Marillion are an English rock band, formed in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England, in 1979. They are known as the band that invented the "New Wave of Progressive Rock". Their recorded studio output since 1982 is composed of seventeen albums generally regarded in two distinct eras, delineated by the departure of original frontman Fish in late 1988, and the subsequent arrival of replacement Steve Hogarth in early 1989. All four albums released with Fish were commercial successes, and during this period the band scored eleven Top 40 hits on the UK Singles Chart, including 1985's "Kayleigh", which reached No. 2 and became their biggest hit single. The first album released with Hogarth, 1989's Seasons End, was a hit, and albums continued to chart well until 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. The band continue to tour internationally, and were ranked 38th in Classic Rock's "50 Best Live Acts of All Time" in 2008. The core 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. 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. Their original sound (with Fish on vocals) is best described as guitar and keyboard led progressive rock or neo-prog, and would be sometimes compared with Gabriel-era Genesis. More recently, their 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. Their new sound seems more geared for radio play. 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 Web Cottage Industry. The band are also renowned for having an extremely dedicated following driven in large part by the close fan base involvement which the band cultivate via their website, podcasts, biennial conventions and regular fanclub publications.

Marillion have never been fashionable in the eyes of the media. 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 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 Camel's Andrew Latimer, keyboard player Mark Kelly's biggest inspiration was Yes' Rick Wakeman, Pete Trewavas especially loved Paul McCartney's bass lines and Mick Pointer was fond of Rush's Neil Peart's drumming. As Jonh Wilde summarised in Melody Maker in 1989: "Marillion appeared in November 1982 and 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 70s pomp. The 80s 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 problem has often been mentioned in the media, even in otherwise positive reviews. 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."

Formation and the Fish era (1979–1988)

Marillion was formed in 1979 as Silmarillion -after J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Silmarillion- by drummer Mick Pointer, guitarist Steve Rothery, and others. They played their first gig at Berkhamsted Civic Centre, Hertfordshire, on 1 March 1980. The band name was shortened to Marillion in 1981 to avoid potential copyright conflicts at the same time as Fish and bassist Diz Minnett replaced original bassist/vocalist Doug "Rastus" Irvine. Keyboardist Brian Jelliman completed the line-up; the first gig with this line-up was at the Red Lion Pub in Bicester, Oxfordshire, on 14 March 1981. By the end of 1981, keyboardist Mark Kelly had replaced Jelliman, with bassist Pete Trewavas replacing Minnett 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, early Genesis, Pink Floyd, Van der Graaf Generator, Rush (specifically from the late 1970s), and Yes. 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" version. Following the single, the band released their first full-length album in 1983. 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 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, drummer Mick Pointer was dismissed from the band. 

Garden party

The second album, Fugazi (1984), built upon the success of the first album with a more electronic sound, produced the single "Assassing". In November 1984, Marillion 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. 


Their third and commercially most successful LP was the concept album Misplaced Childhood (1985). 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. 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. The band was able to showcase their ability on the album to juxtapose pert pop ballads ("Kayleigh", charting at No. 2 in the UK and "Lavender", which charted at No. 5) with longer songs all inspired by Fish's life experiences. Following the exposure given to "Kayleigh" and its subsequent chart success, the album went to No. 1 in the UK, knocking Bryan Ferry off the top spot and holding off a challenge from Sting, who released his first solo album in the same week. 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 150,000 people.

Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) / Lords Of The Backstage

The fourth studio album, Clutching at Straws (1987), shed some of its predecessor's pop stylings and retreated into a darker exploration, representing the strains of constant touring that would result in the departure of Fish to pursue a solo career. The album continued 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. 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 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 very hard". 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 23 July 1988

White Russian

The Steve Hogarth era  (1989 to present)

After the split, the band found Steve Hogarth, the former keyboardist and sometime vocalist of The Europeans. 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 (1989). Hogarth was a significant contrast with Fish, coming from a New Wave musical background instead of progressive rock. He also had 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. Hogarth's second album with Marillion, Holidays In Eden (1991), 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. Holidays in Eden was followed by Brave (1994), 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 longtime 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 (1995), would be the band's last album with record label EMI. Once again, it received little promotion and 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 with his boat. Steve Hogarth claimed this was the best album he had made with the band.

Cannibal surf babe

What followed was a string of albums and events that saw Marillion struggling to find their place in the music business. This Strange Engine 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 fanbase 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. Marillion's tenth album Radiation (1998) saw the band taking a different approach and was received by fans with mixed reactions. was released the following year (1999) and showed some progression in the new direction. The band were still unhappy with their record label situation. As Steve Hogarth explained: "We're a band with a big fanbase, but the problem is that, as a result, no-one has an incentive to market us. Record labels know they could spend a fiver on promoting our album and our fans would still go and buy it if they had to find it under a stone". 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 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 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 over 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. 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 in order 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. 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. Marillion continued to tour throughout 2005 playing several summer festivals and embarking on acoustic tours of both Europe and the US, 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.

Drilling holes

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). In July 2008 the band posted a contest for fans to create a music video for the soon-to-be released single "Whatever is Wrong with You", and post it on YouTube. The winner would win £5,000. 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 aren't a part of the theme. Before the album's release, on 9 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 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. The band's sixteenth studio album Less Is More 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". Their seventeenth studio album is titled Sounds That Can't Be Made and 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.

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) (1999)
Anoraknophobia (2001)
Marbles (2004)
Somewhere Else (2007)
Happiness Is the Road (2008)
Less Is More (2009)
Sounds That Can't Be Made (2012)