Saturday, June 29, 1985

Marillion Misplaced Childhood hit #1 in UK

Misplaced Childhood


Released: June 17, 1985

Charted: June 29, 1985

Peak: -- US, 0.3 UK, 1.4 world (includes US and UK)

Sales (in millions): 47 US, 11 UK

Genre: neo-progressive rock

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Pseudo Silk Kimono [2:13]
  2. Kayleigh [3:54] (4/7/85, 74 US, 2 UK, 14 AR)
  3. Lavender [2:33] (8/27/85, 5 UK)
  4. Bitter Suite [7:53]
    i. Brief Encounter
    ii. Lost Weekend
    iii. Blue Angel
    iv. Misplaced Rendezvous
    v. Windswept Thumb
  5. Heart of Lothian [4:08] (11/18/85, 29 UK)
    i. Wide Boy
    ii. Curtain Call
  6. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) [2:07]
  7. Lords of the Backstage [1:57]
  8. Blind Curve [9:29]
    i. Vocal Under a Bloodlight
    ii. Passing Strangers
    iii. Mylo
    iv. Perimeter Walk
    v. Threshold
  9. Childhood’s End? [4:32]
  10. White Feather [2:23]

All songs written by Dick/ Kelly/ Mosley/ Rothery/ Trewavas.

Total Running Time: 41:17

The Players:

  • Derek Dick, aka “Fish” (vocals)
  • Steve Rothery (guitars)
  • Mark Kelly (keyboards)
  • Pete Trewavas (bass)
  • Ian Mosley (drums)


4.348 out of 5.00 (average of 26 ratings)

Quotable: “The cornerstone of the entire ‘neo-prog’ movement” – Ryan Reed, Ultimate Classic Rock

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

My favorite album of all time is Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood. Europeans who grew up in the 1980s may know the album. Fans of neo-prog rock may know the album. However, the general American public is clueless to its existence. On June 29, 1985, it debuted at #1 on the UK charts. It would be two more months before it even scraped the U.S. Billboard album charts, peaking at #47.

Marillion had been pegged as a neo-prog band which couldn’t escape comparisons to Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. They were seemingly destined for a similar career path devoid of mainstream success. Their first single, “Market Square Heroes,” scraped the bottom of the British charts at an unforgettable #60 in October 1982. Their debut album, 1983’s Script for a Jester’s Tear, soared into the top ten, as with the follow-up album and a live album after that, but comparable success with singles alluded them.

That all changed with Kayleigh, the lead-off single for Misplaced Childhood. The song’s theme of remorse over splitting with an ex-lover made for a topic of widespread relatability. The song hit the UK singles chart in May and climbed to #2 the week ending June 15. It didn’t grace American charts until August when it hit the Billboard rock charts and peaked at #14. In October, the song reached the pop charts as well, hitting #74.

I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1985. One’s teen and young adult years typically coincide with the period in life of greatest musical discovery. I was no exception. I soaked it up the tastes of my peers exploring musical genres that moved beyond my then-Top 40-leaning tastes. In branching out to more album-oriented rock, I heard the song “Kayleigh” and was sucked in. Fish, the band’s frontman, had penned what appeared to be an ironically bouncy pop ditty about lost love. It certainly had catchy lines:

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

However, it was also infused with Fish’s typically poignant twists and sophisticated way with words:

Do you remember chalk hearts melting on a playground wall?
Do you remember dawn escaped from moon-washed college halls?
Do you remember the cherry blossoms in the market square?
Do you remember I thought it was confetti in our hair?
By the way, didn’t I break your heart?

Click to see the full set of lyrics.

Taking a Risk on the Whole Album
It grew on me and by Christmas I was geared up to plunge into the whole album. For you young’ns, music discovery in 1985 wasn’t as simple as pulling up a bands website or trolling YouTube for video clips. In pre-Internet days, I couldn’t listen to music before buying it. I was wary. Who was this group? Would I like their other songs? I’d never bought an album solely on the basis of one song. I had to take a leap of faith.

Over Christmas break, I kept wandering into a Camelot music store to check out the album. Ah, yes. Once upon a time people actually bought music in stores – and in malls, no less! The cover art by Mark Wilkinson (who did all of the singles and albums during the Fish era) fascinated me. It looked like an album I wanted to hear.

“Pseudo Silk Kimono”
Once I’d liberated my wallet of a few dollars and brought the Misplaced critter home, I was immediately entranced. A room-filling keyboard sound opened the album, segueing into the intriguing words “huddled in the safety of a pseudo silk kimono…” half-sung and half-spoken by Fish. This purchase was one risk I would not regret. “From the opening notes of Pseudo Silk Kimono, it is clear that this is not going to be a selection of jingles.” JC-63

“Pseudo Silk Kimono” “glides smoothly into the opening notes of [“Kayleigh,”] a love song, a story of a girl, of many girls, of break-ups and breakdown.” JC-64 It is followed by Lavender, which was released as the album’s second single and hit the top 5 in the UK. Marillion’s new-found success gave them their best shot at stardom on American shores (alas, it didn’t happen) when they landed an opening stint for Rush.

“’Lavender’ introduces the child to the tale, the boy in the man. As Fish wrote, ‘The guy’s looking back on childhood all the time. He looks on his childhood as being the ideal world, the simplicity of then. He can’t figure out at what point he stopped being a kid and became and adult.” JC-63 Of course, by the end of the album, he finds out he doesn’t need to abandon that youthful spirit; he finds out he's only misplaced his childhood.

“Bitter Suite”
At this point, the album’s protagonist has given up on rediscovering childhood. “The band lead us through several sections, memory snapshots of loves lost, climaxing with the return to the haunting themes of ‘Lavender’ in Blue Angel. This emotive sub-section of ‘Bitter Suite’ seeds Fish seeking solace in the arms of a lady of the night, although he has since admitted ‘[she] wasn’t a prostitute. That was a compounding of events made under poetic license.” JC-63

Misplaced Rendezvous and Windswept Thumb sees the band drag us back into the present, Fish in the middle of writing his acid-fuelled memoirs, and then drops us under the spotlight in centre stage, for the first part of Heart of Lothian.” JC-63

“Heart of Lothian”
Those last two parts of “Bitter Suite” and the first section of “Heart of Lothian” were released as the third single and hit the top 30 on the UK singles chart. That “gloriously-overblown first section” JC-63 (“Wide Boy”) “has the rock star in full flow, singing his heart out to his fans, whilst recalling his Scottish roots. The introspection of Curtain Call reveals the star desperate to go and live up to his hedonistic image, but hamstrung by the business of being a musician, the photo-calls, and listening back to the show.” JC-63

“Waterhole (Expresso Bongo)”
Here our lead character does, in fact, find an escape from the travails of fame – although not a healthy one. “The band evokes the rush…of hedonism. And Fish? He’s out of it; the girls, the booze, the powders, whist at the back of his head, there’s an incessant ticking that something isn’t quite right.” JC-63

“Lords of the Backstage”
In Lords of the Backstage, Fish explores the burden of maintaining a relationship under the stress of becoming a rock star, stating “a lifestyle with no simplicities, but I’m not asking for your sympathies/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.” Fish looks back again at his relationship with Kayleigh, “realizing his desire for success outweighted his need for her.” JC-63

“Blind Curve”
This segues into the multi-part “Blind Curve,” which finds the protagonist at his lowest point. Fish sings, “it’s getting late for scribbling and scratching on the paper/Something’s gonna give under the pressure/And the cracks are already beginning to show/It’s too late.”

“Steve Rothery string-bends to perfection as Vocal Under a Bloodlight revisits the fragmentation of a relationship.” JC-63 The song then reminisces about John Mylett , a friend of the band who died in a car crash in 1984, in the section entitled Mylo. The lyrics find “Fish cracking up under the strain.” JC-64 of fame. “In mourning and sick of his rootlessness, he endures another press interview; his only way of coping is retreating from life even further.” JC-64

“Immersed in the drug cocoon of Pete Trewavas’s ominous bass rumbles and Ian Mosley’s heartbeat drums, he has a sudden recollection of a time when life was less complicated, a time of innocence. Threshold seeds him dancing on the razor’s edge of insanity, as the cruelty of mdern life – loneliness, war, homelessness, emotionally damaged children – assault him.” JC-64

“Childhood’s End?”
“As the drug fades into comedown and the sun comes up, the singer suddenly finds himself able to cope, he sees a future before him. The band create a bubbling, optimistic ode, tingled with Mark Kelly’s poignant keyboards of regret. Steve Rothery’s guitar squeals out with a heart-rush of excitement. Fish can see past his worries and we segue into the hopeful resolution of his dark trip.” JC-64

“White Feather”
“Recalling the ‘where are the prophets, where are the visionaries?’ coda to Fugazi, Fish puts his faith in humanity. Together, he says, we can make it through, and to back him up, the music fizzles with thrilling elation. As the last notes fade out, the nightmare ends.” JC-64

Why It Became a Favorite
I’m pretty close to illiterate when it comes to grasping music theory, so I have no intelligent insight into why this album grabbed me instrumentally or vocally. I’ve just had to rely on gut instinct. Does the album’s overall sound work for me? It did here – in spades.

What made Childhood a regular fixture in my tape deck was its overall concept and witty lyricism. Fish crafted a story which explored well-worn themes of a relationship gone sour, a country ravaged by war, a man dipping into the abyss, and the disappearance of self at the hands of the rock-n-roll lifestyle. Part of the uniqueness stemmed from the conceit of tackling all these ideas at once. The other surprise of the album, however, was its unexpectedly hopeful finale – drug-induced, no less – of recovery via a return to childhood innocence.

The Dreaded Concept Album
Childhood dares to traverse the dangerous ground of “concept album,” going so far as to not even insert breaks between songs. Like classic conceptual works such as The Who’s Tommy, GenesisThe Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the album can draw critical fire for sacrificing songs in favor of ideas. However, when it comes to art, critics be damned. Fall in love with whatever you like and don’t feel obligated to justify it to anyone.

Misplaced Childhood is a cohesive, focused, and seemingly autobiographical effort that takes the listener on a rollercoaster ride through the initial depression of a breakup, struggles with fame, the subsequent acid-induced fall into the abyss, and the final realization that, as he sings in Childhood’s End?, “I can do anything and still the child/’cos the only thing misplaced was direction and I found direction/There is no childhood’s end.”

In his book Separated Out, Jon Collins says Misplaced Childhood “established [itself] as part of the triology that saw a lovelorn jester [on 1983’s Script for a Jester’s Tear] go from grief, to anger [on 1984’s Fugazi], and now to reflection, acceptance and hope.” JC-63 The hopeful nature of this album is reflected in the artwork. “The cover sees the Jester, the symbol of heartache and disillusionment, disappearing through a window.” JC-64 “A rainbow gives us hope, and the magpie transmutates into a dove, the bird of peace…The image is the perfect metaphor for the music,” JC-64 which isn’t just more hopeful, but “more accessible than its predecessors.” JC-63

With Misplaced Childhood, Marillion not only pulls off their master stroke, but creates a classic that even the most celebrated bands would struggle to top.

Notes: A 1998 remaster added a second disc of demos and alternate mixes. In 2017, a box set was released which included two CDs of a live show at Utretcht in 1985 and a third disc of demos and B-sides.

Marillion’s final album of the Fish era was 1988’s double-live collection called The Thieving Magpie which featured a full performance of Misplaced Childhood. In 2006, Fish released the live album Return to Childhood, in which he also performed the album in full.

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Last updated 3/1/2022.

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