In 1989, the China Crisis single “Saint Saviour Square” was released on Virgin Records from the album “Diary of a Hollow Horse”: their 5th studio album. An accompanying video was made inspired by a painting of Annie Swynnerton called “The Sense of Sight” (1895: showing an angel gazing up to the heavens) which is housed in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. The video mysteriously disappeared from view for years. So obscured, that hardly anybody even remembered making it. However, household photographer and friend Jim Gough luckily still had pictures of the shoot to prove it did actually take place. Other than that nobody had seen it it for years. It was nowhere to be found on the internet either. Until somebody in the China Crisis group on Facebook suddenly came up with some footage from a dated Spanish music program that was sadly blocked from UK viewers. But! I was able to download the video and polish it up a bit, and decided it was time for a proper premiere of the long lost miracle that found its way back to the source… and some tales of its background.
Gary Daly: “Saint Saviour Square” was a (untitled ) Kevin demo for the diary of a hollow horse sessions… Kevin (Wilkinson) brought along a tune on cassette tape…..which musically i seem to remember was almost as is……maybe it was a little more funky….. Brian, Eddie and Gaz would have quickly helped arrange the parts already there…the chords and bass line….and also i think we added the middle 8 it’s more Mike Oldfield than the chinas…. ( but this was lost in the Mike Thorne recording….) I would have sang along securing the verses / chorus’s / . . . . this all came very naturally to us…..with “Diary” being the 5th Chinas album…we would turn up with finished demos…”Day After Day “, “In Northern Skies” and some not so. The lyrics: I would walk into town most days and hook up with everyone at rehearsals. . . the walk took me thru a relatively new housing estate, which had fallen prey to horrible neglect….. I think with me just becoming a father for the first time shaped my thoughts and helped fashion the lyrics for “Saint Saviour Square”. . . . once we had the song on demo tape….everyone at virgin believed we had a smash hit , number 1 song …..which alas turned out to be wishful thinking. . .the song being recorded a number of times….. firstly by the great Walter Becker, then mr Mike Thorne.… The video: this must be one of our rarest seen videos….. I remember we had a stylist turn up before the shoot… with a bunch of clothes for everyone to wear. . . . this was most welcome…..as everyone got to keep the clothes…. the video was mostly a performance . . .with some intercutting of historic Liverpool landmarks……Mostly. . . “Saint Saviour Square” was a bit of a disappointment . . . .don’t get me wrong….it has a great energy. . . .and ticks all the boxes…..a great melody hook line. . .boss bass line. . . .great verse / chorus’s. . . .but overall…way too bombastic. . . .especially Mike Thorn‘s version ( which unfortunately made the album cut. . .)“
Eddie Lundon: “The reason why the video probably disappeared is because the record company deleted the record after a certain period (Diary). I vaguely recall it was something political maybe? can’t remember exactly, but it was taken off the shelves and the video sort of vanished with it. Jim (Gough) apparently had taken pictures during the shoot, but I never saw those and totally forgot ever shooting it. Strange thing is, that I actually take my students ( LIPA) to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool each year to show them these huge religious paintings to inspire them for the Xmas song writing assignment. One of those paintings is the “Sense of Sight” which we used on the cover of Diary and which was a slide projected from a big plastic sheet poured over with water and us striking a pose in front of that. In the video an actress was found that looked remarkably like the girl in the painting. Another painting from that same art gallery is called “Angels Playing Violins, Singing the Praises of Finer Things“. The latter half of that title was the used for another song on Diary, as we all know.”
Gazza Johnson (bass player) : “It was Kev’s (Kevin Wilkinson) demo and he came up with the idea of the bass line, I think, and I just had to make it work. We played the main riff A LOT to get it to sit properly and I tried fretted and fretless basses, finger style and plectrum, until we were happy with it. I can’t quite remember what Walter recorded but I preferred the fretless feel. It was great live, for the one tour we did it, the bass line really drives it along and we really worked on the dynamics, Ed had a lot of input on the backing vocals. So there you have it, Kev‘s baby! Yes, it was just a groove and a chord change, possibly only the verse with no chorus. The two of us worked it through with Brian (Brian McNeill/ keyboardplayer) before we all started arranging it, but it was fairly spare, a bit jazz-funky. I always used to like to attack it a bit in the main riff, that’s where the fretless made it a bit more expressive.“
Jim Gough (photographer) : “I remember Gary taking photos of the Square when they were knocking it down. Although the ‘Angel’ doesn’t appear with the band her part was shot at the same time. A beautiful girl who was chosen because she looked like the girl on the cover of “Diary (of a Hollow Horse) and the single. The painting of the girl with wings is from a painting in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. I think I have got about 30 or 40 from the video shoot.”
The senses were a favourite subject for 17th-century artists, represented in a fairly literal manner. Following this tradition, Swynnerton’s angel, who appears on earth, relies on her sight to find heaven. The subject of ‘The Sense of Sight‘, an angel overwhelmed at the wonder of what they can see, perhaps relates to the importance of sight to an artist and the joy of the visual world. Her rapturous expression suggests not merely sight but also a spiritual vision and the realistic painting of flesh and face contrasts with the figure’s spirituality.