Live at the Marquee 30/12/1982
I joined 'Marillion' in January 1981. By March we had a set of material and were gigging mostly around Buckinghamshire. The idea was to create ripples of interest at venues in areas which would overlap and collect fans that would follow the band and travel to other venues. It was a kind of Venn diagram approach that allowed us to expand our touring activities with the ultimate aim of finding a London venue that we could use as a residency to showcase ourselves to the major record companies who unlike our fans were unwilling to travel to the "sticks" to see a band.
We'd played the "Electric Stadium" in Chadwell Heath (where we would discover a young keyboard player called Mark Kelly playing with a band called "Chemical Alice" in November) but that was too far east. We needed something in the centre.
We'd taken on a press officer in the summer to bring attention to our increasing gig diaries. Keith Goodwin was based in Oxford Street and had some heavy credentials having been press officer for "Yes" for a number of years.
He knew we needed a showcase venue and in October that year he blagged us onto a support at the famous Marquee club in Wardour Street supporting glam rock band "Girl".
Our fan club "The Web" was mobilised and we set up coaches to bus them in from our adopted hometown of Aylesbury. The effect on the night was extraordinary and Phil Bell, a young journalist for the weekly music paper "Sounds" wrote a glowing review. Keith was earning his retainer and put pressure on Nigel Hutchings, the Marquee's manager for more shows.
We got our next chance in early January supporting "Spider" whose manager was married to Tony Wilson, the producer of the Friday night rock show on Radio 1. He turned up to catch our gig.
We'd been badgering him for a session on the show and within a week we were booked on the strength of our Marquee show and the profile that Keith had managed to raise in the press around our constant gigging.
We also got our first headline date in the club at the end of January.
1982 had got off to a great start!
The Marquee Club had originally been based in Oxford Street but had moved to its new location in 1964 (it would ironically close its Wardour Street doors in '88).
I knew it from poring through copies of the "Melody Maker" and "Sounds" which I'd religiously bought every week when I was a teenager in Dalkeith. I knew who had played there and it's reputation as one of the most famous rock clubs in Europe, never mind the UK.
(The full history can be found on the web)
Many of our peers from the progressive rock scene of the '70s had found fame and glory on its stages and we wanted to pick up the torch as part of the new "Progressive rock revival" that Keith was touting in the press.
I was living in Earl's Court by that time with my girlfriend Kay. The club had become my drinking hole and I was able to rub shoulders with journalists and record company A and R guys all scouting for the next big thing. I wallowed in the atmosphere.
One figure who had his permanent place at the bar was Tony Stratton Smith.
Tony owned Charisma Records who had their offices directly above the club. He was the man who discovered "Genesis" the band who we were mostly compared to at that time.
Tony sat with his horse racing buddies in the dark corner at the entrance to the door to the backstage. He never moved into the club itself which was separated from the bar by a wall with Perspex windows. That helped cut down the incredible volumes that were being issued from the PA. This was the early '80s and the "new wave of British Heavy Metal" was at its height.
I was soon part of the regular crowd and got to know the doormen and of course Nigel and his assistant "Bush". I never paid to get in and was often there at 6 when the doors opened and the bar shutters went up. (I still own the Charrington Beer Light that I got when the club closed).
I was always networking, selling the band and trying to get an "in" on any tour looking for support or some way to get demos to people "that mattered".
I also picked Tony's brains for ideas and revelled in the Genesis stories and anecdotes that brought me ever closer to my own dreams.
Our first headline gig on January 25th and we took the place down. Our fans had turned up in droves and we went on stage to a massive ovation from around 400 smiling faces. We had arrived. This was to be our new home for the rest of the year.
Another show on March 7th was Diz Minnitt's last gig there as Pete Trewavas took over on bass. Diz had joined the band with me the previous January but as with Brian Jelliman, the keyboard player who we'd replaced with Mark Kelly in November, we found the band was outgrowing certain individuals and was becoming a far more demanding beast.
We came back from the Scottish tour to play two more shows on the 19th and 21st selling them both out. A "sell out" at the Marquee was I seem to remember around 450 but that was never the target. The target was over 600 and I have a memory of 750 – 800 people being crammed into the club one night. We earned more money at the club than anywhere else and that was keeping us alive and supporting all the provincial touring.
We would play two shows in July (1st and 2nd), two in August (12th and 13th) and another in September (25th) where we shot some footage for the "Market Square Heroes" single.
It was on the July shows that a memorable event occurred. Tony Stratton Smith got off his stool and came into the main club to watch us. No one had ever seen this before. Days later he would send two of his cohorts up to Retford, where we were playing, with orders to sign us to Charisma Records. We felt they were not the real deal and in fact found out later that they had tried to pull a fast one on us and had disobeyed Strat's orders to sign us to an album deal. They were offering a singles deal. We knew we were an album band. (We eventually signed to Charisma for a publishing deal in September after a seriously disappointed Strat was told we were signing to EMI at the Reading festival in August)
In October we began a full UK tour to support the new release and after a gig at London University we returned to the Marquee club for another two historical gigs on the 27th and 28th. By now the audience numbers were bordering on the ridiculous and the dangerous. The heat was oppressive and the load in doors at the end of the long thin corridor that extended from the main floor space to the rear of the building had to be kept open to allow air into the gig. Water dripped from the ceiling onto the audience and we were continually pulling gasping and overheated fans from the crowd and onto stage. On stage it was torture. The racks of par can lights above the stage literally burned your head (being 6ft 5 doesn't help) and everyone in the band was continually hydrating as the sweat poured from your body.
The dressing room was a cupboard about 20 feet long and 6 foot wide with a wooden bench running its length on one side. The walls were bare wood and covered in the graffiti of the hundreds of bands who had graced the stage. (Rumour was that the wooden walls were nailed directly on top of the original dressing room walls which had the graffiti of the last decade still intact).
There was one door which led directly onto the stage behind the drum kit and another which led past a small toilet in an alcove that held the entrance to the DJ's booth and the door out to the bar where Tony Stratton Smith sat and goosed all the young beautiful musicians that squeezed past.
When the place was packed there was no escape. The intense heat and humidity was everywhere. Even the cold tap water was warm.
And our audience was as intense as the conditions. The Marquee jumped when we played and the gigs became "must see". We were now moving up the ladder and racking up column inches in the press.
It was time to record the album and it didn't take long to nominate the studio.
The Marquee had its own studios in the same building as the club with an entrance at the rear. Nick Tauber was agreed on as producer and we began work in December. It was great as we could pop into the club and the bar during the sessions and catch up on old friends and faces. It was a fantastic time.
It was too much of an opportunity to miss and we decided to play 3 shows in the club on the 28th, 29th and 30th. It was a simple job to wire up the club and take tie lines directly into the studio. We also had the shows filmed as Charisma put up the money for the crew. (Sadly somewhere, sometime over the years the tapes went missing).
It was to be the last time we would play the Marquee under the name "Marillion".
The December gigs were totally and utterly sold out and it had become impossible to cater for the demand for tickets. We had become victims of our own success.
Those 13 gigs in '82 were all magical and I have incredibly fond memories of my days there and the sense of making history. We had walked in the footprints of the greats.
Those last 3 shows were beyond superlatives. I can remember coming off stage absolutely exhausted, totally drained, my ears ringing, my stage clothes dripping, desperate for air. We all played out of our skins. It was the first time we ever played "Script for a Jester's Tear" live and I can still remember the overwhelming reaction as fans heard the title track of our imminent new album.
The old hoary monster of "Grendel" was still alive and pulling fans out the audience then and "Margaret", our rock out encore, was still twirling her skirts!
These were days of wonder and we could sense we were making something happen that was going to be bigger than all of us.
There was that scary feeling of letting go of the familiar as well. We were leaving home and were about to fly. We all knew our world was changing. Of just how much we had no idea.
Fish, September 2008
© Derek Dick 2008
Early Stages sleeve notes 2