|Origin||Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England|
|Labels||EMI, Capitol, Castle, Racket, Intact, IRS, Caroline, Sanctuary, Velvel/Koch, Edel, Liberty, Pony Canyon|
|Past members||Mick Pointer|
John 'Martyr' Marter
Marillion // are a British rock band, formed in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in 1979. They emerged from the post-punk music scene in Britain and existed as a bridge between the styles of punk rock and classic progressive rock, becoming the most commercially successful neo-progressive rock band of the 1980s.
Marillion's recorded studio output since 1982 is composed of nineteen albums and generally regarded in two distinct eras, delineated by the departure of original lead singer Fish in late 1988 and the subsequent arrival of replacement Steve Hogarth in early 1989. The band achieved eight Top Ten UK albums between 1983 and 1994, including a number one album in 1985 with Misplaced Childhood, and during the period the band were fronted by Fish they had eleven Top 40 hits on the UK Singles Chart. They are best known for the 1985 singles "Kayleigh" and "Lavender", which reached number two and number five respectively, with "Kayleigh" also entering the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.
Marillion's first album released with Hogarth, 1989's Seasons End, was another Top Ten hit, and albums continued to chart well until their departure from EMI Records following the release of their 1996 live album Made Again and the dissipation of the band's mainstream popularity in the late 1990s; save for a resurgence in the mid- to late-2000s, they have essentially been a cult act since then. Marillion have achieved a further twelve Top 40 hit singles in the UK with Hogarth, including 2004's "You're Gone", which charted at No. 7 and is the biggest hit of his tenure. Marillion continue to tour internationally, becoming ranked 38th in Classic Rock's "50 Best Live Acts of All Time" in 2008. In 2016, they returned to the UK Albums Chart Top Ten for the first time in 22 years with their highest chart placing since 1987.
Despite unpopularity in the mainstream media and a consistently unfashionable status within the British music industry, Marillion have maintained a very loyal international fanbase, becoming widely acknowledged as playing a pioneering role in the development of crowdfunding and fan-funded music. They have sold over 15 million albums worldwide.
The Fish era
Formation and early years (1978–1982)
"I thought they were a lot like Camel. It was also very clear to me that Steve Rothery was a brilliant guitarist."
—Fish on his first impression of the band
In 1977, Mick Pointer joined Electric Gypsy, which also included Doug Irvine on bass, Alan King on vocals and Andy Glass (later of Solstice) on guitar. Pointer and Irvine left to form their own band, Silmarillion, named after J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Silmarillion, in late 1978. They played one London show as an instrumental band with Neal Cockle (keys) and Martin Jenner (guitar). 1979 saw a new line-up of Mick Pointer, Steve Rothery, Doug Irvine and Brian Jelliman. They played their first concert at Berkhamsted Civic Centre, Hertfordshire, on 1 March 1980. According to Pointer, it was at this stage that the name was shortened to Marillion.
Other sources have that the band name was shortened to Marillion in 1981 to avoid potential copyright conflicts, at the same time as Fish and bassist William 'Diz' Minnitt replaced original bassist/vocalist Doug Irvine following an audition at Leyland Farm Studios in Buckinghamshire on 2 January 1981. Rothery, drummer Mick Pointer, and keyboardist Brian Jelliman completed this line-up; the first gig with this line-up was at the Red Lion Pub at 35 Market Square in Bicester on 14 March 1981.
Many years after his departure from Marillion, Irvine eventually joined the band Steam Shed.
Marillion's first recordings were two demos recorded in March and the summer of 1980, prior to Fish and Minnitt joining the band. Two versions of the Spring demo circulate amongst collectors; the first has four tracks; "The Haunting of Gill House", "Herne the Hunter", an untitled track known as "Scott's Porridge", and "Alice". The second version has an instrumental version of "Alice" in place of "Scott's Porridge". All tracks are instrumental apart from "Alice", with vocals by Doug Irvine. The summer demo has three tracks; "Close" (parts of which were later rewritten into "The Web", "He Knows You Know" and "Chelsea Monday"), "Lady Fantasy" (an original based on an earlier Electric Gypsy song), and another version of "Alice". Both were recorded at The Enid's studio in Hertfordshire. Following Irvine's departure and replacement by Fish and Minnitt, the band recorded another 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"). They were subsequently signed by EMI Records. They released their first single, "Market Square Heroes", in 1982, with the epic song "Grendel" on the B-side of the 12" 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 performances of the previous years. Although it had some progressive rock stylings, it also had a darker edge. The album was a commercial success, peaking at number seven on the UK album chart and producing the singles "He Knows You Know" (number 35) and "Garden Party" (number 16). Although they were accused of being Genesis soundalikes, the album reached the Platinum certification and has been credited with giving a second life to progressive rock bands from the previous era.
Following the UK tour to promote Script for a Jester's Tear, Mick Pointer was dismissed due to Fish's dissatisfaction with what he later described as the drummer's "awful" timing and failure to develop as a musician with the rest of the band. Ian Mosley, who had played for acts including Darryl Way's Wolf and the Gordon Giltrap band, was eventually secured as Pointer's replacement after a series of other drummers, including Andy Ward and Jonathan Mover, were short-lived. Despite the numerous production problems encountered during this period, the second album, Fugazi, built upon the success of the first album with a more streamlined hard rock sound. It improved on the chart placing of its predecessor by reaching the top five and produced the singles "Punch and Judy" (number 29) and "Assassing" (number 22).
In November 1984, Marillion then released their first live album, Real to Reel, featuring songs from Fugazi and Script for a Jester's Tear, as well as "Cinderella Search" (B-side to 'Assassing') and the debut single "Market Square Heroes", which had not been available on album until that point. The album entered the UK album charts at No. 8.
Misplaced Childhood and international success (1985–1986)
Their third and commercially most successful studio album was Misplaced Childhood, which had a more mainstream sound. The lead single from the album, "Kayleigh", received major promotion by EMI and gained heavy rotation on BBC Radio 1 and Independent Local Radio stations as well as television appearances, bringing the band to the attention of a much wider audience. "Kayleigh" reached number two in the UK and "Lavender" reached number five; these remain the only singles by the band to enter the top five.
Following the exposure given to "Kayleigh" and its subsequent chart success, the album became their only number one in the UK, knocking Bryan Ferry's Boys and Girls off the top spot and holding off a challenge from Sting, whose first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, entered the chart in the same week. The third single from the album, "Heart of Lothian", became another top-thirty hit for the band, reaching No. 29. The album came sixth in Kerrang! magazine's "Albums of the Year" in 1985. "Kayleigh" also gave Marillion its sole entry on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 74. In the summer of 1986, the band played to their biggest ever audience as special guests to Queen at a festival in Germany attended by a crowd of over 150,000 people. They were also offered the Highlander soundtrack but turned it down because of their world tour, a missed opportunity which Rothery later said he regretted.
Clutching at Straws and the departure of Fish (1987–1988)
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 No. 6 in the UK charts gaining the band an appearance on Top of the Pops, and the album entered the UK album chart at No. 2, Marillion's second highest placing. "Sugar Mice" and "Warm Wet Circles" also became hit singles, both reaching No. 22. 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, equalling the ranking given to Misplaced Childhood. It was also included in Q magazine's "50 Best Recordings of the Year". 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."
Fish gave the band a choice to continue with either him or the manager, John Arnison. They sided with the manager and Fish left for a solo career. His last live performance with Marillion was at Craigtoun Country Park on 23 July 1988. Owing to lengthy legal battles, informal contact between Fish and the other four band members apparently did not resume until 1999. Fish would later disclose in the liner notes to the 2-CD reissue of Clutching at Straws that he and his former bandmates had met up and discussed the demise of the band and renewed their friendship, and had come to the consensus that an excessive touring schedule and too much pressure from the band's management led to the rift.
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".
The Steve Hogarth era
Seasons End and Holidays in Eden (1989–1992)
After the split, the band found Steve Hogarth, the former keyboardist and vocalist of The Europeans and the duo How We Live. Hogarth first stepped into Pete Trewavas garage 24 January 1989 and got the job three months later on April 25., as the group had already recorded some demos of the next studio album, which eventually would have become Seasons End. Hogarth was a significant contrast to Fish, coming from a new wave musical background instead of progressive rock. He had also never owned a Marillion album before joining the band.
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.
The first time Marillion would appear in public with Steve Hogarth as the new singer was, under the banner of Low Fat Youghurts, at the Crooked Billet pub in Stoke Row, on 8 June 1989. Only about 100 fans attended that Crooked Billet show, considerably more at Hogarths official introduction to fans at the recording of the promo video for Hooks in You at London's Brixton Academy on 1 August that year, and even more at the Palais des Sports in Besançon, France on 5 October following the release of Seasons End. Marillion ended 1989 with their traditional Christmas show at London's Hammersmith Odeon, and kicked off 1990 with the Seasons End world tour rolling through South America, Canada and North America before returning to Europe. The tour would prove to be the longest that Hogarth has thus far undertaken with Marillion. Although the tour wouldn't end in the UK until July, that Marillion ended the Seasons End tour in the UK at Wembley Arena highlighted how successful the shift from Fish to the new frontman Hogarth had been.
Hogarth's second album with the band, Holidays in Eden, was the first he wrote in partnership with the band from the beginning, and includes the song "Dry Land", which Hogarth had written and recorded with his earlier duo, 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".
Marillion returned to their pseudonym Low Fat Youghurts in December 1990 to preview their forthcoming album, Holidays in Eden, at the Moles club in Bath. The album wouldn't be released until June 1991, and was followed by a headlining appearance at the second and final Cumbria Rock Festival at Derwent Park in Workington 13 July 1991. The Cumbria appearance kick-started another lengthy world tour that would see the band course through the UK, before venturing through Europe and returning to the UK for some Christmas shows. March and April 1992 saw Marillion back out across Canada and America. They returned to UK for an exclusive, intimate show at London's Borderline for members of ther The Web fan club to celebrate the bands 10th Anniversary before venturing off again through Europe, returning to the UK to headline the Wembley Arena on 5 September 1992, for what would be the final time, to date 2021, for the band. The 1992 tour wound up in Baltimore, USA on 23 October. Marillion would only play just one gig in 1993, a fan club gig at Tivoli Theatre in Utrecht on 19 June, as a duo with only Hogarth and Trewavas. Marillion were busy readying what might become one of the most important albums of their career.
Brave, Afraid of Sunlight and split with EMI Records (1993–1995)
Holidays in Eden was followed by Brave, a dark and richly complex concept album that took the band 18 months to write and record. The album also marked the start of the band's longtime relationship with producer Dave Meegan. An independent film based on the album, which featured the band, was also released. The film was directed by Richard Stanley.
Brave was released on 7 February 1994. Some of the material had been aired at that sole 1993 show in Utrecht, and was also previewed at low-key gigs in the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany before Marillion kicked off the Brave world tour at Liverpools Royal Court Theatre on 20 February. The Brave tour was another lengthy one, and the band undertook the move to perform the whole of their new album in its entirety (as they had done with Misplaced Childhood just under a decade earlier), which although meant the inevitable relegating of some Fish-era songs from the set. After summer shows in Japan the Brave tour wound its way down to Mexiko in September and the band returned to studio work on what would become their next album released in the summer of 1995.
Afraid of Sunlight, would be the band's last album with record label EMI Records. Once again, it received limited promotion, no mainstream radio airplay and its sales were disappointing for the band. Despite this, it was one of their most critically acclaimed albums and was included in Q'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 said this was the best album he had made with the band.
2 August 1995 the band began their Afraid of Sunlight tour in USA at the Bayou in Washington DC. They returned to the UK and Europe and ended the tour in Krakow 21 November 1995.
This Strange Engine, Radiation and marillion.com (1996–1999)
The bands independent status was confirmed with signing a deal to the UK-based Castle. The first album to be released through Castle was the live double CD Made Again. Not only did it release Marillion from its obligations with EMI (as the fifth album in a five-album deal), as well as paying off the debts without creating new ones, it marked a certain symmetry with the first seven years of the band. Mark Kelly noted: "Our first four studio albums were followed by a double live album that signalled the end of a chapter. Now, after another four studio albums, followed by a live album, we move from EMI." Featuring Brave in its entirety, Made Again was released 25 March 1996 as the final EMI-era Marillion release in the UK, with Castle handling the release in Europe and the US. The release was followed by a brief tour with four dates in Europe at the end of April.
In the months before that, Rothery, Hogarth and Mosley used the break from Marillion to record separate solo projects. Mosleys project IRIS, with French guitarist Sylvian Gouvernaire and Trewavas, released Crossing the Desert, on 22 April 1996. Rotherys project with the female singer Hannah Stobart, drummer Paul Craddick (from Enchant) and Trewavas, called The Wishing Tree, released their album Carnival of Souls in September 1996. Hogarth released his solo album Ice Cream Genius in February 1997.
This Strange Engine was released in April 1997 in the UK, and in October in the US, with limited promotion from their new label Castle. Marillion could not afford to make tour stops in the United States. 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 their existence. Following the completion of the extensive 1997 tour (including Marillions one-thousandth gig, on 27 October at the Amsterdam Paradiso), the band returned to their own studio The Racket Club in November.
The band's tenth album Radiation, released on 21 September 1998, saw them taking a different approach and was received by fans with mixed reactions. The short Radiation tour, with only dates in the UK and Europe, ended on 18 November 1998 at the Élysée Montmartre in Paris.
marillion.com was released on 18 October 1999, and showed progression in a new musical direction. But the band were still unhappy with their record label situation. Under the terms of the deal, this was to be the third and final album distributed on the Castle label. The Dot Com tour, again with dates only in the UK and Europe, started on 13 October at the MCM Cafe in Paris, and ended with a special Christmas show for the Web fanclubs worldwide in Aachen Germany on 5 December 1999. For the whole of 2000 the band were writing the next album at the Racket Club and in November 2000 they played 2 Charity gigs at Bass Museum in Burton-on-Trent, before playing some more Christmas shows for their European fan clubs. Marillion needed a new strategy, and following the release of three albums via Castle, they came up with a novel approach for their next album.
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 12,674 pre-orders which raised enough money to record and release Anoraknophobia in the beginning of May 2001. As a 'thank-you' gesture to the fans who pre-ordered it, their names were credited in the sleeve notes and the pre-order "Special Edition" came in a deluxe 48-page hard-bound case with an extra enhanced CD. The band was able to strike a deal with EMI to also help distribute the album. This allowed Marillion to retain all the rights to their music while enjoying commercial distribution. The band went on tour which started in May 2001. A second leg of the tour (with a setlist largely decided by a poll of the fans) reached places that had never been played before, such as in the Azores at Ponta Delgada 22 September 2001. A US Tour was still not a possibility. A 4-part BBC documentary 'The Future Just Happened' aired in the UK on BBC2 in the Summer 2001. Featured in Episode 3 was Marillion's revolutionary internet pre-order campaign for Anoraknophobia.
In April 2002 marked a new era of Marillion fandom. The band decided to book out a holiday camp and invite their fanbase to enjoy three entire days of Marillion with three concerts, signing sessions, and more. The hallmark of the weekend was the first night which hosts the entire rendition of an album of Marillion's choice. The Marillion weekends began at Pontin's Holiday Park, Brean Sands in the West Country, to which fans would fly in from all over the world. In March 2003 they continued and held the Marillion weekend at Butlin's Minehead.
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 was released in the end of April 2004 with a 2-CD version that was only available at Marillion's website. The pre-order version (known as the Deluxe Campaign Edition) of Marbles was packaged as a 128-page hard-bound book, packed in a rigid slip case. Those who purchased the Deluxe Campaign Edition by the end of 31 December 2003 were directly helping the Campaign Fund, and as a "Thank You" their name was printed in the album credits (like 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, 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 it was unlikely to gain much mainstream radio airplay, the band released the single in three separate formats and encouraged fans to buy a copy of each to get the single into the UK Top Ten. The single reached No. 7, making it the first Marillion song to reach the UK Top Ten since "Incommunicado" in 1987 and the band's first Top 40 entry since "Beautiful" in 1995. The second single from the album, "Don't Hurt Yourself", reached No. 16. Following this, they released a download-only single, "The Damage (live)", recorded at the band's sell-out gig at the London Astoria. All of this succeeded in putting the band back in the public consciousness, making the campaign a success. In September 2004 Marillion returned for shows in Mexico, USA and ended in Canada Quebec City on 13 October 2004.
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, their first album in 10 years to make the UK Top No. 30. The success of the album was further underscored by that of the download-only single "See it Like a Baby", making UK No. 45 (March 2007) and the traditional CD release of "Thankyou Whoever You Are / Most Toys", which made UK No. 15 and No. 6 in the Netherlands during June 2007. The Somewhere Else tour started in Gibraltar 14 April 2007, and they also played in some places they had never been before like Bratislava.
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 one disc based on a concept and the second containing the other songs that are not a part of the theme. Before the album's release, on 9 September 2008, Marillion pre-released their 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 do not support piracy, they realised their music would inevitably be distributed online anyway, and wanted to attempt to engage with p2p users and make the best of the situation.
Less is More and Sounds That Can't Be Made (2009–2014)
The band's sixteenth studio album (released 2 October 2009) was an acoustic album featuring new arrangements of previously released tracks (except one, the new track: "It's Not Your Fault") entitled Less Is More. In October Marillion started an acoustic European tour which ended with a show in Istanbul 4 March 2010.
Their seventeenth studio album, titled Sounds That Can't Be Made, was released in September 2012. Two versions of the album were released: A 2-disc 'deluxe' version that included a DVD with 'making-of' features and sound-check recordings and a single CD jewel case version. The 'deluxe' version also included a 128-page book that incorporated lyrics, artwork and, as was the case with Anoraknophobia, Marbles and Happiness is the Road, the names of people who pre-ordered the album. Parts of the album were recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios in 2011.
Fuck Everyone And Run (F E A R) (2015–present)
The band announced in September 2015 that they were working on a new album, provisionally titled M18 and later confirmed as Fuck Everyone And Run (F E A R). As with several of their previous releases, the recording of the album was to be funded by fan pre-orders, this time through direct-to-fan website PledgeMusic. The album was released on 23 September 2016  debuting at number 4 in the official UK charts of 30 September 2016, their highest placing since Clutching at Straws nearly three decades earlier. In November 2016, they announced their first ever show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, in October 2017. The gig sold out in just 4 minutes and was filmed for DVD release. They also won "UK Band of the Year" at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards.
In May 2017 Marillion took their Marillion weekend to Santiago, Chile for the first time.
In March 2018, the film of the Royal Albert Hall gig was premiered at cinemas around the UK, before the DVD launch, with the band attending the showing in London. On 6 April the concert was released as All One Tonight - Live at the Royal Albert Hall.
In March 2018, Steve Hogarth was involved with fellow musician Howard Jones in helping to unveil a memorial to David Bowie, which is situated close to Aylesbury's Market Square. The memorial was the inspiration of promoter David Stopps, who booked Bowie to appear at the Friars Aylesbury where he debuted Ziggy Stardust. The bulk of the funds for the memorial were raised at a gig held at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury on the evening of the unveiling which Marillion headlined, alongside Howard Jones, John Otway and the Dung Beatles, all of whom have close association to Aylesbury and in particular, the Friars.
Early 2019 Marillion entered the studio with the intention to record selected songs from their catalogue along with friends from the orchestra, who played with the band at the Royal Albert Hall-shows in 2017. Recorded at The Racket Club and Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios, and with a running time of almost 80 minutes, 'With Friends From The Orchestra' featured nine Marillion tracks re-imagined and accompanied by the In Praise Of Folly String Quartet with Sam Morris (French Horn) and Emma Halnan (Flute). The album was released 29 November 2019. In November and December 2019 the orchestra followed Marillion on tour in the UK, returning for two nights at the Royal Albert Hall, and they also played shows in the Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany.
On 3 August 2021 Marillion announced that a new Pre-Order campaign for album number 20, called "An Hour Before It's Dark" had started.
Line-up, influences and sound changes
"One of the reasons we're still together is because we're successful enough that we can still make a living, but we're not so successful that we can afford to do nothing."
—Mark Kelly in 2016
Marillion's music has changed stylistically throughout their career. The band themselves stated that each new album tends to represent a reaction to the preceding one, and for this reason their output is difficult to 'pigeonhole'. Although the band has featured two very distinct and different vocalists, the core instrumental line-up of Steve Rothery (lead guitar, and the sole 'pre-Fish' original member), Pete Trewavas (bass), Mark Kelly (keyboards) and Ian Mosley (drums) has been unchanged since 1984.
Their 1980s sound (with Fish on vocals) was guitar and keyboard-led neo-progressive rock. They have been described at their outset as "a bridge between punk and classic progressive rock". Guitarist Steve Rothery wrote most of the music during the period Fish was in the band. Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers commented, "What I love so much about Marillion is that they could be very strong and powerful and have very quiet passages, but the powerful stuff was really edgy and heavy... I just thought he (Fish) wrote good lyrics, and they wrote good music, and it fit together effortlessly."
They were often compared unfavourably by critics during the Fish era with the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis, although the band had many other influences. Fish was influenced by a wide range of artists and his favourite albums were by artists such as Van der Graaf Generator, Joni Mitchell, the Who, Pink Floyd, John Martyn, Yes, Lowell George, Led Zeppelin, Roy Harper, the Faces, the Beatles and Supertramp. Rothery's main influences were Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, David Gilmour, Andrew Latimer of Camel, Steve Hackett, Jeff Beck and Joni Mitchell, with Gordon Giltrap also an early influence on the development of his playing style. Kelly's biggest inspiration was Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and Trewavas' favourite bass player was Paul McCartney. Original drummer Mick Pointer was a huge fan of Neil Peart's drumming in his favourite band, Rush.
During the Steve Hogarth era, their sound has been compared, on various albums, to more contemporary acts such as U2, Radiohead, Coldplay, Muse, Talk Talk, Elbow, and Massive Attack. In 2016, Hogarth himself was quoted as describing the band: "If Pink Floyd and Radiohead had a love child that was in touch with their feminine side, they would be us." According to an interview with Rothery in 2016, many of their later albums with Hogarth had been written by jamming.
In the media
"We have got a bit of a reputation. I had a conversation with Noel Gallagher at a party once and said to him, 'I'm in a band but it's the most uncool band in the world - Marillion'. He went, 'Yeah, you're right.' Deadpan! Not even smiling."
—Keyboardist Mark Kelly
The chief music critic of The Guardian, Alexis Petridis, has described Marillion as "perennially unfashionable prog-rockers". On the subject of joining the band in 1989, Steve Hogarth said in a 2001 interview: "At about the same time, Matt Johnson 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 conversation, he said: "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 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 included wearing face paint.
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, Genesis and ELP, 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", "Punch and Judy" and "Incommunicado". 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 has often been mentioned in the media, even in otherwise positive reviews. In Q in 1987, David Hepworth wrote: "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 argued 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 argued they were "one of the most unfairly berated bands in Britain" and "one of its best live rock acts." In 2004, Classic Rock'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 said Marillion were "making strong, singular music with the courage of their convictions, and we should treasure them more than we do." In the Q & Mojo 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, which is really rather good. Containing tracks that shimmer like Coldplay, ache like Radiohead and thunder like Muse, 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 and including it in their 50 Best Albums of 1995, Q 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."
In 2001, the television critic of The Guardian, Gareth McLean, used his review of the Michael Lewis BBC Two documentary, Next: The Future Just Happened, to concentrate on launching a scathing attack on the band, whose appearance only constituted one segment of the programme. He described them as "once dodgy and now completely rubbish" and he characterised their fans as "slightly simple folks". He also dismissed the band's efforts to continue their career without a label by dealing directly with their fans on the Internet, writing: "One suspects that their decision occurred round about the time that the record industry decided to shun Marillion."
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. 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 2013 film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa includes a joke reference to a former drummer of the band. The band were quoted: "We know Marillion are seen as 'uncool' but we were delighted to be a part of it."
Marillion are widely considered 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, starting in around 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 in the book Next: The Future Just Happened as an example of how the Internet is shifting power away from established elites, such as multinational record labels and record producers.
The band are renowned for having an extremely dedicated following (often self-termed 'Freaks'), with some fans regularly travelling significant distances to attend single gigs, driven in large part by the close fan base involvement which the band cultivate via their website, podcasts, biennial conventions and regular fanclub publications. The release of their 2001 album Anoraknophobia, which was funded by their fans through advance orders instead of by the band signing to a record company, gained significant attention and was called "a unique funding campaign" by the BBC. Writing for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis described Marillion as "the undisputed pioneers" of fan-funded music.
- Studio Albums
- Script for a Jester's Tear (1983)
- Fugazi (1984)
- Misplaced Childhood (1985)
- Clutching at Straws (1987)
- Seasons End (1989)
- Holidays in Eden (1991)
- Brave (1994)
- Afraid of Sunlight (1995)
- This Strange Engine (1997)
- Radiation (1998)
- marillion.com (1999)
- Anoraknophobia (2001)
- Marbles (2004)
- Somewhere Else (2007)
- Happiness Is the Road (2008)
- Less Is More (2009)
- Sounds That Can't Be Made (2012)
- Fuck Everyone and Run (F E A R) (2016)
- With Friends from the Orchestra (2019)
- An Hour Before It's Dark (2022)
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The band has often been compared to Genesis and Yes because of its exploration of swirling, symphonic rock that occasionally veers into accessible pop territory
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...the appearance of the influential British art rock bands U.K. and Marillion in the late 1970s and early 1980s, respectively
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...Marillion emerged from the post-punk music scene in Britain... Marillion existed as a bridge between punk and classic progressive rock
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