It was inevitable that after so much touring supporting the 'Fugazi' album that the lyric and concept of the follow up studio project would revolve around the extreme flux of emotions that are generated by long periods on the road. Being away from family, loved ones and the sanctuary of home trapped in a cocoon surrounded by media and sycophants in a travelling circus where the quest for normality and sanity is a constant daily struggle. The live album 'Real to Reel' built on the success of the studio release and extended the profile and once again the pressure was on to deliver another project that would catapult us once again into the world in the never-ending quest for fame and fortune.
I'd been paying the price. My big on/off relationship had finally bit the dust, left behind in a haze of exhaust fumes as I careered off in search of my elusive grail. I was off balance and quickly lost in a depraved wilderness in which I soon made a home. The touring lifestyle fed my addictions on every level and when the bus dropped me off at my newly acquired house in Albert Street, Aylesbury I found myself very alone and dislocated from all the distractions that had fed my desire to escape commitments, responsibilities and realities.
I reverted to type and the 'White Swan' pub became an annexe to my house. A whirlwind of very temporary and physical relationships blew quickly away and I was faced with long periods of quite empty days and very dark nights.
An envelope arrived one of these days. Inside there was a short letter from an old girlfriend with the recommendation to digest the accompanying contents - a tab of very strong acid. Very Alice indeed!
Not having indulged for a while I swallowed a cautious half, and after a few hours and with a pleasant euphoria, I took the other - setting off on my bike to Steve Rothery's house. Very bad mistake.
The truth was that my perception of time wasn't that great and shortly after arrival at Steve's the Real Thing kicked in. Steve had to drive me home and after locking all the doors I set off into a long white-knuckle roller-coaster of a night. I'd been in the wrong frame of mind for this journey. I immersed myself in a warm bath for a while, returning to the womb and trying to reassemble myself. I spent the rest of the night crouched on the floor listening to music, watching walls breathe and staring at a large repro print called 'Padres Bay' by Jerry Schurr, an NYC artist.
I'd started to doodle and scribble in my lyric book on the off chance of catching something from the trip. It was sometime during the night that I was visited. 'Incubus' was on the deck; I was in 'Padres Bay' when suddenly I felt a child standing behind me on the stairs. I knew he was dressed as a soldier and vanished as soon as he entered the corner or my eye. Perhaps it was my muse; perhaps it was the drug. It was enough to propel me into reaming off a large scrawl of prose. Contained within were the diamonds and structure on which would hang up the entire concept of Misplaced Childhood.
I phoned Steve in the morning and read it down the phone. I was really excited although Steve, knowing me well, was cautious and hesitant to fully commit. After all, I had been totally out of my head of the last 10 hours!
We were to discuss it later as a band and felt the idea was worth pursuing at our forthcoming writing sessions in Barwell Court, a Victorian mansion near Chessington which was hired out as a residential rehearsal studio, the main writing room ironically a former children's' nursery. The rest of the band threw their ideas in the hat and as musical sections were given names and gathered on the blackboard the first side of the album started to appear.
There was no tension and the process felt very natural and organic as the curve began to grow and the sections gelled into a seamless piece of music. Not everyone was happy. Outside our creative circle there was a nervous but respectful air that questioned our decision to pursue such an obviously uncommercial venture. After all this was the mid 80's when everyone was driving sleek polished pop songs and an album steeped in the tradition of 70's progressive rock, two slabs of music with the working titles of Side 1 and Side 2 (in '85 vinyl was still king!), was not exactly a move that could be decreed as a fashion statement. More ominous worries were voiced by the record company who although relatively happy with our development on the international stage, believed that radio play was going to be hard to get and support in the USA in particular would be difficult to gather for an album with no obvious singles.
We however had a different opinion and enough weight to move on our convictions. We also knew that there were two sections that more than hinted at singles.
One was 'Kayleigh', the other Lavender.
The lyrical subject matter was bound to take into account not only the traumatic end of my long-term relationship with Kay, but also my total inability to enter into and maintain any relationship. The key to the first side of the album was the song and the lyric was written about a number of girlfriends, but centred on the one that had meant most to me. When I approached the band with the idea they loved it but were totally against using the name Kayleigh as not only did they all know her well but felt it was too personal! All manner of names were suggested, Patricia, Jennifer...but I dug in used the pet name. Kay's father called her but I changed the spelling of her middle name from Lee to the spelling Leigh, which I'm proud to say gave me an original name which is registered in those books of children's names browsed by couples in the latter stages of impending parenthood! I've got used to signing autographs for 13 year old Kayleighs.
The childhood theme also brought up the idea of utilising an old children's song and 'Lavender' was an obvious contender as one of the original pop songs of its time. The translation was easy and the theme became part of the main structure of side 1. We took the first side of the album out on tour in late 1984 and as I hadn't settled on some of the lyrics, bootlegs from the period contain all sorts of gobbledegook and variations. It was an interesting tour for us all!
'Kayleigh' wasn't actually completed lyrically until the middle of the recording at Hansa Studios in the then West Berlin during early 1985. After avoiding the issue for too long, producer Chris Kimsey went out for dinner with the others and left me under explicit instructions to complete the words before they got back. 2 hours later after much inspirational consumption of alcohol etc. it was done and that night the vocal was laid down.
The main floor of Studio 2 at Hansa was impressive as would be expected of a ballroom which at one time had hosted decadent parties - the building had once been an SS officers club. The atmosphere was a critical component of the overall recording vibe for 'Misplaced'. The control room windows overlooked the Wall which was only a 100 metres or so away. This is where the inspiration for David Bowie's 'Heroes' came from as he watched a liaison between a couple in the dark alleyway that we trudged day and night between our digs at a nearby hotel and the studio with its much frequented ground floor bar. The 'Heroes' album had put Hansa Studios on the international map and the cheap rates appealed to EMI and our management after the ridiculous expense of Fugazi.
Chris Kimsey had come in as producer along with local engineer Thomas Stiehler who, during the proceedings, would come close to losing his sanity as well as his Volvo which was trashed after one too many tequila sorties. I really can't go into too much detail on the Berlin experience as there are too many people still alive who would suffer the consequences of a true expose. That I retain for my autobiography!
To give you a tantalising taste of the debauchery, I could mention the bedside phone book at the hotel with lists of escort agencies dealing in home delivery of a selection of beautiful women who took care of most of my weekly wages and left me resorting to banging on band members doors at 4.00am looking for loans!
I could mention my first and last heroin experience, the jazz pianist on cold turkey as I slept outside his bedroom door for 2 days after throwing his 7-gramme stash out of the window of a 6th floor Neukoln apartment. There's the Irish Bar in the Europa Centre where I casually fell off bar stools and one night met two military policemen one of whom I knew from old and who agreed to a wind up on Chris. They entering the mixing room and announcing I'd been arrested in a knife fight and needed a bail bond!
What about stripping off naked in a restaurant for a bet; smashing up a car on a traffic island during a race; the bottle of Jack Daniel's with the band's name on it in my favourite brothel; throwing bricks over the Wall trying to set land mines off; EMI executives deliberately taken out with huge quantities of alcohol and sleeping through playbacks so they'd give us good reports when back home! The list goes on and on!
We all knew it was a major album. I don't have enough space to describe concepts, details, recording techniques, lyrical inspirations etc. etc. But read the book when it comes out! It was the turning point of all our lives and the intensity of the experience still rings a smile, never to be repeated. Never again Misplaced. Do you remember?
Misplaced Childhood sleeve notes