Do you remember? A simple question with which one of the loveliest
songs of the 80s starts off, serves to remind us of the album that kick-started
Marillion's stratospheric musical career all those thirty years ago. The
British band's third record breathed life back into the progressive rock
movement, bringing it into public view for all to appreciate, with the sublime Kayleigh being their Nº1 all-time
super-hit. A sound that reminded us all of Genesis, Yes and the like.
Without doubt, Tolkien and his endless saga of elves and orcs had a massive influence on nearly all the different rock genres that existed towards the end of the 20th century. For better or for worse - the worst perhaps being the outlandish rockers Lordi, who for some unknown reason went on to win. The flipside of this Tolkien coin was Marillion, who took 'Sil' out of the original name's beginning in order to avoid any infringement of copyright laws. Thus was born music for the fantasists among us to enjoy.
As all faithful followers of Marillion will be able to tell you, Misplaced Childhood (1985) was one of the group's first records, with Fish at the microphone, singing out his dark lyrics delivered with a melodic, hypnotic voice akin to that of Peter Gabriel, performed between epic bouts of drinking just about anything he could lay his hands on. These are said to be the band's best years, although it must be said that his replacement, Steve Hogarth, has not let the side down in the slightest.
The key to their continued success lies in the only remaining member of the band's original line up, Steve Rothery, a rock-star antithesis, a 'grafter' of the six strings who handled himself well in the world of synthesisers that ruled the neo-progressive rock scene in the '80s. He is the man that keeps it all together, the musician that has kept the perfect notes coming in all the band's songs, not only in the highly-acclaimed Misplaced Childhood. Alongside him, musical wizards such as percussionist Ian Mosley make up a top-quality, tight rock band whose timing you could set your watch by. Rothery is such as reserved, discreet character that we had to wait until 2014 for his first album (an instrumental, naturally) to be released.
Notes that come in all shapes and sizes. And sounds. According to those that have worked with him, Rothery's talent lies in knowing how to use the guitar as a multi-purpose tool, always experimenting behind the scenes, making subtle changes to the music he creates thanks to making use of continually evolving technology. These never-ending musical adventures are what keep Marillion on the road, even if they are nowadays a band with a small, cult following. They were one of the first to use the Internet and social media to strengthen ties with their fans and even used the w.w.w. to produce some of their records – Anoraknophobia (2001) and Marbles (2004) were both the fruit of fledgling crowdfunding activity. Fifteen years have come and gone since then.
In Misplaced Childhood, Rothery serves as a counterpoint to Fish's trippy, lysergic lyrics about his childhood, with bright, spellbinding solos such as the one in the climax of another of their hits, Lavender, in which the crescendo of Mark Kelly's piano becomes intertwined with and finally gives way to Rothery's searing guitars. And if you want to get an idea of his guitar technique, have a listen to Childhood's End? in which he awards us with an authentic musical master class.