“Let bitter silence infect the wound...”
Marillion are a British Heavy Metal "not-progressive, no way, no sir-ee" rock band formed in 1981 by a Pickled Halibut. Current band members are Pete Tiswasas, Mad Jack, 1930's British Fascist Oswald Mosley, Mr Rubbery and H from Steps. Much of their early work appears to be a pastiche of Peter Gabriel era Genesis, whilst much of their later work appears to be a pastiche of Phil Collins era Genesis filtered through a Radiohead tribute band.
The band are much beloved by middle-aged hippies, modern-day druids and people who appear in public in band tshirts during the summer months who appear not to have seen sunlight for the previous 11 months, whilst at the same time are ferociously ignored by the mainstream music industry.
The band originally formed in the late 1970s under a number of names including "Farmer Giles of Ham", "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", and some unpronounceable name written in the language of Númenor, before finally settling on "Silmarillion". Realising that the Estate of the Tolkien family would come down on them like a ton of warg-shite the band decided that removing the "Sil-" part of the name would save them for any future legal wranglings.
Musically the early works of the band would be dominated by the brooding, mythic lyrics of twenty-seven foot tall lead singer Fish. This gigantic figure would slouch around the stage like a lurching Ent (copyright Tolkien) covered in facepaint singing fantastical and introspective lyrics in an impenetrable Scottish brogue. Much to the surprise and utter contempt of the music industry the band began to gain a following, and in 1981 they were signed by a heavily drugged executive at EMI.
In 1988 Fishoutofmarillion decided to get out of Marillion citing differences of opinion with regards to Hibernian's chance of a trophy that year as a major influence. For many it remains an open wound, and following the humongous singer's departure the remaining band members swore never to discuss Scottish Football again. The search was on for a replacement singer, as the band quickly realised that nobody had been able to see them behind the impressive frame of their former frontman. By a strange coincidence it transpired that the band's drummer sounded more like Fishoutofmarillion than Fishoutofmarillion did, matching his vocal stylings and accent so strongly that most listeners would not be able to distinguish between the two, however the band reflected that it followed the exact same pattern that Genesis had done in replacing the departed Peter Gabriel with the bands drummer, balding homunculus Phil Collins. Ultimately the band choose not to "do a Genesis" and decided to replace him with H from Steps, as Ray Wilson from Stiltskin wasn't available.
First Album - Ramblings over a Scotsman’s Beer
In the late 70’s, progressive rock was made illegal in the UK in an attempt to reduce the number of so called “boredom suicides” where fans would gnaw their own legs off in an attempt to relieve agony of yet another 20 minute bass solo (see “Idiots Guide to Yes” for further details). As a result of this progibition, fans resorted to a code to identify themselves. The made up word “grendel” was often used in such circles alongside the reply phase “a flower”.
As the early 80’s began, rebellion against the law built and prog fans often shouted these phases out loud at Marillion concerts. This happened so much that some people actually believe that the band wrote a song called Grendel. The band, to this day, deny such a song ever existed. Marillion were not affected by the prog law as, of course, they are not a prog band. As is well documented in other reliable sources ("The Big Hard One" Viz annual 1988), ROASC was controversially released as "Foxtrotting" in some countries. This, together with the epic "Suppers Nearly Ready", caused confusion which lead to production being ceased. Copies of the original sell for many pence on ebay.
Second Album - Sudoku
The band’s "difficult" second album was named after the then unknown Japanese puzzle. All of the lyrics are written in the form of Cryptic Crossword clues. For example "Two Down - Renaissance children becalm beneath the Bridge of Sighs (1,4,2,7)" and "Six Across – The thief of Baghdad hides in Islington now (anag) (9)".
Third Album - Misplaced Manhood
The band’s best known album, containing as it does the hit singles “The Final Countdown” and “Eye of the Tiger”. The rest of this classic album consists of the singer (Fishoutofmarillion) on drugs, reciting poetry written about a girl called Kay (cleverly disguised in the song “Kay”) who didn’t fancy him, or something.
Fourth Album - Picking at Sores
Many fans’ favourite album, actually a concept album about Fishoutofmarillion and his hatred of the rest of the band. Again, the singer’s mood was cleverly disguised in songs such as “I’m Leaving”, “Mad Jack Smells of Cheese” and “Rothers Saves (His Best Stuff For His Solo LP)”.
The album was not interpreted correctly at the time but subsequent interviews made the meaning of such lyrics painfully clear. In his first solo album ("The View from Salisbury Hill"), Fishoutofmarillion is more explicit about his feelings. Once he left the band, he tried to change his name simply to Fish but the tabloids, who ran the country, would not let him.
Fifth Album – Apostrophes End
After the departure of Fishoutofmarillion, the band’s record company (Evilemi) drew together a shortlist of possible replacements: Nik Kershaw, Jason Donovan, H from Steps or Toyah. The band wanted a guy called Steve Hogarth so he pretended to be H from Steps in the auditions and got the job. No one told him that he could drop the nickname. When H signed his contract he sneakily added an extra handwritten clause stating that if three members of the band are in the same room together for more than 30 minutes they must play his song, "Easter". To be fair to the band, they have kept to the deal.
Easter aside, most of the lyrics were written by a lyricist drafted by Evilemi called Adrian Mole. Evilemi had been impressed with his diaries, which had sold well at the time, and persuaded the band to let him write lyrics to songs such as ""Uninvited Big Scottish Bastard" and "Hooks in Fish". Both songs were a direct response to the former singers cover for his first solo album which featured the other Marillion band members in compromising positions with farmyard animals. The cover was later changed after Pete Tiswasas threatened legal action over his depiction with a Gloucester Old Spot.
Early alternative titles considered for the album were "And Then There Were Fewer...", "Wind and Whimbrelling" and "Tux Off, Yer Great Lummox".
Sixth Album – Holidays in Spiceworld
Evilemi thought that the band’s new singer would fit in well with a boy/girl band tribute album. They persuaded the band to record songs like "No One Can’t" which Rothers called “a load of crap recorded by the rest of the band while I was on the loo” in a recent interview (Web magazine Oct 07). Evilemi drafted in the Spicegirls' producer who certainly left his magic touch on the album. “Its bound to sell...” said the record company.
The band got on Top of the Pops, but on the same day the singer of Pearl Jam or something invented grunge by accidentally blowing his head off. It transpired that the kids didn’t want pop any more, they wanted smelly men playing loud music with no real tune. As a result the album flopped.
Seventh Album – Untitled
Evilemi labelled Holidays in Spiceworld as “too accessible” and so instructed the band to record the most inaccessible album they could. “Its bound to sell...” said the record company. Untitled is one 120 minute song, sung completely in Hungarian. Each band member played the songs in different keys. It is without doubt, the best album ever recorded.
Eighth Album – Knocked One Off
Evilemi thought Untitled took too long to record and so they promised the band another record deal if they recorded their next album in less than a day. "Its bound to sell..." said the record company. Knocked One Off is the result of the band’s collective creative juices and contains some of their best songs including "Minestrone" about Pete’s favourite soup and "Out Of The Sky", which documents the sad premature demise of comic legend Rod Hull, a band favourite.
Ninth Album – This Cronky Contraption
Needless to say, Evilemi did not offer the band a reasonable contract and so they went “indie” with their next release. After five minutes looking in the Melody Maker small ads, H decided on Frilly Pink records as their label matched his guitar. Frilly Pink gave the band £200 in used fivers to record their next album. Fortunately, President Mosley knew a few people in Aylesbury “who owed him” and he managed to purloin an industrial unit on a new development. “Those foundations could tell a few stories” is all he would say to the band. The president also persuaded the band to take a new manager, Luci, who he had met at Evilemi. “Not because I fancy her!” he responded, rather defensively when people asked why he had recommended her.
The next album was a “mixed bag”. It includes one of their longest and best songs but also contains lesser material like "8 Days" and "No Hope For The Future". It transpired that the latter was recorded in Brazil after eating too many “special” mushrooms. The band reserves the song to punish fans who shout for Grendel too much. The album received mixed reviews. FarQ magazine called the 15 minutes of silence at the end "the best thing the band has ever recorded". "A poor review but a useful quote for the adverts!" said Luci.
Tenth Album – OK Computer
It transpired that the £200 given to the band by Frilly Pink was to be their recording and advertising budget for the whole three album deal. So the band realised they needed to sell some more albums to be able to continue. They liked the idea of a new band that also “weren’t prog” and decided to do an LP in the same style. They raised money by playing concerts at a restaurant near their studio. They were stalked by the infamous “Bishop Stephen”; a religious fanatic who spent his life trying to ruin live albums by shouting out his name in the quiet bits. The album is one of the band’s best. Songs such as "Not Many Surprises" and "Calmer Police" were some how familiar but well received.
Eleventh Album – Victoriassecret.com
The name from this album came from a conversation between Luci and the band’s album designer; the blunt Yorkshireman Brian Glover. She told him that the album was going to be named after the band’s website. A rather puzzled Mr Glover hadn’t heard of the band’s website so he asked the band members the name of their favourite site. All five said the only site they had heard of was Victoriassecret.com as Mad Jack had shown them it on the ZX81 he uses to run his keyboards.
Luci was very angry when she saw the name of the finished LP in the shops. She was even madder when she was the pictures of the "fans" inside. They looked surprisingly like the models on a certain lingerie website. Luci had been to one or two concerts and she was fairly sure that the average Marillion fan didn’t look like that in their underwear.
The album did not sell well. The band went busking around university campuses to raise some cash but, amazingly, around 2,000 fans appeared out of nowhere for each impromptu gig. Luci then realised that Marillion had a large number of people who would turn up if the band said they were opening an envelope in public. She felt a new approach would be needed if she were to save the band from poverty and despair.
Album 12 – Prognophobia
By this time the band had no cash to put in the studio meter. Luci realised that the fans loved the band and sent and email out, asking for ideas. A crazy American sent the band one of his kidneys so they could sell it on the internet and so the infamous “who needs two kidneys?” campaign was born.
The money raised was sufficient to record the album and free Pete Tiswasas from the contract he had signed to play in a crossdressing prog band on cruise liners to the US. Sadly, this bought the short career of the Altlantic Trannies to an end. The album signalled the beginning of a third golden age for the band. Everyone liked it. That is, of course, everyone except for FarQ magazine that called the album "A predictable progressive rock/heavy metal concept album in the Genesis style."
Album 13 – Conkers
For their thirteenth album the band pulled out the stops and produced a true modern classic. The four part song "Bonkers Conkers" about H losing his virginity during a rather fraught conkers game at school is only the start. The album also contains the epic "Brown Cloud" about the man who held the World Record for the number of curries eaten in one week, and the inevitable affect on the remainder of his life. Luci sent an email asking fans "not to each buy ten copies of the new single to get the band on the telly (wink)". The band were accused of chart rigging and were stopped from achieving their first UK number one hit.
This period also saw the start of the "Cult of Marillion" weekends. It has been discovered that listening to the band for more than fifteen years creates a instinct that cannot be ignored. Like salmon swimming up stream or swallows migrating, followers gather, without invitation, at the same time in the same place. They then proceeded to drink inhuman amounts of alcohol, burn copies of FarQ magazine, drink more alcohol and listen to the band playing for three nights in a row.
Album 14 – Something Else
According to unreliable sources, all of the band members, apart from H wanted to call the album "Fourteen". They had heard that Fishoutofmarillion was going to call his album 13 Bars and wanted to go "one better". H was not impressed "For goodness sake, when are you four going to let this Fish thing go!” he shouted "All that stuff was twenty years ago, just bloody well go and make up with the man. Go play one of your silly old songs with him and get it out of your systems. As for the album, we’ll have to call it something else!"
The album contains some of the band’s best songs to date. It opens with the Beatlesque "Her Indoors" (a cover of the Arthur Daily classic) and contains the belated tribute to the fans "Thankyou For Your Kidneys (Whoever You Are)".
Album 15a – Why Don't We Do It In The Road
Believing that what their fans were missing out on was twice as much album as their previous offerings, the band released a sort of double album thing, giving both releases an equal spread of all those tracks that would normally be cut. Many within the industry consider this the sort of thing that bands do when they have spent far too long in the recording studio.
Album 15b – Still Doing It Hard In The Road
Still believing that what their fans were missing out on was twice as much album as their previous offerings, the band released a sort of double album thing, giving both releases an equal spread of all those tracks that would normally be cut. Many within the industry still consider this the sort of thing that bands do when they have spent far too long in the recording studio.
Album 16(ish) - Less is Lesser : Marillion Unplugged
Marillion Unplugged features no covers of David Bowie, the Meat Puppets, Val Doonican or Leadbelly. Instead the band decided to record acoustic versions of songs from their previous albums whilst studiously avoiding anything that might have involved their older work in case anyone still thinks that Fishoutofmarillion-era Marillion is everything you need to know about the band's back catalogue.
Album 17 – Songs that can only be heard by Dogs
After a further 38 months of rapid composition, ably assisted in their studio: 'The Raclette Club' by longstanding 'sixth member' Mikey 'Toffeenose' Bunter, the band were able to digitally stitch together 171,328 'good bits' which Bunter (working nights) had painstakingly selected, into a selection of new tracks, to the delight of the hard-core fans: AKA 'The Front Hole Club' or FHC.
Stand-out tracks from STCOBHBD include: 'The Rain in Spain', in which H from Steps ponders on the extent to which men and women can ever truly agree on what time to leave the beach. 'Lucky Spam', a whimsical ode to a tin of preserved meat, on which several members of the band survived for 3 days in 1995, after becoming locked in their tourbus, after a gig in Cleethorpes, and 'MontyDon' - in which H (again) ruminates at length upon the benefits of securing suitable footwear in which to weed flowerbeds. Luci and the office cleaner (Ethel) can be heard singing BVs on 'Khazi' - a 15 minute epic, which deals with perspectives on recent political events in the Middle East, with particular reference to Industrial Cleaning Products - which, at the time, controversially led some in the fanbase to question whether HfromSteps should *really* be at liberty to express his personal opinions around Lemon CIF.
Album 18 – M(ore Stuff from Us)18
In late Summer 2015, the band announced to a waiting world, that unless a *sizeable* payment was received on-line within the next 2 weeks to their 'cyber front' company, PledgeCashOrthePuppyGetsIt, then they would have no alternative but to release yet another monstrous tome of musical frippery...furthermore, they have unanimously, nay fervently, expressed the hope that the new album will released some time within the period "September to December'ish 2016...to 2019". Watch this space!