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Music / Marillion

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Left to right: Mark Kelly, Ian Mosley, Steve "H" Hogarth, Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas
"Am I enough of a freak to be worth paying to see?"
Marillion, "Separated Out", from Anoraknophobia (2001)

Marillion are a Progressive Rock group formed in 1979 in Aylesbury, England. They rose to prominence in the early 80's as one of the leading bands of the "neo-prog" scene, which combined the expert musicianship of progressive rock with the accessibility of New Wave, and remain active and prolific to this day.

Their career falls into two distinct periods, separated by the departure of original front man Fish in 1988 and his subsequent replacement with Steve Hogarth. Both periods have a dedicated following, leading to a severe case of Broken Base.

In recent years, Marillion have gained some notability for their innovative use of the internet as a means of communicating with the fan base and selling records. They have been independent from any record company since 2001, when they financed the release of their album Anoraknophobia entirely with internet pre-orders.

Marillion are:

  • Steve Hogarth (Lead Vocals and Keyboards)
  • Pete Trewavas (Bass, Acoustic Guitar and Backing Vocals)
  • Steve Rothery (Guitars)
  • Mark Kelly (Keyboards, Samples and Backing Vocals)
  • Ian Mosley (Drums and Percussion)

Notable former members include:

  • Derek "Fish" Dick (Lead Vocals)
  • Mick Pointer (Drums)

The Marillion studio discography:

  • Fish Era
    • Script For A Jester's Tear 1983
    • Fugazi 1984
    • Misplaced Childhood 1985
    • Clutching At Straws 1987
  • Hogarth Era
    • Seasons End 1989
    • Holidays in Eden 1991
    • Brave 1994
    • Afraid of Sunlight 1995
    • This Strange Engine 1997
    • Radiation 1998
    • 1999
    • Anoraknophobia 2001
    • Marbles 2004 (2-Disc release)
    • Somewhere Else 2007
    • Happiness Is The Road 2008 (2-Disc release)
    • Less Is More 2009
    • Sounds That Can't Be Made 2012
    • Fuck Everyone And Run (FEAR) 2016
    • An Hour Before It's Dark 2022

Marillion contains examples of:

  • Audience Participation Song: "Three Minute Boy", "Happiness Is the Road". Also if the current lineup play any Fish era material expect an epic singalong.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Either played straight or averted, depending on who you ask. Both Fish- and Hogarth-era Marillion have a dedicated following, and there seems to be little overlap. Mentioning either singer on a progressive rock forum is instant Flame Bait.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Fish. An amiable Scot and by virtually all accounts a Gentle Giant, but the backstory of the song "Incubus" reveals just how vindictive he can be when given cause. According to one account given by him at a concert, he met an ex at a pub six months after she had dumped him (the aftermath of said dumping detailed in an earlier song, "The Web") along with the ex's new boyfriend. After calmly sitting through 10-15 minutes of snide remarks from said ex, her boyfriend retreats to the toilet, and Fish produces a particularly racy Polaroid photo from their past. He hides it once her new boyfriend comes back, but she realises that if she doesn't cease the veiled hostilities, said Polaroid might start making the rounds... Hoo boy.
    • Listen to the story here.
  • The Big Guy: Steve Rothery
    • Fish is literally a big guy at 6'5".
  • Blessed with Suck: Thanks to "Kayleigh", no matter how hard they try to reinvent themselves, the Mainstream Media will always view them as a One-Hit Wonder from The '80s.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Fish. He's a big guy in every way.
  • Break-Up Song: The Fish albums alone are jampacked with breakup songs of almost every variety, including "Script for a Jester's Tear", "The Web", "Jigsaw", "Cinderella Search", "Kayleigh", and "Sugar Mice". Hogarth's lyrics are often a lot more ambiguous, but a couple of his tracks can be seen as breakup songs, like "Splintering Heart".
  • BSoD Song: "The Invisible Man", complete with And I Must Scream imagery.
    • Also "Blind Curve", with Fish sitting in a Holiday Inn contemplating suicide over the evils of the world, prior to rediscovering his inner child and will to fight in the next two tracks.
  • Call-Back: Late Hogarth-era track "If My Heart Were A Ball It Would Roll Uphill" contains a snippet of Fish' vocal from "Chelsea Monday".
  • Careful with That Axe: Steve lets out an epic scream on "Cathedral Wall".
    • Fish has a few moments on "Forgotten Sons", which he would take up to eleven on live versions.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    Did anyone see my last marble? I swear that I had it before...
    Sometimes I think
    I should go see a shrink
    In case he can find me some more...
  • Concept Album: Misplaced Childhood, Brave, Happiness is the Road
    • Also Afraid of Sunlight in part.
    • Clutching At Straws, too.
  • Court Jester: A prominent motif throughout the artwork of the early albums, as well as one of Fish' monikers. In the early years, fans would go to concerts dressed up as jesters and wearing face paint.
  • The '80s: Averted for the most part. Marillion were just about the only decent Progressive Rock group at a time in which it was considered a Dead Horse Genre (far more than it is now). They weren't immune to '80s Hair though, and "Kayleigh" is a fairly typical '80s Synth-Pop song despite being part of a much larger Concept Album (which is probably why it was by far their biggest hit and the media now think of them as One Hit Wonders).
  • Epic Rocking:
    • "The Space", in particular, is this trope to a tee.
    • Also: "Grendel", "This Strange Engine", "Interior Lulu", "Ocean Cloud", "The Invisible Man", "Neverland", "If My Heart Were a Ball It Would Roll Uphill", "Gaza", "Montréal", "The Sky Above the Rain".
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Subverted in "Easter", the second verse of which contains a very subdued and gentle bagpipe in the background. You won't even hear it if you don't pay attention.
    • "Brave", the song, also has a pretty subdued bagpipe bit.
    • Old days' live favorite "Margaret", on the other hand, plays the trope absolutely straight.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Used for some of the transitions on some of their Concept Albums.
    • Misplaced Childhood is a shining example of this, with every track fading into the next apart from "Heart of Lothian" and "Waterhole (Expresso Bongo)", which ended Side One and began Side Two respectively. Initially, the band wanted to have just two sidelong tracks on the album, Mike Oldfield style, but eventually decided against it.
    • On Holidays in Eden, the final three tracks ("This Town", "The Rake's Progress" and "100 Nights" fade into each other.
  • Fake-Out Opening: "Between You And Me" is the biggest example, as well as a few smaller ones.
    • A strange example occurrred on the 2012 Sounds That Can't Be Made tour. The show would start with the sounds of "Splintering Heart", one of the bands traditional show-openers... only for the song to break down and actually explode before the band came up, as if a bomb went off. The band would then enter and kick off with "Gaza" instead.
  • Fun Size: Pete Trewavas can't be more than 5 feet and 5 inches. If the copywriter for those 80s Sony billboards had known Pete, they would have thought twice about using the payoff "a powerhouse in tiny package".
  • Genre Shift: A few cases, most notably "House", a Massive Attack inspired chillout dub groove.
  • Grief Song: "Chelsea Monday" to a certain extent. "Estonia" definitely qualifies.
  • Heavy Mithril: "Grendel"
  • Hidden Track: The concept album Brave notably featured one as part of the vinyl version. The final side of the album features the song "The Great Escape", however this side is double-grooved. The needle will either land on the groove that plays "The Great Escape" and "Made Again", representing the happy ending to the story; or "The Great Escape (Spiral Remake)" and twenty minutes of water noises, representing the downer ending to the story. The CD version contained the happy ending, while the film version contained the downer ending.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: "The Man From The Planet Marzipan"
  • I Am the Band: Completely averted in any line-up. Marillion is and has always been a completely democratic unit, which is part of the reason why their albums take forever to make.
    • Though, in a technicality, Steve Rothery is the only original member left.
  • Large Ham: Fish
  • Last Note Nightmare: "King".
  • Long-Runners: Active since 1979. Still around.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Type 2. They were a bit of a Revolving Door Band in the early years, but their lineup has remained unchanged since 1989. Ever since the new guy joined. Think about that for a second.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Most of their poppy-sounding songs have this. Most noticeable example: "Cannibal Surf Babe," a cheery pop song (in a vaguely Beach Boys style) about... well, guess.
  • Madness Mantra: "Problems, problems, problems, problems..." in "He Knows, You Know".
  • Non-Appearing Title: Many examples, including "Incubus", "Bitter Suite", "King", "Estonia" and "A Few Words for the Dead". "Gaza" is a peculiar case, as Hogarth deliberately leaves the song open to apply to armed conflicts around the globe.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. Both the lead singer and the guitarist are named Steve. To avoid confusion, Steve Hogarth normally goes by the name "H".
  • ...Or So I Heard: While explaining the story behind Incubus (see 'Beware The Nice Ones', above), Fish refers to "various men's magazines, which we never buy but which we've heard about".
  • Precision F-Strike: "Garden Party" had one, once upon a time.
    • The resulting Last-Second Word Swap ("I'm miming") would beget one of the funnier moments in the band's career when they appeared on Top of the Pops.
    • In "Living With The Big Lie" — which notably starts as an atmospheric song in their most introspective and proggy album —, Hogarth does this: "the cold war's gone, but those bastards will find you another one, they're here to protect you, don't you know?" Incidentally, he was right.
  • Progressive Rock: They were one of the key bands of the "neo-progressive" genre, which sought to make prog more accessible to mainstream listeners.
  • Protest Song: They wrote a few. From 1983's "Forgotten Sons" to 2012's "Gaza", they've always been a minor but integral part of the group's output.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Bitter Suite".
  • Purple Prose: Many early Fish lyrics. Take a look at this little gem:
    Midnight suns bid moors farewell, retreats from charging dusk
    Mountains echo, curfews bell, signal ending tasks
    They place their faith in oaken doors, cower in candlelight
    The panic seeps through bloodstained floors as Grendel stalks the night
  • Putting the Band Back Together: In the Aylesbury music event "Hobble on the Cobbles", Fish headlined. And at the end of the set, he called some old friends onto the stage... Made more awesome because it took place in Aylesbury Market Square, and they played "Market Square Heroes". The crowd went absolutely bananas.
  • Rearrange the Song: The point of Less is More: acoustic rearrangements of older songs.
  • Rock-Star Song: More like Rockstar Album: Misplaced Childhood.
    • Among others. Specifically, Hogarth alludes to this lifestyle in songs like "80 days" and "Somewhere Else".
    • Large swaths of Clutching at Straws can be read as this, but "Incommunicado" is perhaps the most explicit Rock-Star Song of them all. Also, "Tux On", which was the B-side to "Sugar Mice", details the rise and fall of a rock star. It's not exactly cheery fare.
  • Sadist Teacher: "The physical knuckle-head teacher of games" from "Ocean Cloud". Hogarth explained in an interview that it was his own teacher, who singled little Steve out to be humiliated in front of the class. Hogarth credits the memory of "that bloody games teacher" for actually driving him on towards succes, just to prove him wrong.
  • Shout-Out: "Neverland" contains many references to the Peter Pan novel.
    Wendy, darling, in the kitchen with your dreams
    Will you fly again, take to the sky again
    Undo the hooks once and for all
    Banish the tic toc tic toc again
  • The Smart Guy: Mark Kelly. Most innovative things Marillion does are his idea, notably the pre-order model and the fan-made music video.
  • Spiritual Successor: The band's pastoral sound, progressive rock style, and theatrical live performances have garnered considerable comparisons to 70's prog titans Genesis over the years, particularly during the Fish era; this became something of an albatross around Fish's neck for a time, leading him to cover Genesis' "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" during his solo career in a considerably different style from the original, so as to prove to the public and press that he wasn't just a Peter Gabriel clone.
  • Survival Mantra: "It's Not Your Fault", "Happiness is the Road"
  • Team Dad: Hogath credits Ian Mosley for being this. Whenever tensions in the band rise, it is Ian who keeps a cool head and suggest they all take a break.
  • Title-Only Chorus: This has become a bit of a habit of theirs recently: "See It Like A Baby", "Thank You Whoever You Are", "A State of Mind", "Happiness is the Road", "Whatever is Wrong With You", "Real Tears For Sale", "It's Not Your Fault" among others.
  • Ur-Example: of Post-Rock. Though they've had a large influence on many post rock acts, such as Talk Talk and Mogwai, they are not typically considered a post rock band.
  • Villain Song: The New Kings is a 16+ minute Villain Song.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Chelsea Monday": "Hello John, did you see the Standard about four hours ago? Fished a young chick out of the Old Father..."
    • "Forgotten Sons": "Approach...friend." or "Peace on Earth and mercy mild, Mother Brown has lost her child..."
    • "Cinderella Search": Not so much a Wham Line as a Wham Musical Cue. At around 2:54 the song takes a sharp turn from the cautiously optimistic buildup to a sombre piano solo, while the lyrics reveal that the girl the narrator desired has been taken by someone else, making the narrator realise that he is the Romantic False Lead and that he is, effectively, back at square one.
    • "Splintering Heart": "...but not as much as this!"
    • "Out of this World": "Complete accident on the radar"
    • "Three Minute Boy": "The flash gun went off without warning"
    • "A Few Words for the Dead": "Or you could love"
    • "Jigsaw": "You must have known that I was considering an escape"
    • "King": "I hope for your sake something gets in the way"
    • "Gaza": "I never knew what martyrdom was, until my brother... my brother... I'm sorry, I can't continue."