The debut album of "Marillion" was released on March 13, 1983. The album plays a critical role in the revival of Progressive Rock, a genre that didn't exist at the time. Let's find out why.
There's one thing that can not be taken from "Marillion". The revival of Progressive Rock. The glorious genre that rose to prominence in the early 70s, but died out at the end of the decade, perceived as inflated, boring, and archaic.
In the late 1970s, Progressive Rock had no place in music. The rise of Punk was happening, Disco was taking over, the New Wave was on high and around the corner, Heavy Metal was about to explode.
Just at that time, a band was formed in the south-east of England which adopted the name "Silmarillion", after the book series written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The band that formed in 1979 decided to swim against the current, and while the giant bands of Progressive Rock on which they grew up like "Jetro Tull", "Yes" and "Genesis" began to change and look for new directions, "Marillion" decided not to succumb to existing pressures and trends and make the music they love.
The main core of "Silmarillion" began to crystallize on August 19, 1979, when guitarist Steve Rothery successfully auditioned for the band. At the time the band members were: Mick Pointer on drums, Doug 'Rastus' Irvine on bass, and Brian Jelliman on keyboards. Rothery's first appearance in the band's uniform took place on March 1, 1980, then the band also shortened its name to "Marillion".
When charismatic Scottish singer, Fish, joined the band in July 1981, things started to move forward. In November 1981, keyboardist Mark Kelly joins the band. Later, in March 1982, came bassist Pete Trewavas, thus perfecting the band's initial lineup. "Marillion" records demos of first versions of the songs "He Knows You Know" and "Garden Party", which will appear later on their debut album, as well as another song that will be released as a single "Charting the Single".
The band's first opportunity comes when they were invited to the "Friday Rock Show" on BBC Radio, where they played the songs "The Web", "Three Boats Down from The Candy" and "Forgotten Sons". As a result of their exposure, EMI signed them to a recording contract.
The band's first single "Market Square Heroes" was released on October 25, 1982, and features the excellent B-side "Three Boats Down from The Candy" as well as the epic and Progressive 20-minute track - "Grendel". This single was well received and even qualified for fourth place in the annual charts of "Kerrang!" Magazine.
Reinforced by the positive reviews of the first single, "Marillion" entered the studio in December 1982 to record the debut album "Script For A Jester's Tear". The material of which was composed during the band's many performances.
The music on this album traces roots back to the classic Progressive Rock of the early 1970s, but applies a number of evolutionary fixes while remaining true to reality in order to adapt the genre, then considered out of date and bombastic, to the spirit of the time. On the one hand, the band clings to the uncompromising dynamics of the genre and the classical melodies that characterize it, and on the other hand, it abandons the unconventional virtuosity and rhythms. On the one hand, it clings to the complex structures and the epic and long tracks, but on the other hand, it abandons the Mellotron and Hammond in favor of "eighties" synthesizers.
This album features only six tracks, which in a sense changed the music map of the early 1980s. 47 minutes of music that gave young Neo-Prog bands an opportunity to take advantage of the vast void left by the dinosaurs of Progressive Rock in the early 1980s.
With the title song of the album being also the album opener, "Script For A Jester's Tear" corresponds with the image of the album cover featuring the "Jester" that reflects Fish's complex personality. Fish will return to dealing with characters based on his personality, such as the boy from the album "Misplaced Childhood" or Torch from the album "Clutching at Straws". From the vocal intro of the song, one can tell the similarity to "Genesis", especially to Peter Gabriel's intro to the album "Selling England By The Pound". Fish and the rest of the band did not hide their admiration for "Genesis" and the fact that Fish used to wear different characters during the band's performances only increased the comparison. However, as we stated, it is less about coping and more about inspiration. "Script For A Jester's Tear" is without a doubt one of the band's greatest pieces of all time, and it is a tremendous purposeful display of its members' writing abilities. Rothery's solos simply tear us to pieces, Fish's voice being both powerful and gentle, aggressive and caressing, all keeping with the theme of the story. True, in the specific parts the rhythm section is a bit lacking the passion and improvisation, but when you look at the whole and understand what period this album came out, not only can this be treated with forgiveness, but this amazing bunch deserves all the possible superlatives. True, you will not find the sophistication and virtuosity of the classic Progressive Rock genre here, but you will find melodies, musical transitions, and erupting dynamics that did not exist in those years and for which this band was no less responsible for their relevance.
"He Knows You Know" is the big "hit" from the album, which was also released as a single and won a video clip, that even managed to slip into the VHS tape of the best clips from "Heavy Rock" bands, released by Kerrang magazine! At the time. The song length was shortened and adjusted to the 3-minute zone, when Mark Kelly's keyboard solo was trimmed, to avoid comparison to the dinosaurs from the 70s, which were considered outdated in those years. The song refers to drug use, especially intravenous drug use. Anyone familiar with the band's performances from those years knows that Fish used to present the song as the "drug song" and noted that it was inspired by drug use. It is especially remembered that during the shows Fish performed a movement as if he is inserting the microphone into the vein of his hand, in a perfect sync to Rothery's guitar solo.
"The Web" seals the first side of the album and especially highlights the amazing capabilities of Rothery. A Prog piece that became a crowd favorite at the band's performances and later its name will serve as a nickname for its fan club.
The other side of the vinyl opens up with the "Cheerful" and sarcastic "Garden Party", which was released as the second single from the album. The song mocks upper-class "garden parties" and again it's hard not to compare the writing theme to Genesis' "Selling England By The Pound", especially considering Fish's singing style which is very reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's theatricality.
The album ends with two amazing songs, the melancholy "Chelsea Monday" written about suicide, with the moaning and howling guitars of Rothery and the beating and dominant bass of Pete Trewavas and the epic ending track "Forgotten Sons", which is a protest song about Northern Ireland conflict which won a very theatrical performance in the band's live shows by Fish, who dressed as a soldier.
Upon its release, the album was a commercial success and received rave reviews from critics. In the same year, "Marillion" manages to fill the "Hammersmith Odeon" in London and film the final performance of the tour. The show will later be released on VHS tape, in October of that year, and will become a cult show. It is interesting to note that the one who were the opening act for "Marillion" on that show, was none other than Peter Hammill from "Van der Graaf Generator".
There seems to be no room for doubt! The success of "Marillion" led to the revival of a dying genre that was about to disappear from the world. True, "Marillion" was not there alone, but its great success tipped the scales and saved the genre, so in our humble opinion all Neo-Prog, Post-Progressive, Prog-Metal bands, owe in one way or another their very existence to "Marillion" and to this album in particular.