We'll begin in the most logical of a places; with an ending. This is what happens when you turn yourself over to the whims of a shuffle function. It's actually a surprisingly good place to start, though, all told. Firstly because Misplaced Childhood is where a whole lot of people first started on this band, and certainly comes early in my personal Marillion chronology, if not right at the start, and secondly because I have very recently turned 20, and am thus officially no longer a teenager, so a song called "Childhood's End?" seems fairly apropos right now. The iTunes shuffle function's eerily pertintent choice of songs has never let me down so far!
Misplaced Childhood isn't an album I connect with as well as I wish I could, given its importance in the bands history; I tend to lose track of its thread somewhere after the commercially viable opening, and never really manage to grasp it again until the end, when this one comes along. It's almost certainly the brightest and most hopeful song the band recorded prior to Fish's departure, the bouncy intertwining bass and guitar lines would almost be infectious enough to make it so even without the lyrical content and the way this song rises from the murky ashes of the rest of the album. But, as with almost all of Fish's oeuvre, the lyrics are the driving force of the song, and these do not disappoint. Misplaced Childhood has a pretty Ronseal theme, and "Childhood's End?" brings it to an extremely satisfying conclusion, answering the question posed in its own title with a definite 'no': "the only thing misplaced was direction/and I found direction/There is no childhood's end", Fish decides after some pondering on the subject.
When he's on, though, what makes Fish's lyrics really great is more often in the ostensibly less significant details than the grand gestures; here there are a couple of phrases that I'm particularly taken by; A line I'm convinced they have wrong on the official website, which I can't hear as anything but "Do you realise that you could have gone back to her?/But that would only be retracing all the problems that you ever knew/So untrue", which I find gives it far more resonance for a few reasons, not least of which being that it actually makes any sense whatsoever; and the pronoun-mixing "You, the child that once loved/The child before they broke his heart/Our heart, the heart that I believed was lost", which has the double effect of bridging the gap between Fish's misplaced childhood and the adult writing the song, and equally the gap between Fish and the listener, giving a quite astonishingly effective sense of sharing his lifting of a great burden.
Sadly, however, in an extreme lapse of logic, this song is not actually the last track on Misplaced Childhood, meaning that listening to it requires either giving it a jarringly abrupt ending (as the album has no gaps between tracks, other than the switch from Side 1 to Side 2), or listening to what follows, neither of which I'm ever particularly eager to do, so the uplifting feeling it gives me is always tempered with a sense of sadness at the lost potential of what could have been a truly beautiful closer.
Video: Childhood's End?
The song, set to various Fish-y images, including some of Mark Wilkinson's fabulous album artwork, which quite possibly deserves an oeuvreblog all to itself.