September 18th, 2006
I’ve been listening to a lot of Fish lately, namely his recent Return to Childhood live album. The album features a CD of his solo material and a CD of stuff he did while with Marillion, including the Misplaced Childhood album in its entirety. This being the case I wanted to put up some Marillion but wanted to stay away from MC. And so I went with material from Clutching at Straws instead.
Clutching at Straws is the first Marillion album I bought and I got it sometime in 1987 shortly after its release. The album reflects Fish’s disenchantment with the music business and troubles with the band as well as his increasingly precarious affection for the drink and other drugs. As he wrote about the time:
All my experiences in the last 2 years had been on the road so I turned there to hitch a creative lift into the concept of the new album. I was wary of the title as were the others. A substandard album and we’d have written our own reviews. The concept was maybe too close to home and once again I had to tread carefully as the story of ‘Torch’ drilled home as a badly disguised alter ego. A writer with ‘block’ turning to the bottle once again for inspiration was very close to the truth.
By this point in my life I’d fallen in love with Tamara, my future wife to be and was dealing with a relationship that was new and demanding as we both tried to deal with the endless touring. I couldn’t find enough space for my own life and coping with responsibility wasn’t my forte. The problem was that even though the tour had finished I couldn’t .The excesses stayed on for the ride. This as you’d expect caused problems at home and in the band. I knew I was heading for the wall but I also knew that I wouldn’t feel much when I hit it.
As you can imagine, it is certainly not the happiest album ever made, being right up there with stuff like The Wall and The Final Cut by Pink Floyd. Fish also later recalled playing back the song “Going Under”, which was a CD-only track back in those days, to his fiancé:
“Going Under” happened on a wild night when Chris [Kimsey - the producer] suggested that Steve [Rothery - Marillion's guitarist] and I should just go in and jam around this motif that Steve had been playing with during the recording. We were still light on material. The lyric was made up on the spot and although some of it is a bit gobbledegook we decided to keep the guide rather than redo the vocal and lose the vibe. To this day I don’t know how I managed to conjure that lyric and I firmly remember playing it back to Tammi after we’d recorded it. She said “What am I doing wrong?”
While joining Fish in the ranks of alcoholics was still a few years away, at the age of 15, their music provided a large part of the soundtrack for a difficult point in my life. I had moved over 300 miles away from the big city to the boonies; my parents’ marriage was dissolving; all of this in addition to the usual difficulties that every teenager experiences. And so I have a special place in my heart for Fish & Marillion.
This week’s show was culled from 2 performances and you’ll hear the sonic difference once the source changes. It’s a reconstruction of Clutching at Straws – sort of. For one thing, “Just For the Record” was never played live so it is missing. Secondly, having two different sources, I placed the songs from each source together. Lastly, the band never played the songs in sequence so I’ve had to move them around a bit.
3-4 November 1987
Wembley Arena, UK