Here’s a nice one, Fish A Gentleman’s Excuse Me, which due to my defective collector’s genes I ended up buying on 12″ picture disc and shaped picture disc, despite there being no extra tracks. In fact I did think I had it on 7″ too, but I haven’t* and I know for a fact that I also had it on cassingle. I’m better now though (twitches uncontrollably).
The song ‘A Gentleman’s Excuse Me’ was the big soft ballad on Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors, funnily enough before listening to it again I didn’t remember too much about it, despite playing the album to death for several years back in the day. I was really pleasantly surprised by it too. I know I have this reputation as possibly the most virile, macho man on the internet – think Ted Nugent without the liberal sensitivity, or Manowar with more baby oil and even smaller loincloths and less girly feelings, but I do have a bit of a soft spot for a good ballad well sung. This is a bit more than that even.
‘A Gentleman’s Excuse Me’ is never going to woo a non-Fish fan into the fold, but it is a delicate, thoughtful and rather heartfelt song. From half-remembered interviews from 23 years ago one of Fish’s gripes about Marillion was that he felt there wasn’t enough emotion in their music, although their last LP Clutching At Straws (my fave) has emotion to burn, so this was his chance to show us fans what he really wanted us to do. Now as all you groovy sophisticates know, an ‘Excuse me’ is a dance in which one dancer may take another’s partner** and it is this that Fish lyrics play upon. Your views on it may depend entirely on how romantic you are.
In this song he is gently trying to woo a recalcitrant lady, whose fixation on her romantic ideals and fantasies is blinding her to a very real, but not maybe her ideal, suitor. Her hesitation and possible flirtation has over time frustrated him to the point where he longer wishes to ‘dance’ with her and, sadly, she’ll be left alone holding her empty dance card. Fish – ‘Can you get it inside your head I’m tired of dancing? We’re finished dancing’. At the end we’re left with two, sad unfulfilled people, although possibly she’s too self-deluding to realise it.
So he’s dancing in the club, this bitch be giving it the grind but when it comes to sealing the deal, giving it up – no way! She be holding out for some millionaire and giving him major blue balls and so at the end he be all like, ‘Bitch, we done dancing, there’s plenty more hoes be giving me crazy plenty ass. We done.’
The music is a gentle swell of keyboards and strings all very ably handled and orchestrated by Mickey Simmonds – incidentally the man who provides that elusive connection between Fish and Buck’s Fizz that rock scholars have been searching for since lunchtime^. The main instrument is Fish’ voice though and he does sing this track beautifully, you can feel the words.
The B-sides are a jokey lounge-jazz number called ‘Whiplash’, sadly not a Metallica cover, about someone called Fred’s bad driving and, on the 12″, the demo version of ‘A Gentleman’s Excuse me’. Now I’m not a big fan of demo versions of songs and this doesn’t add too much more, other than hearing the song played with less instrumentation, I prefer the lusher version in all honesty.
I really like Mark Wilkinson’s artwork for A Gentleman’s Excuse Me too, just as well given the formats I own it on. A romantic, borderline Pre-Raphaelite figure, all dressed in floaty floating things and draped in drapey things, romanticism personified.
*I finally alphabetized all my 7″ singles last night to see if I had – I own both Glen Frey The Heat Is On and Tumor Circus Meathook Up My Rectum, two copies of Everything I Do (I Do It For You) (don’t ask), but not A Gentleman’s Excuse Me.
**presumably without catching a smack in the kisser and/or boot to the comestibles; which is what would have happened if you’d made your move on my date buster!
^the second appearance of this joke this month, I just wanted to get my money’s worth out of it. Incidentally and more interestingly for me he also links in to Camel.