).

The title, The King of Sunset Town is from a work of G.K. Chesterton, called "The man who was Thursday". There is a chapter called "The two poets of Saffron Park". This points to a part of London where they say the sun goes down: "Sunset Town".

The story takes place in Brighton Beach where you ought to see a wanderer for the contrast between rich and poor. According to John Helmer there are echoes of William Shakespeare: "Some go up and some go down" is based upon a metaphore about a Big Wheel (society) turning during the play of King Lear.

(These parts are all from an interview with John Helmer and Steve Hogarth about the lyrics, from "The Dutch Marillion Fanclub Magazine")

Uncredited (let us know and we’ll stick you in!): One thing about the KoST lyric was that the original imagery by Helmer was a bit more "stream-lined" than what we got in the end, according to Helmer in an old interview in a Web fanzine, the whole idea was to describe various historical events through the eyes of a sort of "wanderer", someone present at the various events. In the end the only clear imagery that was left was the part about the Tienamen square, because Hogarth wanted to keep that as a powerful statement rather than an epic tale describing several different occasions.

The idea of being the KoST refers to someone holding onto an old set of beliefs, i.e. in this instance the rigid hard-line communism of China, when the rest of the world at that time was turning away from it. Yet in the face of the student demonstration the Chinese "Lords" decided that they were having none of it, even though everybody knows that their political reality must change sometime soon.

Martijn Buijs said: Tianamen means something like 'Square of Heavenly Peace'.

‘fourth of June’
Pears Cyclopeadia: In the spring of 1989 the Communist government (of China) faced a serious challenge to its authority, triggered by the death on 15 April of Hu Yaobang, the disgraced former party general-secretary. Beijing University students demanding his rehabilitation staged a sit-in outside the Great Hall of the People. On the day of his funeral, 22 April, there were demonstrations in a dozen major cities. Deng Xiaoping warned of possible bloodshed. But on 27 April a march of 100, 000 students in Beijing, calling for democracy and attacking party corruption passed off peacefully. On 4 May 300, 000 demonstrators filled Tiananmen Square signifying growing popular support. Students began a hunger strike in the square on 13 May, demanding political reforms of the kind being enacted in the Soviet Union, their presence disrupting a visit by Mr Gorbachev on 15 May.

The hunger strikers called for a televised dialogue with the government as, on 17 May, a million people marched in Beijing, others demonstrated in 20 cities, and workers announced they would strike in support of the students. Divisions opened in the party hierarchy, with Zhao Ziyang apparently favouring dialogue while the Prime Minister, Lia Peng announced that martial law would come into force from 20 May. The people of Beijing massed in the square to prevent troops from entering.

As the students in the square perceptibly tired, hard-liners within the party prevailed. On 4th of June thousands of troops and scores of tanks moved in, staging a bloody massacre in which 2, 500 were initially reported killed.

‘Before the 27th came’
Pears Cyclopedia: With the world watching the carnage on television, China appeared on the brink of chaos. Sporadic clashes continued in Beijing and in cities throughout China over the next two days. There were reports that the 38th Army, which had refused to enforce the martial law decree, was facing the 27th Army and a clash seemed possible.

But on 8 June, Lia Peng appeared on television and praised the troops who had put down the protesters. The following day, the party leadership, minus Zhao Ziyang, presented a united front on television. The official government media circus called on citizens to inform on ‘Counter revolutionary’ dissidents. Arrests of activists now began alongside a government propaganda campaign to minimise the extent of casualties in the Tiananmen Square massacre. By 21 June 1, 500 activists had been arrested, including Guo Haifong, a prominent student leader. All independent student and student workers were ordered to disband. As the arrests continued, protesters received heavy punishment and nine were publicly executed in Shanghai.


Last Modified: 27 Jul 2000