Marillion Overview

Marillion are a British United Kingdom rock Rock (music) group, formed in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England in 1979. Their recorded studio output comprises fifteen albums and is generally regarded as comprising two distinct eras, delineated by the departure of original vocalist & frontman Fish Fish (singer) in late 1988 after their first four albums, and the subsequent arrival of replacement Steve Hogarth ("h") in early 1989. Marillion has thus far released eleven albums with Hogarth.

The core lineup of Steve Rothery (Lead Guitar and the sole 'pre-Fish' original member), Pete Trewavas (Bass), Mark Kelly Mark Kelly (keyboardist) (Keyboards) and Ian Mosley (Drums) is unchanged since 1984. The band has enjoyed critical and commercial success with a string of UK Top Ten hits spanning their career, an estimated fifteen million total worldwide album sales and even an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.

The band's music has changed stylistically throughout their career. The band themselves have stated that each new album tends to represent a reaction to the preceding one, and for this reason their output is difficult to 'pigeonhole'. Their original sound (with Fish Fish (singer) on vocals) is best described as guitar and keyboard led progressive rock or "neo-prog", and has sometimes been compared with Gabriel-era Genesis Genesis (band) .

More recently, the band's sound has been compared, on successive albums, to that of Radiohead, Massive Attack, Keane, Crowded House, The Blue Nile and Talk Talk, although not consistently comparable sonically with any of these acts. The band themselves in 2007, tongue-in-cheek, described their own output merely as: "Songs about Death and Water since 1979..."

Marillion are widely considered within the industry to have been one of the first mainstream acts to have fully recognised and tapped the potential for commercial musicians to interact with their fans via the Internet circa 1996, and are nowadays often characterised as a rock & roll 'Web Cottage Industry'.. The history of the band's use of the internet is described by Michael Lewis Michael Lewis (author) in the book Next: The Future Just Happened as an example of how the internet is shifting power away from established elites, such as record producers.

The band is also renowned for having an extremely dedicated following and regular fanclub publications.


 
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The Fish era


Formation and early years (1979–1982)

Marillion was formed in 1979 as Silmarillion, after J.R.R. Tolkien J. R. R. Tolkien 's book The Silmarillion, by Mick Pointer, Steve Rothery, and others. They played their first gig at Berkhamsted Civic Centre on 1 March 1980.

The band name was shortened to Marillion in 1981 to avoid any sort of copyright conflicts at the same time as Fish and bassist Diz Minnitt joined after an audition at Leyland Farm Studios in Buckinghamshire on 2 January 1981. Rothery and keyboardist Brian Jelliman completed the first line-up; the first gig with this line-up was at the Red Lion Pub in Bicester on 14 March 1981. By the end of 1981, Kelly had replaced Jelliman, with Trewavas replacing Minnitt in 1982.

The early works of Marillion contained Fish's poetic and introspective lyrics melded with a complex and subtle musical tapestry to create a sound that reflected the band's influences, notably Queen Queen (band) , early Genesis Genesis (band) , Pink Floyd, Van der Graaf Generator, Rush Rush (band) (specifically from the late 1970s), and Yes Yes (band) . Marillion's first recording was a demo tape produced by Les Payne in July 1981 that included early versions of "He Knows You Know", "Garden Party", and "Charting the Single".

The group attracted attention with a three-track session for the Friday Rock Show (early versions of "The Web", "Three Boats Down from The Candy", and "Forgotten Sons") and were subsequently signed by EMI. They released their first single, "Market Square Heroes", in 1982, with the epic song "Grendel" on the B-side of the 12" (30cm) version. Following the single, the band released their first full-length album in 1983.


Script for a Jester's Tear and Fugazi (1983–1984)

The music on their debut album, Script for a Jester's Tear, was born out of the intensive gigging of the previous years. Although it had some obvious progressive rock stylings, it also had a darker edge, suggested by the bedsit squalour on the album's cover. During the tour to promote Script for a Jester's Tear, Mick Pointer left the band. The second album, Fugazi Fugazi (album) , built upon the success of the first album with a more electronic sound and produced the single 'Assassing', although the band encountered numerous production problems.

Marillion then released their first live album, Real to Reel Real to Reel (Marillion album) , in November 1984, featuring songs from Fugazi and Script for a Jester's Tear, as well as 'Cinderella Search' (B-side to 'Assassing'), recorded in March and July 1984.


Misplaced Childhood and international success (1985)

(1986)
Their third and commercially most successful studio album, Misplaced Childhood, was quite possibly their most cohesive work. With the blessing of their record company, the band was free to depart stylistically from their previous albums, in the process developing a more mainstream sound. They were able to showcase their ability to juxtapose pert pop ballads ("Kayleigh", charting at #2 in the United Kingdom, behind charity fundraiser "You'll Never Walk Alone You'll Never Walk Alone (song) " by The Crowd The Crowd (music) , and "Lavender Lavender (Marillion song) ", which charted at #5) with longer song cycles of lost youth and first loves. The album went to #1 in the United Kingdom. The album came sixth in Kerrang! magazine's "Albums Of The Year" in 1985.


Clutching at Straws and the departure of Fish (1986–1988)

The fourth studio album, Clutching at Straws, shed some of its predecessor's pop stylings and retreated into a darker exploration of excess, alcoholism, and life on the road, representing the strains of constant touring that would result in the departure of Fish to pursue a solo career. It did continue the group's commercial success, however; lead single "Incommunicado" charted at #6 in the UK charts gaining the band an appearance on 'Top of the Pops'. Fish has also stated in interviews since that he believes this was the best album he made with the band. The album came sixth in Kerrang! magazine's "Albums Of The Year" in 1987. The loss of the larger-than-life Fish left a hole that would be difficult to fill. Fish explained his reasons for leaving in an interview in 2003:

"By 1987 we were over-playing live because the manager was on 20 per cent of the gross. He was making a fantastic amount of money while we were working our asses off. Then I found a bit of paper proposing an American tour. At the end of the day the band would have needed a £14,000 loan from EMI as tour support to do it. That was when I knew that, if I stayed with the band, I'd probably end up a raging alcoholic and be found overdosed and dying in a big house in Oxford with Irish wolfhounds at the bottom of my bed."

Giving the band a choice to continue with either him or the manager, the band sided with the manager and Fish left for a solo career. His last live performance with the band was at Craigtoun Country Park on 23rd July 1988. After lengthy legal battles, informal contact between Fish and the other four band members apparently did not resume until 1999.

Although reportedly now on good personal terms, both camps had always made it very clear that the oft-speculated-upon reunion would never happen. However, when Fish headlined the 'Hobble on the Cobbles' free concert in Aylesbury's Market Square on 26 August 2007, the attraction of playing their debut single in its spiritual home proved strong enough to overcome any lingering bad feeling between the former band members, and Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, and Trewavas replaced Fish's backing band for an emotional encore of 'Market Square Heroes'.

In a press interview following the event, Fish denied this would lead to a full reunion, saying that: "Hogarth Steve Hogarth does a great job with the band. We forged different paths over the 19 years."


The Steve Hogarth era


Seasons End and Holidays in Eden (1989–1991)

After the split, the band found Steve Hogarth, the former keyboardist and sometime vocalist of The Europeans The Europeans (band) . Hogarth stepped into a difficult situation, as the band had already recorded some demos of the next studio album, which eventually would have become Seasons End Seasons End (album) .

After Fish left the group (taking his lyrics with him), Hogarth set to work crafting new lyrics to existing songs with lyricist and author John Helmer. The demo sessions of the songs from Seasons End with Fish vocals and lyrics can be found on the bonus disc of the remastered version of Clutching at Straws, while the lyrics found their way into various Fish solo albums such as his first solo album, Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors, some snippets on his second, Internal Exile and even a line or two found its way to his third album, Suits Suits (album) .

Hogarth's second album with the band, Holidays In Eden Holidays in Eden (Album) , was the first he wrote in partnership with the band, and includes the song "Dry Land" which Hogarth had written and recorded in a previous project with the band How We Live. As quoted from Steve Hogarth, "Holidays in Eden was to become Marillion's “pop”est album ever, and was greeted with delight by many, and dismay by some of the hardcore fans". Despite its pop stylings, the album failed to crossover beyond the band's existing fanbase and produced no major hit singles.


Brave, Afraid of Sunlight and split with EMI (1992–1995)

Holidays in Eden was followed by Brave Brave (Marillion album) , a dark and richly complex concept album that took the band 18 months to release. The album also marked the start of the band's long time relationship with producer Dave Meegan. While critically acclaimed, the album received little promotion from EMI and did poorly commercially. An independent film based on the album, which featured the band, was also released.

The next album, Afraid Of Sunlight Afraid of Sunlight (Album) , would be the band's last album with record label EMI. Once again, it received little promotion and no mainstream radio airplay. Despite this, although its sales were disappointing for the band, it was one of their most critically acclaimed albums and was included in Q Q (magazine) 's 50 Best Albums of 1995. One track of note on the album is Out Of This World, a song about Donald Campbell, who died while trying to set a speed record on water. The song inspired an effort to recover both Campbell's body and the "Bluebird K7," the boat which Campbell crashed in, from the water. The recovery was finally undertaken in 2001, and both Steve Hogarth and Steve Rothery were invited. In 1998, Steve Hogarth claimed this was the best album he had made with the band.


This Strange Engine, Radiation and marillion.com (1996–1999)

What followed was a string of albums and events that saw Marillion struggling to find their place in the music business. This Strange Engine This Strange Engine (Album) was released in 1997 with little promotion from their new label Castle Records, and the band could not afford to make tour stops in the United States. Luckily, their dedicated US fan base decided to solve the problem by raising some $60,000 themselves online to give to the band to come to the US. The band's loyal fanbase (combined with the Internet) would eventually become vital to the band's existence.

The band's tenth album Radiation Radiation (Album) saw the band taking a different approach and was received by fans with mixed reactions.


Anoraknophobia and Marbles (2000–2006)

The band decided that they would try a radical experiment by asking their fans if they would help fund the recording of the next album by pre-ordering it before recording even started. The result was over 12,000 pre-orders which raised enough money to record and release Anoraknophobia in 2001. The band was able to strike a deal with a massive std and a EMI to also help distribute the album. This allowed Marillion to retain all the rights to their music while enjoying commercial distribution. By this time the band had also parted company with their long-time manager, saving 20 per cent of the band's income.

The success of Anoraknophobia allowed the band to start recording their next album, but they decided to leverage their fanbase once again to help raise money towards marketing and promotion of a new album. The band put up the album for pre-order in mid-production. This time fans responded by pre-ordering 18,000 copies.

Marbles Marbles (album) was released in 2004 with a 2-CD version that is only available at Marillion's website - kind of a 'thank-you' gesture to the 18,000+ fans who pre-ordered it, and as even a further thanks to the fans, their names were credited in the sleeve notes (this 'thank you' to the fans also occurred with the previous album, Anoraknophobia). The band’s management organised the biggest promotional schedule since they had left EMI and Steve Hogarth secured interviews with prominent broadcasters on BBC Radio, including Matthew Wright, Bob Harris Bob Harris (radio) , Stuart Maconie, Simon Mayo and Mark Lawson. Marbles also became the band’s most critically acclaimed album since Afraid of Sunlight, prompting many positive reviews in the press. The band released "You're Gone" as the lead single from the album. Aware that the song was unlikely to gain much mainstream radio airplay, they released it in three separate formats and encouraged fans to buy a copy of each format to get it into the UK top ten. The single reached #7, the first time a Marillion song had reached the UK top ten since "Incommunicado Incommunicado (song) " in 1987 and the band‘s first chart hit since "Beautiful" in 1995. The second single from the album, "Don‘t Hurt Yourself", reached #16. Following this, they released a download-only single, "The Damage (live)", recorded at the band's sell-out gig at the London Astoria. It was the highest new entry in the new UK download chart at number 2. All of this succeeded in putting the band back in the public consciousness, making the campaign a success. Marillion continued to tour throughout 2005 playing several summer festivals and embarking on acoustic tours of both Europe and the United States, followed up by the "Not Quite Christmas Tour" of Europe throughout the end of 2005.

A new DVD, Colours and Sound, was released in Feb 2006, documenting the creation, promotion, release, and subsequent European tour in support of the album Marbles.


Somewhere Else and Happiness is the Road (2007–2008)

April 2007 saw Marillion release their fourteenth studio album Somewhere Else Somewhere Else (Marillion album) , their first album in 10 years to make the UK Top #30. The success of the album was further underscored by that of the download-only single See it Like a Baby, making UK #45 (March 2007) and the traditional CD release of Thankyou Whoever You Are / Most Toys, which made UK#15 and #6 in Holland during June 2007.

Happiness Is the Road, released in October 2008, again featured a pre-order "deluxe edition" with a list of the fans who bought in advance, and a more straightforward regular release. It is another double album, with the first disc (based around a concept) slated for a wider general release in 2009, and the second (consisting of the other songs that aren't part of the theme) only available from their website. Before the album's release, on 9th September 2008, Marillion achieved a world first by pre-releasing their own album via P2P networks themselves. Upon attempting to play the downloaded files, users were shown a video from the band explaining why they had taken this route. Downloaders were then able to opt to purchase the album at a user-defined price or select to receive DRM-free files for free, in exchange for an email address. The band explained that although they did not support piracy, they realised their music would inevitably be shared in this manner anyway, and wanted to attempt to engage with p2p users and make the best of a bad situation.


Less is More and seventeenth studio album (2009 onwards)

The band's most recent release (2 October 2009) is an acoustic album featuring new studio arrangements of previously released tracks (except one) entitled Less Is More Less Is More (album) .

In January 2010 the band resumed work at the Racket Club for the next album.By their own admission, the band have never been fashionable in the eyes of the media. On the subject of joining the band, Steve Hogarth once said: “At about the same time, Matt Johnson Matt Johnson (singer) of The The asked me to play piano on his tour. I always say I had to make a choice between the most hip band in the world, and the least.” In the same interview, he claimed: “We’re just tired of the opinions of people who haven’t heard anything we’ve done in ten years. A lot of what’s spread about this band is laughable.”

Much of the band’s enduring and unfashionable reputation stems from their emergence in the early 1980s as the most commercially successful band of the neo-progressive rock movement, an unexpected revival of the progressive rock musical style that had fallen out of critical favour in the mid-1970s. Some early critics were quick to dismiss the band as clones of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis Genesis (band) due to musical similarities, such as their extended songs, a prominent and Mellotron-influenced keyboard sound, vivid and fantastical lyrics and the equally vivid and fantastical artwork by Mark Wilkinson used for the sleeves of their albums and singles. Lead singer Fish was also often compared with Gabriel due to his early vocal style and theatrical stage performances, which in the early years often included wearing face paint. In fact, Marillion’s influences were more diverse than that. Fish was heavily influenced by Peter Hammill, two of guitarist Steve Rothery’s biggest influences were David Gilmour and Andrew Latimer, and keyboard player Mark Kelly’s biggest inspiration was Rick Wakeman.

As Jonh Wilde summarised in Melody Maker in 1989: "At the end of a strange year for pop music, Marillion appeared in November 1982 with "Market Square Heroes". There were many strange things about 1982, but Marillion were the strangest of them all. For six years, they stood out of time. Marillion were the unhippest group going. As punk was becoming a distant echo, they appeared with a sound and an attitude that gazed back longingly to the age of Seventies pomp. When compared to Yes Yes (band) , Genesis Genesis (band) and ELP (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), they would take it as a compliment. The Eighties have seen some odd phenomena. But none quite as odd as Marillion. Along the way, as if by glorious fluke, they turned out some singles that everybody quietly liked - "Garden Party Garden Party (Marillion song) ", "Punch and Judy Punch and Judy (song) " and "Incommunicado Incommunicado (song) ". By this time, Marillion did not need the support of the hip-conscious. They were massive. Perhaps the oddest thing about Marillion was that they became one of the biggest groups of the decade. They might have been an anomaly but they were monstrously effective."

The band’s unfashionable reputation and image problem has often been mentioned in the media, even in otherwise positive reviews. In Q Q (magazine) in 1987, David Hepworth claimed: “Marillion may represent the inelegant, unglamorous, public bar end of the current Rock Renaissance but they are no less part of it for that. Clutching at Straws suggests that they may be finally coming in from the cold.” In the same magazine in 1995, Dave Henderson wrote: “It’s not yet possible to be sacked for showing an affinity for Marillion, but has there ever been a band with a larger stigma attached?” He also claimed that if the album Afraid of Sunlight “had been made by a new, no baggage-of-the-past combo, it would be greeted with open arms, hailed as virtual genius.” In Record Collector in 2002, Tim Jones claimed they were "one of the most unfairly berated bands in Britain" and "one of its best live rock acts." In 2004, Classic Rock Classic Rock (magazine) 's Jon Hotten wrote: “That genre thing has been a bugbear of Marillion's, but it no longer seems relevant. What are Radiohead if not a progressive band?” and claimed Marillion were “making strong, singular music with the courage of their convictions, and we should treasure them more than we do.” In the Q Q (magazine) & Mojo Mojo (magazine) Classic Special Edition Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, an article on Marillion written by Mick Wall described them as “probably the most misunderstood band in the world”. In 2007, Stephen Dalton of The Times stated: “The band have just released their 14th album, Somewhere Else Somewhere Else (Marillion album) , which is really rather good. Containing tracks that shimmer like Coldplay, ache like Radiohead and thunder like Muse Muse (band) , it is better than 80 per cent of this month’s releases. But you are unlikely to hear Marillion on British radio, read about them in the music press or see them play a major festival. This is largely because Marillion have — how can we put this kindly? — an image problem. Their music is still perceived as bloated, bombastic mullet-haired prog-rock, even by people who have never heard it. In fairness, they did once release an album called Script for a Jester's Tear. But, come on, we all had bad hair days in the 1980s.”

Despite publishing a very good review for their 1995 album Afraid Of Sunlight Afraid of Sunlight (Album) and including it in their 50 Best Albums of 1995, Q Q (magazine) refused to interview the band or write a feature on them. Steve Hogarth later said: “How can they say, this is an amazing record… no, we don’t want to talk to you? It’s hard to take when they say, here’s a very average record… we’ll put you on the front cover.”

To accompany the release of Anoraknophobia in 2001, the band issued a press release asking critics to review the album in “a manner that is both accurate and fair. So, our challenge to you is to firstly listen to the album. Then write a review without using any of the following words: "Progressive rock", "Genesis Genesis (band) ", "Fish", "heavy metal", "dinosaurs", "predictable", "concept album". Because if you do, we'll know that you haven't listened to it.”

In 2004, the band were denied an appearance on the BBC's flagship chart television show Top of the Pops, despite the band's single, "You're Gone", becoming a #7 hit and the second highest new entry of the week. Following the renewed media interest in the band generated by the song, BBC presenter Jonathan Ross described the band as “a prog-rock band that sing about goblins”, to which Marillion’s manager Lucy Jordache responded: “Do you think I'd be going round with someone in a pointy hat?” Guitarist Steve Rothery commented: “We recorded Script for a Jester's Tear 22 years ago. I think that was when Ross had his own hair.”

In an interview in 2000, Hogarth expressed regret about the band retaining their name after he joined: "If we had known when I joined Marillion what we know now, we'd have changed the name and been a new band. It was a mistake to keep the name, because what it represented in the mid-Eighties is a millstone we now carry. If we'd changed it, I think we would have been better off. We would have been judged for our music. It's such a grave injustice that the media constantly calls us a 'dinosaur prog band'. They only say that out of ignorance because they haven't listened to anything we've done for the last 15 bloody years. If you hear anything we've done in the last five or six years, that description is totally irrelevant ... It's a massive frustration that no-one will play our stuff. If we send our single to Radio 1 they say: 'Sorry, we don't play music by bands who are over so-many years old? and here's the new U2 single.' I suppose it's something everyone has to cope with - every band are remembered for their big hit single, irrespective of how much they change over the years. But you can only transcend that by continuing to have hits. It's Catch 22." However, Hogarth was still able to be optimistic: "You know, at some stage, someone has to notice that we're doing interesting things. Someday someone will take a retrospective look at us and be surprised."

The band have been prepared to send up their unfashionable status, naming their 2001 album “Anoraknophobia” and printing T-shirts with the logo “Marillion: Uncool as ***.”Current Lineup:
*Steve Hogarth (aka "h") - vocals and lyrics, additional keyboard keyboard instrument s, guitars, percussion (joined 1989)
*Steve Rothery - electric and acoustic guitars - Founding member (1979, as 'Silmarillion')
*Pete Trewavas - bass guitars, backing vocals, additional guitars, samples and effects (joined 1982)
*Mark Kelly Mark Kelly (keyboardist) - keyboard keyboard instrument s, samples and effects, backing vocals, programming (joined 1981)
*Ian Mosley - drums, percussion (joined 1984)

Former members:
*Fish Fish (singer) (Derek W. Dick) - vocals and lyrics (left in 1988)
*Mick Pointer - drums (Founding member - left 1983)
*Diz Minnett - bass guitars - left 1982
*Brian Jelliman - keyboard keyboard instrument s - left 1981
*Doug 'Rastus' Irvine - bass guitars, lead vocals - left 1980
 

 

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