Saturday, May 17, 2014

Marillion from a Swedebeast's point of view, part 4: Marillion - Misplaced Childhood

The relative success of their two previous releases, 'Script For A Jester's Tear' and 'Fugazi' gave Marillion some room to breathe. Financially sound after reasonable sales and hugely succesful tours meant the band could go fulltime. Both the management and the label finally gave them time to recuperate but eventually it's was back to business as usual and the band was shacked up in a manor to write. Bits and pieces had been written by the band members during the time off and some of it quickly took proper shape as the new album developed faster than anticipated. Early on they realised they had a concept album on their hands but not the traditional kind. Instead the music was more accessible than before although this didn't mean Marillion had cut down their musical chops. Quite the opposite in fact as the playing is top notch as always and the tales Fish tells are as heart-wrenching as they ever were but more from a reflective angle.

In between the writing and the recording sessions EMI released 'Real To Reel', a live mini album. Unbeknownst to the band this wax and the subsequent tour saved them. Their label were seriously considering dropping them but the success of especially the road trip convinced EMI to keep them for one more album. So off to Berlin they went with renowned producer Chris Kimsey, the recording began and the rest is history.

An eerie keyboard plays along with Fish in opener 'Pseudo Silk Kimono', as he recants reflections of the nightmares that haunts the still-recurring charachter, the jester. It quickly leads into 'Kayleigh' which became a monster hit for the band. The title is based on an old girlfriend of Fish and fittingly is a love song about lost lovers and broken relationships. A very nice solo from Steve Rothery adds to the heartbreak-feel of the song. 'Lavender', the second big single of the album follows and maybe a little bit too nursey-rhyme in it's approach, it is still a beautiful song about coming of age. A boy realizes that he has become a man and he tries to look back on when that actually happened. From here on is where the real reflective mode of 'Misplaced Childhood' sets in. The music becomes darker as well as the lyrics for the most part. 'Bitter Suite' is one of my favourite parts of the fantastic wax and displays Marillion at their very best. Ian Mosley's drumming and percussive work is breath-taking so I can not to this day understand how underrated and ignored he is. Built up around five suites it segues in to the most rock-influenced section 'Heart Of Lothian'. Heavily autobiographical Fish sings about himself being the fully fledged rock star who wants to continue that part when the show is over but comes crashing down to earth having to deal with the press and the business side of things. However his fascination for debauchery get taken care off in the clasutrophobic and chaotic 'Waterhole(Bongo Express)'. A curious mix of heavy rock, reggae and calypso - almost - are the perfect agents to create this feel.

In the more upbeat 'Lords Of The Backstage' Fish comes to the conclusion that his reflections on Kayleigh earlier are pointless. He wanted success much more than he wanted her. Egotistical and then some but there is a feel of elation and freedom. But that comes crashing down on him in the first part of 'Blind Curve'. This Steve Rothery-led part it dawns on him that it's all a lie. Rothers' solo is amazing by the way! The memory of a recently deceased close friend is the catalyst that throws the main charachter - Fish? - into depression and insanity of trying to cope with the present world, perfectly performed by Pete Trewavas thumping bass guitar and Mosley's supertight drumming. Drugs and craziness overtakes him but salvation is at hand. The rhythm guitar on 'Childhoods End' is so beautiful and acts as the eye opener if you ask me. In all the madness surrounding him the main character finally opens his eyes and sees hope and a future:

'And it was morning
And I found myself mourning,
For a childhood that I thought had disappeared
I looked out the window
And I saw a magpie in the rainbow, the rain had gone
I'm not alone, I turned to the mirror
I saw you, the child, that once loved'.

Ending strong 'White Feather' sees the man rejuvenated, full of hope and ready to take on the world. A Celtic feel to it where Mark Kelly performs a nice keyboard version bagpipe kind of duelling with Rothers at the end.

'Misplaced Childhood' threw Marillion out on the big stage. Instead of clubs and theatres they now played arenas as the album shifted countless units turning them mega stars. You would think everything was hunky-dory in the camp but alas that was not the case. During the recording session Fish and Steve Rothery had a huge falling out and their friendship ended promptly. So despite the positive end to 'Misplaced Childhood' and it's huge success, cracks were starting to appear as the band began to split into two camps.

I have stated before that I hold the Fish-era albums in the highest regard and 'Misplaced Childhood' did nothing to diminish that. Some claim the band sold out with the fame this period brought them. I looked at it, and I still do, as a major achievement that one of the non-commercial bands kicked all the pop-crap in the ball sack. One of the outsiders broke through the barriers and showed that real music can be successful.

- Swedebeast

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