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Marillion - Misplaced Childhood CD (album) cover

MISPLACED CHILDHOOD

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

4.24 | 1492 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
5 stars I am an engineering project manager by trade, and the one thing that keeps me going when the stress and the long hours and the difficult decisions of creating something new bear down like the weight of the world, is the prospect of that ever-so-rare moment when someone stands in front of something you and your team have built and says – “Wow”. That almost never happens, but a couple times over the years it has, and the feeling that fills over your mind and washes over your soul is more powerful then the most potent drug that money can buy. It validates everything you have worked for, every pain you’ve gone through to get to that point. It’s the working man’s equivalent of a professional orgasm.

The perfect album is like that too. It’s like hot, wet dirty raw animal sex, only without the cigarette afterwards. Seriously. Almost never happens, but we keep buying them and playing them and reading about them and hoping that just every so often, even just once, we will lay that vinyl on the rubber mat or slide the disc into the tray or close the lid of the tape player – and our world will change forever. If you’ve ever felt that, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t, oh man – you have one intense, soul-freeing moment ahead of you when it finally happens. If you’re not sure, then it hasn’t happened – once you have ever felt that, then there is no doubt.

So yes – this is one of those albums for me, no doubt about it. I still have the original vinyl release that I bought in the summer of 1985, and I still play it. With a wife and kids and cats and a job and responsibilities and distractions it doesn’t happen all that often any more. But every once and a while the kids are busy being kids, the wife is shopping, and the cats are chasing mice or whatever it is that cats do. And sometimes, on those rare occasions, I lay out the vinyl and drop the needle - and I just disappear. Magic!

This album came out during what was supposed to be the summer after my final year of college. I hadn’t graduated though – not enough money to take classes, not enough hope or energy to keep trying. I had a girlfriend at the time too; well, to be more precise, I had an infatuation at the time, and I used to meet her in the student lobby every day and bring her a single white rose, then just sit and look at her in the afternoon shade while she read her books. I’m not sure she completely realized I existed, let alone that I was hopelessly smitten with the idea of being in love with her. We hung out some and I imagined that it was more than it was, but one day while driving home from dinner she informed me that she was a lesbian and was moving away to be with another woman. Well, it’s not like I hadn’t heard that excuse before, but it turns out that this time, with this girl, it was actually true. Open chest, shred heart. Lost my job too, something about not wanting people around who smoked too much pot and weren’t very reliable, blah blah – not really sure of the details, I wasn’t actually listening at the time. So I wandered down to the mall and joined the Marine Corps, basically just to reaffirm my manhood and all. Seems kind of drastic now in retrospect. There’s a point to this story if you’ll bear with me.

Anyway, at the mall I also shelled out ten bucks that I couldn’t afford for this album. Great cover, really clean, sharp airbrush of some kid in a military-school getup holding a parrot, or bluebird, or magpie – whatever. I knew who these guys were, since I had had a similar pivotal moment a couple years prior while listening to ‘Script for a Jester’s Tear’. So I pretty much expected to be lifted up and blown away. High hopes – can’t blame a guy for thinking positive.

Well, blown away I was. Repeatedly. Totally. Hopelessly.

It’s possible that considering my state of mind and of my personal affairs and of the fact that I had apparently just signed myself up to be shipped off sans hair and trained to kill people I didn’t even know, well – in that specific state of mind, it wouldn’t have surprised me if a Wham! album or a cloudy day or a stain on my shirt would have blown me away. Seriously though, any of those things just might have, but certainly wouldn’t have had the same staying power this turned out to have. And anyway, I eventually crawled out of that fetid hovel of a sh!thole I had dug for myself and managed to piece together a pretty decent life (remember, the wife and kids and cats and fulfilling career – that whole thing).

But still, twenty years later and worlds away from that life, I still find my way into that place that Fish and company introduced me to in that other place and time, and it still leaves me breathless.

The very first strains of Mark Kelly’s eerie and seductive keyboards mark the signal for the beginning of this now-familiar journey. Fish has said in later interviews that the album concept was inspired by a day-long acid trip, and the supernatural tones and his whispered murmurs evoke that feeling just moments into the listen. Memories of darker days come screaming back into my consciousness like a demon across a dark room as Fish morbidly echoes wretched emotions and base hopeless regret amid the funeral procession of sound of “Pseudo Silk Kimono”:

“Nicotine smears, long, long dried tears, invisible tears; safe in my own words, learning from my own words –

Cruel joke, cruel joke”

and then viciously skewers my raw wounds while stepping seamlessly into a pitiable reminiscence of love gone sour with “Kayleigh”. Steve Rothery could have convinced me to shave my head and sell trinkets in airports had he been inclined to after hearing the supernatural sounds that emanated from his guitar strings on this song. Maybe this became a hit and earned contempt among the musical snobbery, but to me he was providing an exquisite backdrop to the story of the love I never actually had, but that I had managed to lose anyway:

“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 stilettos in the snow…”

well, I didn’t remember any of those things, since none of them had actually happened. But it could have been, right? This could be my story, couldn’t it? Much more poignant than the reality, for sure. Doesn’t matter anyway, since this world in my mind is where I am at the moment, and those things happened in here.

Still we are traveling back in time together – Fish, Marillion, my thoughts and me, and the next scene is a bit closer to my reality of those childhood days before all this sh!t went so horribly wrong, when children’s songs and prancing through the park and gazing at rainbows still held my imagination, and when a warm breeze and a fleeting laugh was enough to cap a beautiful and memorable day; when “Lavender” was the color of the flowers and of the ribbons and of the dress of the little girl who was sharing this childhood moment in the park with me:

“Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green; when I am King, dilly dilly, you will be Queen.

A penny for your thoughts my dear, a penny for your thoughts my dear; I.O.U. for your love, I.O.U. for your love”.

But this childhood dream, like the childhood is represents, is chased away by the growing shadows of time, and I wake to find myself back in the now. A dank, dark street fills my view, all strewn with trash and filth and broken dreams; and inhabited by others of the walking wounded who are also seeking a moment, or even just a touch, or just a diversion to distract the reality of what is, and the terrible weight of what cannot be undone. We have arrived at the crossing to the quagmire, the “Bitter Suite”:

“It's getting late, for scribbling and scratching on the paper; something's gonna give under this pressure. And the cracks are already beginning to show –

It's too late”.

This is too much reality now – its time for another flashback to somewhere else. The next offering from my muse, the boys in the band, comes in the form of the celebration and angst that fills the “Heart of Lothian”:

“'Cos you look like an actor in a movie shot; but you're feeling like a wino in a parking lot - how did I get in here anyway?

Do we really need a playback of the show?”

Now, it doesn’t make a bit of difference to me that I have never even been to England, or Scotland, or wherever the hell ‘Lothian’ is. To me, it is a place where everything is okay, and the people in the crowd raise their glasses and call my name, the mood is light and the music is sweet, and the darkness envelopes but cannot consume. I have my member’s pass, and I belong here.

And then a slightly insane Scotsman issues forth a call that pierces the night and turns like a spirit into the rallying cry of the damned:

“I was bor-ororororororororororororororororrororn, with the heart of Lothian!”

F**kin’-A right!!

What were we talking about?

My new friends and I down another round and shout our rallying cries in the “Waterhole”. The night passes, the streets are empty, the band plays on – and we down another round.

Of course, with the battery on my psyche and the world’s weight continuing to beat me down and the drinks clouding my mind that wasn’t too clear to begin with, that demon of distress and dire dread begins to consume my brain, and once again I regret:

“a lifestyle with no simplicities; but I'm not asking for your sympathy.

Talk, we never could talk, distanced by all that was between us. A lord of the backstage, a creature of language –

I'm so far out and I'm too far in”.

I stagger from the pub and into the waiting black sedan, and as we pull away from the curb the landscape begins to change. Now the focus is not on me. Now I’m on the outside, and looking in. Now this other wretched soul who’s been tracking my shadow as I wander the streets in search of the light, he is speaking now – and the venom flies out of his mouth. We careen around a blind curve, out of control and flying wildly into the night. I grab for a handhold, and refill our glasses while he spews forth more hate, more disgust, more of his melodic dirge. And I am captivated by the sound. His eyes pierce me and open into a world of black abyss. Nothing moves in that chasm as we both black out.

In the morning I drag my destitute self to the window, expecting once again to peer out on the cataclysm that is my world. But the rainbow has returned, and the magpie flies across my field of vision, and I know this is a sign. Something has changed. The despair of that reality can keep its grip on me no longer; the darkness cannot hide my destiny, I realize - can it?

“Now you realize that you've got to get out of here. You've found the leading light of destiny, burning in the ashes of your memory.

You want to change the world, you'd resigned yourself to die a broken rebel.

But that was looking backward - now you've found the light”.

Sure, why not? Slowly but with no pause I raise a white feather – it could be a white flag; and I surrender not to fate, but rather to destiny, and the difference is clear:

“These are our hearts - you can't take away our hearts. You can't steal our hearts away;

I can't walk away - no more”.

Okay, it’s just an album, not a religion or anything. But here’s my point – so what?!

We listen to music for the same reason we look at art, for the same reason we crave the touch of another human spirit, for the same reason we choose to breathe and go on every day no matter what the pain or trials. Because the beauty and the intensity of the experience acknowledges and validates our pains, our longings, our passion; and that validation gives us hope.

And that’s enough.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 5/5 |

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