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.)
All songs written by Dick/ Kelly/ Mosley/ Rothery/ Trewavas.
Total Running Time: 41:17
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.
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
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?
Click to see the full set of lyrics.
Taking a Risk on the Whole Album
“Pseudo Silk Kimono”
“’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.
“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”
“Waterhole (Expresso Bongo)”
“Lords of the Backstage”
“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
Why It Became a Favorite
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
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.