Marillion – Misplaced Childhood – Round 36 – Graham’s Choice

When Nick set us the challenge of finding a concept album, my immediate reaction was where to begin with the options I had lurking in my collection. Then the reality dawned that I had not purchased anything resembling a concept album since 1987.

By then I had learned to leave such things well alone as there were far more interesting things to be listened to.

I referred fellow members to the sleeve notes which accompanied my copy of ‘Radio K.A.O.S.’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_K.A.O.S.) should they need any further evidence that my not having bought a concept album since 1987 was a very good thing. That still left me with a problem as to what to play. Rather than dip out, as I had done on debut album round, I assembled my dozen or so Floyd/Genesis etc. options and set off to, at least what I regarded, as the second novelty round (see round Round 17) of DRC.

My final choice above was inspired by a number of factors. I knew that Nick had had this inflicted on him at a vulnerable age and was interested to see how he felt about it now. I also retained a little bit of affection for Marillion having watched them live and seen them being savaged by the music press at the beginning of their career. Looking back, it almost feels like the music press had to invent the “neo-prog” genre just to explain them away. The suggestion was that they tapped in to a group of fans that had been in hibernation since the mid 70’s and were to suddenly reawaken when Marillion appeared in 1982. They didn’t fit the scene, they weren’t good looking, had questionable album cover art, but had a huge following and sold millions of records.

Anyway, with this 1985 album they managed a pretty neat trick by delivering their first full concept album and managed to produce a couple of AOR singles which charted both sides of the Atlantic. A challenge for fellow members would be to find another album which had such a significant impact on the naming of children, as in late 2005, 96% of Kayleighs living in the United Kingdom were born after 1985 (though maybe a few parents couldn’t spell “Kylie”). Anyway, while some of us sang along, recounting lyrics word for word after a 25 year break, others shifted nervously in their seats, while some bordered on spontaneous combustion. The album features the commercial singles at the beginning which then settles you in to a proggy/rocky ride to the triumphant U2’esque closer.

A lot of ground was covered in discussion and it was even speculated that in 1985 the logical implication, LM  NG was true, (where LM was expressing a liking for Marillion and NG was having no girlfriend). Some seemed to enjoy the ride, but I suspect not all.

Nick listened: When I was 10 I was a contestant on a BBC kids’ TV quiz show, and I won a Sony Walkman. Around about the same time, I inherited a box of albums on cassette from my older brothers (they’re 9 and 11 years older than me). One thing leads to another, and three of those cassettes got listened to a lot. An awful, awful lot. So much so that, probably 20 years since I last heard Misplaced Childhood in full, I could remember almost every lyric, every musical fill and riff and turn, every spoken-word passage about poetic Scottish spiders.

(If you’re wondering, the other two were Open Up And Say… Ahhhhh! by Poison, and Appetite for Destruction by Guns ‘n’ Roses.)

At 33, I have no idea whether I like Misplaced Childhood or not; there’s too much time, too much baggage, too much association to make a genuine value judgement. I never really investigated Marillion any further – I think Script For A Jester’s Tear was in that shoebox too but I didn’t take to it – probably because it was lacking Kayleigh and Lavender as frontloaded hooks to lure in the pre-adolescent me. I’ve threatened several times to buy it on CD, but never done so. Not because of Emma’s threats to divorce me, but out of some sense of learned guilt – this music is bad, is wrong, is pompous and decadent and all that bad stuff that punk washed away.

But it’s also, occasionally, incredibly catchy, melodic… and beautiful? Exciting? It was absolutely fantastic fun singing along the other night, pulling faces, throwing comedy prog-shapes, watching Rob squirm uncomfortably. I’d say, if pushed, that I don’t believe in “guilty” pleasures (I’m not religious and certainly not Catholic): Misplaced Childhood comes pretty damn close to being one, though.

As an aside, I used to moderate a band’s forum, and whenever arguments broke out, as they tend to do on forums, I would post the complete lyrics to this album as a way of making people shut up and leave the offending thread. I’ve not done that in years and years and years. So, in that great tradition, here are the lyrics to Kayleigh. Please feel free to pick your cheesiest remembrance from amongst Derek Dick’s words…

“Do you remember chalk hearts melting on a playground wall
Do you remember dawn escapes from moon washed college halls
Do you remember that cherry blossom in the market square
Do you remember I thought it was confetti in our hair
By the way didn’t I break your heart?
Please excuse me, I never meant to break your heart
So sorry, I never meant to break your heart
But you broke mine

Kayleigh is it too late to say I’m sorry? But Kayleigh could we get it together again?
I just can’t go on pretending that it came to a natural end

Kayleigh, oh I never thought I’d miss you
And Kayleigh I thought that we’d always be friends
We said our love would last forever
So how did it come to this bitter end?

Do you remember barefoot on the lawn with shooting stars
Do you remember loving on the floor in Belsize Park
Do you remember dancing in stilletoes in the snow
Do you remember you never understood I had to go
By the way, didn’t I break your heart?
Please excuse me, I never meant to break your heart
So sorry, I never meant to break your heart
But you broke mine

Kayleigh I just wanna say I’m sorry
But Kayleigh I’m too scared to pick up the phone
to hear you’ve found another lover to patch up our broken home

Kayleigh I’m still trying to write that love song
Kayleigh it’s more important to me now you’re gone
Maybe it will prove that you were right
or it will prove that I was wrong”

Tom Listened: This was undoubtedly one of Graham’s more inspired choices. Just to see the look on Rob’s face when Marillion was compared to Low (the band not the album). Don’t believe me? Go listen to Lavender, imagine it slowed down to a funereal lilt, chuck in some mumbled lyrics and an acoustic strum. It’s a dead ringer. And the best bit? That little look in Rob’s face when he suddenly realised that this comparison was not so wide of the mark after all. Priceless! Now, he will of course deny it but it was there, just for a split second admittedly, but definitely, undeniably, there.

Of course the record itself is preposterous, the production of the music is almost as horrible as the production of the cover art…and the lyrics?…Well, just see Nick’s post. However, some of the melodies are sweet and I reckon I may just get in touch with Mimi and Alan and suggest that they follow through.

Rob didn’t listen: 

“Awful, awful” – Nick Southall

“I may just follow through”  – Tom Rainbow

“I retained a little affection for them being savaged” – Graham Pollock

Reactions can easily be taken out of context. If Tom saw a look which he interpreted as acceptance crossing my face when he talked about ‘Lavender’ sounding like my beloved Low it could have actually represented any of the following fleeting thoughts: ‘Why am I in a room listening to Marillion?’ ‘Why aren’t these people who I thought were my friends smashing this record to pieces?’ ‘Did someone just mention Low and does this mean i’m being talked down to safety?’ Amusing as the point is, in the interest of accuracy I have to say that I did not even fleetingly give it credence. Here’s why: Imagine ANY rock song, in fact ANY SONG AT ALL, slowed down to an acoustic brush and hum and it will sound like Low. Here’s one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nVrwzptNVc. So, it’s like observing that the sky appears to be blue or suggesting that the Pope shits in the woods, or somesuch.

Secondly. Oh god, do I have to go on? When I was fifteen I decided that the music I liked was Public Image Limited and this begat The Smiths which begat The Fall. In making this choice, I set myself against a number of the opposite positions I could easily, accidentally, have adopted. These included any records made pre-1977. I have softened on this. Most importantly I adopted an ideological repulsion for prog rock and, particularly Marillion and Genesis. I have not softened on this. I never listened to their records, but some of my friends did. Hating those records was one of the things I did as a teenager to create my adolescent self. I see now that this was, essentially, just blind luck. I could have gone the other way. But I didn’t. To go back now, or at any point over the last 25 years, would be to strike at the very foundations of the person I’ve become. Everyone likes a revolution, and addressing preconceptions about oneself has to be healthy, but some keystones need to stay in place or else the asylum beckons.

Prior to this evening I didn’t give a fuck what this record sounded like, it was kryptonite as far as I was concerned. That’s a poor attitude, I know, but it explains the largely physical reaction I had when confronted with a record I had never heard but which I had arbitrarily yet passionately set myself against.

Now, against my will, I’ve sort of heard it and I was right all along.

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