The first pick from the hat brings out one of my all time favourite albums and would easily be in my top five although I tried to come up with a top five and ended up with eight choices so I can confidently say it would be in my top eight.
Released in June 1985 Misplaced Childhood was Marillion’s 3rd studio album and provided them their only UK number 1.
Usually the words ‘concept and album’ would result in me running for cover but not in this case. I was a little late to the Marillion (Garden) Party. I was still too much of a metal head to appreciate Marillion when Script For A Jester’s Tear came out in 1983. Although there is a strong possibility that I saw them in The Dial Inn in their very early days but I can’t lay claim to that distinction with any real conviction. For those who don’t know the Dial Inn was one of a number of Glasgow pubs that catered for those who liked their music a little, well a lot, louder and liked to grow their hair longer than everyone else. Crazy to look back now and think you also had the infamous Burns Howff, Shadows, Wypers and The Dial Inn all within 5 mins of each other. All now sadly gone. I spent many a night I can’t remember in all of those pubs. You could also add in The Venue to that list which I think was the first rock club to open up in Glasgow’s city centre. If you know Sauchiehall Street it was located in the lane before you get to The Garage. It briefly re-opened as The Garage 2 for a while in the 90s.
Anyway Marillion slowly filtered through my conscience and I became a die hard fan in a very short space of time. I’m sure it was the Friday Rock Show where I first took notice of them. The Friday Rock show was hosted by the great Tommy Vance (RIP) and was on Radio 1 between 10pm and Midnight. It was pretty much the only place you could hear any kind of hard rock music on mainstream radio for years. Around 1984 Tom Russell came along with his rock show on Radio Clyde which started when the Friday Rock Show finished and ran until 2am so Fridays was often a staying in night so we could listen to 4 hours of rock and countless bands were discovered thanks to these 2 shows. No internet back in those days to access Spotify, watch You Tube etc. Finding bands was hard work but rewarding. Other than record shops themselves there was Sounds music paper and then Kerrang, the monthly metal magazine which arrived in 1981, to seek out new rock music.
Marillion albums Script For A Jester’s Tear and Fugazi were duly added to the collection as were a number of 12 inch singles as Marillion liked to add tracks that were not available on the albums plus a few live songs on their single releases. Some real gems were available including a couple of my favourite Marillion songs in Lady Nina and Freaks.
It was on the Fugazi tour that I officially got to see Marillion live for the first time at the famous Glasgow Apollo in February 84. This night was memorable for other reasons than just my first Marillion gig. It was the first and only time I’ve gone to a gig with a sleeping bag. This was for use after the gig where myself and my partner of the time left the Apollo after the gig and duly joined a queue to sleep out overnight for Quo tickets for the upcoming End of the Road tour. None of your Ticketmaster, seetickets etc. to sit in your cosy house and access them online, no sireee a cold February night to sleep out in and pray it didn’t rain. You had to queue overnight to guarantee you a ticket or to at least make sure you got a decent one. As this was the last ever Quo tour (well so we all thought at the time) tickets were like gold dust.
Anyway I digress once more, back to the Marillion gig which cemented my love of the band and in particular it was the Dalkeith born singer, Fish, at a towering 6ft 5 who totally dominated the stage that was the focus of the band. Hiding behind his ‘greasepaint mask’ he had the Apollo in the palm of his hand and I’ve been a follower ever since.
Fast forward a few months to December 84 and Marillion played the Barrowlands under the banner of the Reel to Real tour, to support a rush released live album to cash in on the band’s sudden increased popularity. These were really just a bunch of Xmas dates before they were due to go into the studio to record the album that was to become Misplaced Childhood. That night we were treated to side 1 of that album in its formative stage and although the structure of side 1 remained roughly the same there were many lyrical changes but it was clear at that show that Childhood was going to be something special. I think I even have a bootleg tape of that gig somewhere.
Before the album was released it was preceded by the single Kayleigh in April which reached number two and would have been number one were it not for the charity single by The Crowd for the victims of the Bradford Stadium fire. Then in June 85 the album was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. I was of course waiting for the record shop to open and rushed home to get my first taste of Childhood and I wasn’t disappointed. I find it hard to fault the album in any way shape or form. For me it’s a lyrical and musical masterpiece. From the haunting synth opening of Pseudo Silk Kimono to closing White Feather the music and lyrics combine perfectly. With the lyrics helpfully printed inside the gate fold sleeve (remember this is vinyl we’re talking about) for you to follow the story as it unfolded. One of the joys of being brought up in the vinyl age was the attention to detail that was taken over album sleeves. The cover itself was drawn by Mark Wilkinson who was responsible for all of the Fish era Marillion albums and a large part if not all of Fish’s solo art work. The album is in part the autobiographical story of singer Fish, and covers many subjects including stories of relationship break ups, coping, or more like not coping with stardom, friends that didn’t make it, adolescence and just to round it off a foray into the futility of war. The lyrics struck a chord with a generation and why today so many look back with great fondness and love for childhood and is one album I think has stood the test of time incredibly well.
Of all the albums I own there can’t be many I would sing with as much enjoyment as this one whether in the car or at a gig. I just love this album to bits.
They of course toured and played the whole album and I saw the show in January 86 at the Edinburgh Playhouse and a group of us travelled down to Milton Keynes in June of that year to see Marillion play their biggest ever UK show at the Bowl.
The album itself was the breakthrough for Marillion and they rode the Childhood wave for a couple of years before releasing another great album, Clutching at Straws in 87. This was to be the last Fish era Marillion album and they parted ways in 88 with Steve Hogarth becoming Marillion’s new singer and Fish carving out a solo career which I have followed avidly ever since. Fish is one of my favourite lyricists and has released a string of excellent albums although neither act has ever reached the giddy heights of the 80s again.
Just to make me feel old Fish marked the 20th anniversary of the albums release by setting out on the Return to Childhood tour in 2005 where he played the album in full. And just to make me feel even older last year was the 30th anniversary and Fish, once again reprised the album on the Farewell to Childhood tour. I was lucky enough to see him play the album in his home town of Dalkeith on what was clearly an emotional night for him. Many of the lyrics were written about and written in his home town. The Farewell tour then came to Glasgow in December and it really was just a magical night. I got to celebrate Childhood with 1,000 other like minded people and we sang our hearts out like it was 1985 all over again when we all had hair. It was quite an emotional evening, even Fish couldn’t hold back the tears at the end. I thought that was going to be the last time I would hear the album live but due to a few dates being cancelled Fish put a mini UK tour together and I’m heading to Newcastle in April to sing my heart out one more time.
I can’t wait.
Rather than try and post individual tracks this album should really be heard in its entirety to do it justice which you can do at the helpful you tube link below. Enjoy and, as always, play loudly.
Feck me that was a long one. Once I started I couldn’t stop. One memory opened up the door to others which is partly the reason for doing this. Many tangents and digressions which I think will be a feature of these posts. Although thinking ahead to some albums in the hat I’ll be lucky to write a couple of paragraphs. Thank feck I hear you say.
Plan to do the next one fairly quickly so I can get back on schedule.
See you on week 3.