Clutching at Straws - Intro

Introduction: Clutching At Straws was the fourth and last Marillion studio album to feature Fish on vocals. In some ways, Clutching At Straws is an odd album. This is mainly due to some of the discussion about it in the press that occurred after Fish's departure. Fish declared "Clutching At Straws was my self-penned obituary" in a post split interview (Gone Fishing - Kerrang! 1989) with the band's chronicler, Mick Wall.

Hotel Hobbies

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

"Fish: All the tracks are dedicated to places that inspired me, and this song always reminds me of the time I went to Champney's to dry out for a week. It was a complete waste of time!"
"Pete: Hah! He got wetter!"

Warm Wet Circles

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "This song's about small, hometown stuff; the dangers of getting trapped in the 9.00 to 5.00 syndrome and then going down to the pub and talking about things you'll never really do, y'know, "I'd love to drive a Cadillac across America or backpack over the Himalayas". And the local hero's the best darts' player and you marry the girl you met in the pub at 16. Torch goes back to his old haunts and sees how he used to be and it scares him. And he watches all the drunks in the bar late at night tracing the circles from their glasses with their fingers - alcoholics always do that!"

That Time Of The Night

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "It's about paranoia! Torch is shifting against all his vices and feeling paranoid and desperate to be near somebody. The night I started writing this I was in a hotel and I couldn't sleep, and outside the trees were moving and the moon was like flying through the window and sending shapes like crosses over the walls. And it suddenly meant something, y'know, I found myself thinking about religion and death - it was a well hairy night!"

Just For The Record

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Pete: "This is quite different to the stuff before, it's a real contrast."
Fish: "This is about being in a happy mood and knocking drinks back in the bar and going, 'I can stop any day, it's noooo problem! I havnee got a drink problem!, and in actual fact you've got a severe drink problem!"
Pete: "But you say you can stop - tomorrow - not today, because you don't need to."

Fish: "But you never do!"

White Russian

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "This is a heavy, soul-searching song that touches on politics and deals with the Jewish problem in Austria. Torch is observing all these things that attack his conscience and make him feel he should act and face up to reality. There's a big fight between the two halves of Torch; the realist and the escapist. But he chooses to run away and catches a plane home. He's in a real mess at the moment!"

Incommunicado

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "This is a necessary diversion from 'Russians' and it's a sort of macho-gung-ho approach! Torch really wants to be famous but he doesn't want the responsibilities that go with fame. 'Incommunicado' is another word for 'pissed'!"

Torch Song

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "This is the heavy, romantic-drinker-type-song, y'know, 'I am the romantic writer searching for world experience and I don't care if I die young!' Torch is smoking and drinking and coughing and you can hear this 'Dr. Finlay' character going 'If you maintain this lifestyle' you won't reach 30.' Actually, the coughing noises are for real - I'd had a heavy night the night before!"

Slainte Mhath

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "This is pronounced slanj-navah! Everyone says it in Scotland, it means 'cheers, good health!' This is a very Scottish song, about broken dreams, and guys meeting in pubs and going, (adopts very drunken accent) 'Och, if ma wife hadnee left me and ma book hadnee been ripped off, I'd be famous now!' When I write, I like to sit with a drink, read a book, write on a beer mat and doodle at the side. So I'm doing this in Edinburgh and this guy comes over and goes, 'Scuse me! Whatya dooin? Are y' a writer? I'll tell you somethin' to write abooot!' and proceeds to tell me his whole life story. And how he'd been down on his luck! And I wanted to say 'You made a mess of your life, don't blame it on fate,' but instead I just said, 'Cheers, good health!!'"

Sugar Mice

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "I was laying in bed in the Holiday Inn and looking up at the ceiling at some hearts 'n' stuff that some lovers had carved, and I was feeling really down. So I rang my old lady but it was a bad phone call; lots of long silences. I felt even more depressed. Torch has run away from everything and everybody and gone in search of a dream that doesn't exist!"

From an interview with Matt Stocks for Team Rock entitled The 10 Best Songs That Have Shaped Fish's Career:


Fish
: "I love the lyrics on it as well. I wrote them in Milwaukee when we were out on a US tour. I ended up in some shit hotel, imagining what it would be like if somebody left their wife and kids in Scotland or whatever, and went half way across the world and ended up in a horrible hotel with a disgustingly sad bar downstairs. We checked in on a Sunday, and all you saw out the window was the dealers standing out on the corner, and that’s kind of what the song was about.”

The Last Straw

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: Torch has gone so far down that the only way he can go now is up! He starts writing again, and drinking again, and there's a line that goes 'Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water' - which is a good cue for a drink! (Fish looks around the room) Oh Christ, someone's nicked the fridge! Hang on! (goes next door and comes back with a beer) So Torch is back in the bar and he writes 'deep down inside we're all one and the same' because he realises there's no point in trying to set himself up as a martyr - everybody's got a bit of Torch in them. And he has been contributing to changes in the only way he knows how, by writing down all his observations. He's back to square one again (Fish slurps his beer) but he's having a good time (slurp!) and you can't condemn him!

Happy Ending?

Introduction: From an unnamed article in No1 Magazine written by Debbie Voller on 30 May 1987, sent to me by Kristie English:

Fish: "Hah! There isn't one, on this track you just hear a laugh, because I hate writing happy 'up' tracks at the end of an album!"
Pete: "They must be the hardest thing to write, I suppose."

Fish: "You canee take everything seriously!"

Going Under

'Seal ready for slaughter'
Seal clubbing is a complex issue, involving opposing views about the welfare of animals and the rights of aborigine people to protect their cultural roots. There is also, a fair amount of bullshit on both sides - the pro-hunting brigade laughably claim seals are responsible for the decline of the Cod stocks (rather than massive over-fishing by mankind), whereas the anti-hunting brigade appear less aware than they probably should be about the concerns of the Inuit and other affected peoples.

Tux On

'Tux on'
'Tux' is short for Tuxedo, the male suit traditionally worn with bow tie to important functions.

'bingo'
Bingo is, to my knowledge, a peculiarly British game. Each contestant is given a grid of randomly-drawn numbers, from 1 to 99. Numbered balls are pulled lottery style from a machine, and anyone with the corresponding number crosses it out. The object is to cross of all of your numbers before anyone else. It's traditionally seen as a working class pursuit, mostly for elderly ladies, but with the introduction of larger prizes, its appeal has widened.

Beaujolais Day

Introduction: Mark Kelly, writing in the Clutching At Straws remaster sleevenotes: “Beaujolais Day was written at Stanbridge during the writing for CAS but never got past this stage. We put the guitar solo to good use in Warm Wet Circles and the rest of the music ended up as Seasons End a few years later.

Sunset Hill

Introduction: Mark Kelly, writing in the Clutching At Straws remaster sleeve notes: The rest of the unreleased songs on this disc were all written after we finished touring with CAS in ‘88. We spent a number of months meeting at Pete's house to write. By this time relations between Fish and the rest of the band had become a bit strained. On the days that Fish did decide to turn up he would usually stay long enough to have a cup of coffee and tell us the music we were working on was ‘shite' and then leave. To be fair, we were as complimentary about the lyrics he showed us. In an attempt to move things along a stage further we booked into a demo studio called Tone Deaf to record demos of the material we had so far. Story from a Thin Wall, Shadow on the Barley, Sunset Hill and Tic Tac Toe were all recorded at this time.

Tic-Tac-Toe

Introduction: Mark Kelly, writing in the Clutching At Straws remaster sleeve notes: The rest of the unreleased songs on this disc were all written after we finished touring with CAS in ‘88. We spent a number of months meeting at Pete's house to write. By this time relations between Fish and the rest of the band had become a bit strained. On the days that Fish did decide to turn up he would usually stay long enough to have a cup of coffee and tell us the music we were working on was ‘shite' and then leave. To be fair, we were as complimentary about the lyrics he showed us. In an attempt to move things along a stage further we booked into a demo studio called Tone Deaf to record demos of the material we had so far. Story from a Thin Wall, Shadow on the Barley, Sunset Hill and Tic Tac Toe were all recorded at this time.

Some of the lyrics from Tic Tac Toe appear in Fish’s State of Mind, from his Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors album. The music became The Release.

Exile on Princes Street

Introduction: Mark Kelly, writing in the Clutching At Straws remaster sleeve notes: The rest of the unreleased songs on this disc were all written after we finished touring with CAS in ‘88. We spent a number of months meeting at Pete's house to write. By this time relations between Fish and the rest of the band had become a bit strained. On the days that Fish did decide to turn up he would usually stay long enough to have a cup of coffee and tell us the music we were working on was ‘shite' and then leave. To be fair, we were as complimentary about the lyrics he showed us. In an attempt to move things along a stage further we booked into a demo studio called Tone Deaf to record demos of the material we had so far. Story from a Thin Wall, Shadow on the Barley, Sunset Hill and Tic Tac Toe were all recorded at this time.

Some of the lyrics from Exile on Princes Street appear in Fish’s Internal Exile, from his album of the same name.