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"Last Of The Window Cleaners"

[ from the album "The Ultraconformist" (1992) ]

Lyrics

I was the last of the window-cleaners
I was sacrificed as such
When they singled out the ring-leaders
They said I'd seen too much
But I only saw what the butler did
The chambermaid also
I only saw how the other half lived
I just washed their windows

Maybe up my ladder I got ideas above my station
Seldom if ever had a working man had a higher education
I learned to value clarity
And that knowledge is a two-way thing
That when windows attain transparency
working men get a good look in

But times are bad for window-cleaners
Worse than the 1930s
If it's not cowboys and amateurs
Who don't know where the dirt is
It's our most powerful customers
Who'll wipe us out eventually
They've lost the taste for clarity
In the late 20th century

The rich stopped wanting to see the world
They'd made it such a mess
They covered their windows with mother-of-pearl
To deflect the ugliness
It was then that the witch-hunt started
Charity fell out of fashion
It was whispered that the rich regarded
Our job with suspicion

They took away our permits
And imposed a window tax
People became like hermits
Sitting in their pitch black flats
And though we remained intransigent
And our pride in the work lived on
There was a series of mysterious accidents
And we died off one by one

And times are bad for window-cleaners
Worse than the 1930s
If it's not cowboys and amateurs
Who don't know where the dirt is
It's our most powerful customers
Who'll wipe us out eventually
They've lost the taste for clarity
In the late 20th century

I was the last of the window-cleaners
After the union was smashed
They found the corpses of the other ring leaders
Their fingers had been crushed
I received anonymous letters threatening attack
They struck at the Limehouse dock
Up drew a horse-drawn hackney cab
It was well past twelve o'clock

Out came a man with a lantern
Saying he'd come to light me to bed
Saying something to do with a chopper
And something to do with my head
But I wasn't listening carefully
I had other things on my mind
The failure of the union
The future of mankind

He spread his frock coat flat on the quay
And began positioning me there
Laid me back almost tenderly
And flourished a butcher's cleaver
I shouted past him into the dark
"We're prepared to make concessions"
But the blade he twisted in my heart
Ended my profession

But times are bad for window-cleaners
Worse than the 1930s
If it's not cowboys and amateurs
Who don't know where the dirt is
It's our most powerful customers
Who wiped us out eventually
They've lost the taste for clarity
In the late 20th century