The 1980’s opened up a divide in Britain which owed much more to money than geography. As the decade wore on it became apparent that the nation’s South East – more specifically London – was becoming an almost mythical land of financial betterment, a New York down there which glittered with an enticing Thatcherite prosperity.
Like so many twentieth century Dick Whittingtons, hundreds of thousands of people from beyond Watford Gap made their way to the capital, fleeing provinces denuded of opportunity. Many first disembarked at King’s Cross railway terminus, a dingy, sprawling Victorian husk of a building surrounded by flop-houses and frequented by sex workers of any persuasion. Welcome to paradise.
A song in it’s name, King’s Cross assumed a multitude of new interpretations two months after it’s release, when a discarded cigarette started a fire in the Underground which killed 31 people (It took 16 years to identify the final victim, a homeless man named Alexander Fallon). But Neil Tennant’s premonitions were of a different type; the song is “a hymn to the people getting left out of Thatcherism”, but also about a person coming to terms with the dehumanisation of sex as leverage, or a means of earning a living when the well paid City job inevitably failed to materialise.
Every aspect of this disillusionment, self doubt and shame runs through Kings Cross; as in life these feelings come in waves, but Tennant’s understanding and tenderness provided hope in situations where it was hard to find. For grime-sodden, once innocent refugees, it was music to be played in their little cathedrals, even if they felt that whoever god was had abandoned them, like Alexander Fallon, to their fate.