It is remarkable how little commercial success correlates longevity. Nowadays, XTC is considered one of the quintessential British rock bands from the eighties, but back in the days their singles barely scratched the charts. Senses working overtime, perhaps their best known song, only reached place 31 in the Flemish pop chart. Their other songs, like Dear God and today’s subject The mayor of simpleton, didn’t even chart. On the other hand, have you listened to much Bros lately? Some Climie Fisher, perhaps? They both reached the Flemish end-of-the-year top 100 in 1988, the same year as The mayor of Simpleton, but they have completely vanished from the public eye.
Of course, their descent into obscurity was inevitable: they didn’t have chessboards in their music videos!1 But XTC did. They mostly had some pointless posing with giant pieces taken out of their natural habitat but there was also an actual chess board, as seen above.
The message of the song is that the singer admits to being a bit of an uneducated rube, in stark contrast to the object of his affection and her circle of friends, but that he claims he is nevertheless very much devoted to her.2
The position on the board is this one, with the exception that black’s king’s side is probably much more densely populated as the diagram would suggest:3
- displaying the board rotated 90°,
- switching the positions of the kings and queens.
Those readers will be pleased to learn that today’s subject combines the two in an epic affront to both decency and Caïssa.
If we mirror the position of the pieces while keeping the board fixed, the positions of most pieces become reasonable. But one cannot ignore the elephant in the room, i.e. the queen on a3. How did it get there? The only explanation I can think of is that the no-one was actually playing but someone passing by accidentally knocked the queen of the board and just put it wherever. Or perhaps XTC was involved.
Realism: 1/5 That one monstrously placed queen costs dearly. Almost as dearly as the wrong position of the royals.
Probable winner: Whoever’s move it is. If it’s white to move, he can just take the queen. If it’s black to move, he can nick the rook on a1 and his opponent just refused to capture his queen.
1. [Fair warning: I did not actually go through all their music videos. Perhaps they do feature a chess board somewhere. If so, be sure to let me know!] ↩
2. [In doing so, they show a subtle sense of irony by showing that the narrator is so stupid that the words he means to be romantic end up being the opposite:
You’ll be warm in the arms of the Mayor of Simpleton