Script For A Jesters Tear

Original release by EMI Records, 14th March 1983
Remastered 2CD, released by EMI Records, 7243 8 57865 2 5 (UK), 29th September 1997

01. Script For A Jesters Tear (08:39)
02. He Knows You Know (05:22)
03. The Web (08:48)
04. Garden Party (07:15)
05. Chelsea Monday (08:16)
06. Forgotten Sons (08:21)
Total Time: 46:47

01. Market Square Heroes (04:18) (Single version, 'Battlepriest' edit)
02. Three Boats Down From The Candy (04:31) (Single version)
03. Grendel (19:10) (Fair Deal Studios Demo)
04. Chelsea Monday (06:55) (Manchester Square Demo)
05. He Knows You Know (04:29) (Manchester Square Demo)
06. Charting The Single (04:52) (Single version)
07. Market Square Heroes (04:48) (Re-recorded version)
Total Time: 49:03

Lyrics and music composed and arranged by Derek Dick/Steve Rothery/Mark Kelly/Peter Trewavas/Michael Pointer/Diz Minnett/Brian Jelliman
Produced by Nick Tauber
Recorded and mixed by Simon Hanhart

I vividly remember hearing this album for the first time. I can readily recall my initial reaction to the first four minutes or so of the first track, "Script for a Jester's Tear" and the surprise that quickly followed. I first thought, "oh no, this is a cheesy AOR ballad!". The song was tight, well written, but also melodramatic and radio friendly pap - or so I thought. The song had wild guitar solos, a heavy rhythmic kick, screechy vocals; it had started with a melancholic piano intro but I was quick to disregard it in light of what seemed like eighties excess. Then the outro riff hit and I was instantly floored. Here came this awesome bass groove, this sweeping synth line, a subtle harpsichord melody, and one of the most emotional vocal deliveries I had ever heard. Suddenly the music was weeping with grief, wrought with pain and saturated with a truly powerful atmosphere of claustrophobia and gloom. Needless to say, I was instantly hooked. By time the second track's bass groove hit, I was a Marillion fan through and through. Instant conversion.
Script for a Jester's Tear, isn't all that complex or sophisticated in light of the classic seventies prog that had preceded it. However it must be noted that what it lacks in technical dimensions it more than makes up for in terms of emotional communication and invention. The overall compositions are varied and largely dependant on expressly rhythmic riffs, which in turn are dependant on (usually) syncopated bass grooves. The music is saturated in lush keyboard lines and flowing, almost ethereal guitar melodies that very nearly float over the rhythm section.
Special note must be made of Fish's contribution as lyricist and vocalist. His work with Marillion could very well constitute the highest point of rock music's lyrical invention. The lyrics are complex, multi-faceted, ambiguous and just drip with melancholia, painful satire and seething outrage. The subject matter is often dark, dealing with a whole plethora of topics including drug addiction, synthetic personas, victims of senseless violence and suffocating depression.
Such topics are a rarity in progressive rock and probably reflect the political outrage of the late seventies punk explosion. A kind of lyrical realism pervades in Fish's every word. Not being the greatest vocal talent in the world, Fish still pours tortured emotion into every vocal line and uses a multitude of voices to express conflicting emotions and situational uncertainty. Fish is what pulls the album together and makes Marillion truly work.
This album is truly a milestone in moderately commercial, prog tinged rock music. It contains a despairing atmosphere, alternating between deeply troubling neurosis and poignant social satire. There are some places that lag, and some riffs simply disrupt the music's flowing groove. But it is the ambition the listener really notices, the visceral assault, the sense of purpose. Script for a Jester's Tear is simply an extraordinary debut album.
Note: Make sure to pick up the double disc re-master. It contains a bonus disc with demo versions of songs and B-sides/singles, including the mighty twenty minute epic "Grendel". The re-master is highly recommended.
James Slone (Satan Stole My Teddybear), June 2000

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