“You like Genesis don’t you? You should go and see the band that’s on at the Refectory. I reckon you’d like them. They’re called Marillion.”
Stand up and take a bow Mr John Dexter Jones, resident of Bangor and also long term frontman of rock band Jump for that introduction back in 1982. I’d known John through shared musical interests and the fact that he was the year below me on my course. We’d bumped into each other on the top deck of the local bus on the way in to lectures and little would either of us know that for me, it was the start of a lifelong passion.
He’d informed me that Marillion had played Bangor once before. There’s even a famous bootleg: Grendel’s Garden Party from that gig in May 1982. They were obviously honing in the live act with the two big numbers from the early days already in place and gaining the band some notoriety in the prog rock world. It may have abhorred some of the punks who were still pogoing away from the late seventies but were finding some resistance from those of us who still wanted some propper prog rock now that the music of Genesis and Yes and those who’d led the way, was heading in a more commercial direction.
So cut to November of the same year and I’m in a position in the university refectory armed with a recently acquired SLR camera and an ambition to become the next Armando Gallo (famous rock journalist chronicler of all things Genesis). A decent-sized crowd had gathered, maybe not quite as full as I would see when John Martyn made a visit a year later but enough to create a buzz.
An unusual space which normally served as a sort of canteen during the day for students and reached by a curved link passageway to the main union building. It’s long gone now and replaced by something much more funky and contemporary rather than the distinctly seventies design. However, plenty of chairs meant I had the chance to wantonly flaunt any health and safety or security arrangements and get a height advantage to get some shots and get to grips with the manual controls on an SLR.
They were my only souvenirs of the night apart from the memories that recall the poor soul at the front who got hauled up for a mauling during Grendel – that very number that I’d heard about that bore more than a passing resemblance to the Apocalypse In 9/8 section of Supper’s Ready. All was confirmed both at the gig and listening to the Marillion 12″ endlessly days later.
What was striking was the way Fish fronted the band, delivering his words with the full visuals and props that included some thumb sucking and cradling a small puppet possibly during The Web. Then there was Forgotten Sons that saw Fish donning an army jacket and helmet and picking up the mic stand to do some gunning down in Forgotten Sons – another photo opportunity that John had tipped me off about. “Their best song” he’d said although I have to say that it didn’t strike me with the same impact that night.
In what passed at the time for the merch opportunity, the huge 6’x4′ promo poster of Mark Wilkinson’s iconic jester in his most malevolent state was on sale but it wasn’t till the next day that I could get down to Cob Records on the High Street to grab the 12″ of Market Square Heroes. Incidentally, as I was getting some funds from the cash machine who should walk by but Mick Pointer.
So job done, one more fan hooked and the following year would see me not only making a beeline for the debut album, Script For A Jester’s Tear with another iconic Mark Wilkinson piece artwork. I’d see how those songs I’d heard had been recorded and marvel at the title track that was new to most of us. The subsequent tour upped the ante and saw Marillion in some of the major concert halls. I saw the show at Manchester Apollo where the presentation was definitely that of a band on the way upwards. Tour programmes, T shirts and Fish calling for security as he ran through the audience. Perversely no Grendel either.
Only the other week I ended up chatting to Pete Trewavas about the Script days (interview incoming) and it was good to hear that although he didn’t recall dropping Grendel for that firs major tour, he remembered his trip to Wales, or maybe he was just being kind to a fan. I suspect not as he’s a genuine guy and had not long since joined the band. Great too to hear mention of Bangor Uni on the Sackcloth & Greasepaint documentary on the Script deluxe reissue. Fish talks of being there and writing the title track, so in some ways it was a landmark occasion in more ways than one.
Read our review of the Script For A Jester’s Tear deluxe reissue here.
He Knows You Know live at the Marquee 1982: