Saturday, September 05, 2009

10 albums a day #36

Script for a Jester's Tear (1983, CD)
Fugazi (1984, CD)
Misplaced Childhood (1985, CD)
Clutching At Straws (1987, CD)
The Thieving Magpie (1988, double CD)
Seasons End (1989, CD)
Six of One, Half-Dozen of the Other (1992, CD)
B'Sides Themselves (2003, Amazon download)

They started out as Silmarillion but when they started getting famous they decided to change their name to avoid potential copyright issues, and became Marillion.

One day in 1985 I walked into Sundance Records (the old one on the square that was ill-litten and cave-like) just in time to hear the haunting opening synthesizer strains of Misplaced Childhood playing. It immediately appealed to me. I bummed around in there long enough to hear the entire side 1, and bought the record. It was my favorite album from then on until a long time after. A month or so later I was on a mall run with a couple of co-workers and found the two preceding albums in a music store in the old Windsor Park Mall, so I bought them both. Marillion became my new Favorite Group. Later I bought the CDs.

In my opinion, Marillion would not have been as great as they were had it not been for lead singer and song writer Derek Dick, who goes by the nom-de-musique of Fish (supposedly because he is very fond of taking very long baths). His lyrics are very poetic, and to write a thorough analysis of his songs is beyond the scope of this post or the skill of this writer, but here are a few snippets.

I saw a war widow in a laundrette
Washing the memories from her husband's clothes
She had medals pinned to a threadbare greatcoat
A lump in her throat, with cemetery eyes
I heard Sinatra calling me down through the floorboards
Where you pay a quarter for a partnership in rhyme
To the jukebox crying in the corner
While the waitress is counting out the time
Shuffling your memories dealing your doodles in margins
You scrawl out your poems across a beermat or two
And when you declare the point of grave creation
They turn round and ask you to tell them the story so far
This is the story so far
Also see a previous post, White Russian.

The first three albums are essentially a trilogy fueled by Fish's own experiences and beliefs: a collapsed love affair and his support for Scottish independence. Clutching At Straws is an epilogue of sorts, driven by "angst-fueled bravado." Although our hero of the first three albums (the Jester) appears to have achieved a sort of personal victory at the end of Misplaced Childhood:

Well I hit the streets back in '81
Found a heart in the gutter and a poet's crown
I felt barbed wire kisses and icicle tears
Where have I been for all these years?

I saw political intrigue, political lies
Gonna wipe those smiles of self-satisfaction from their eyes

Clutching At Straws continues with a further descent into darkness, cynicism and resignation. And that was the end of Fish with Marillion. After that he struck out on his own, the band recruited a new lead singer and they are still very popular and successful today. But the group they are today just doesn't do much for me without Fish doing the song writing.

The Thieving Magpie is a double-live album from the Fish era. I originally bought this on cassette, because that was the only medium they had it on at Hastings at the time, but the cassette version isn't complete. The first part is the same as disc 1 of the CD set, but the second part contains only the first half of Misplaced Childhood. Disc 2 of the CD set is the entire album of Misplaced Childhood live. On the original record, every song segues into the next with no breaks in between except where you have to flip the record from side 1 to side 2 (the CD version has the same break, although you no longer have to "flip" it). However, the live version is 40 minutes of continuous music, with no breaks anywhere.

Seasons End was the first post-Fish album, and I bought it out of loyalty and curiosity, but one listen was enough to tell me that the adventure was over for me. It isn't bad, mind you, just different in a way that turned me off at the time.

Six of One is a 12-song CD that includes six songs from the Fish era and six songs from the early Steve Hogarth (Fish's replacement) era. It is somewhat redundant with the previous albums, but not completely so because it has a few alt versions of previous songs.

B'Sides Themselves is a collection of b-sides and other stuff that weren't released on full albums. Two of the tracks on this one were also on an EP (which I have) called Brief Encounter. B'Sides is also notable for including the epic 17-minute track "Grendel," which I think was previously released only on a 12-inch single, and pre-dates Script. I also have one live album called Reel to Real which I haven't ripped yet, and one track called "Tic-Tac-Toe" which I downloaded from somewhere and is from the same time period as Clutching At Straws but wasn't included on that album.

Marillion are a 5-member group consisting of vocals/guitar/bass/keyboards/drums and I guess if you had to categorize them, they would be considered progressive rock. Look them up on Wikipedia for some interesting reading, for example since Hogarth joined they left their record label and have basically been financing their own albums via fanbase support and their website.

I still count the Fish-era Marillion as my favorite group, and I think I might need to investigate the new Marillion a little further. You can read some other comments I made about their cover art here.

Album count: 362.

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