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.
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