There’s a rather vivid scene in Günter Grass’ (at times unbearably) phantasmagoric novel The Tin Drum where a museum guard named Herbert Truczinski (an associate of the narrator, Oskar Matzerath) falls in love with a statue, “Niobe” or “the green maiden.” Although, it is more accurate to say that Herbert is possessed to ravish the statue:
I had to laugh when I saw Herbert. He was hanging from the front of Niobe, he had tried to mount the wooden statue. His head covered hers. His arms clung to her raised, crossed arms. He had no shirt on. It was later found neatly folded on the leather chair by the door … The emergency team who came rushing into the room not far behind me had a hard time dislodging Herbert from Niobe. In a frenzy of lust he had torn a short, double-edge ship’s ax from its security chain, pounded one blade into Niobe’s wood, then drove the other into his own flesh as he assaulted the woman. In spite of the perfect bond above, he had been unable, below, where his trousers gaped open, where he still thrust forward, stiff and at a loss, to find ground for his anchor … He was still beating on it with his fists as members of the museum staff led him out of the green maiden’s parlor, down the stairs, and finally home in a police car (179-80).
Less frenzied, but no less lascivious, is Andy Partridge’s paean to another notable green maiden: the Statue of Liberty.
“One Sunday afternoon my girlfriend was doing some ironing and kept on lifting her iron into the air to get the lead untangled, she reminded me of the Statue of Liberty,” says Partridge on the Chalkhills site regarding the song’s origins. “Rainy days make your mind wander and… I even saw the Statue herself in 1978, it was bright green with oxidization.”
The song feels carnivalesque, not in the least because of Barry Andrew’s bright keyboard flourishes, but because the whole song revels in the outright fantasy of the Statue of Liberty inspiring envy (“I leaned right over to kiss your stony book / A little jealous of the ships with whom you flirt”) and, furthermore, being the subject of voyeurism (“A billion lovers with their cameras / snap to look”).
The loopy lust Partridge dignifies with his delivery is remarkable, bringing a minor visceral sense to lines like “Nearly naked—unashamed like Herod’s daughter” and “In my fantasy / I sail beneath your skirt.”
That skirt line got the song banned by the BBC, to the endless amusement of everyone involved, though according to Partridge, the song regardless found them a particularly influential fan: John Peel.
The video for “Statue of Liberty” is pretty bare bones, as most early vids were: just XTC in a black box, although there are a few cardboard cutouts of the green maiden herself, dolled up in the “L.H.O.O.Q.” manner, Duchamp style with goatees although, most tellingly, they’re not full standing cutouts; meaning no torso to climb and no skirts to sail under. They are courteous however, holding Partridge and Colin Moulding’s microphones.
The band also ended up playing the song on Old Grey Whistle Test to great effect, although Partridge has bemusedly pointed out he was going for a Brian Jones look with his “pudding-basin” haircut.
B-side “Hang On To The Night” in comparison is downright boring: a two-minute rave that makes for a perfect obverse to “Hold Back The Night,” covered to great effect by contemporaries Graham Parker & The Rumour for anyone keeping score at home.