Early Stages sleeve notes 4

Hammersmith Odeon 14/12/84

If the Marquee club was our spiritual home in '82 then the Hammersmith Odeon took over that mantle in '84.
As the premier rock venue in London in the '80s it was the place every band aspired to play in the capital.
We had played it for the first time in April 1983 at the end of the "Script" tour and the performances were captured on film for the "Recital of the Script" DVD.
Two sold out nights announced our arrival on the big stage.

I'd been to see many gigs there when I stayed in London and had got to know the stage door security guys who would let me in once the performances had started and usher me through the maze of corridors leading to the auditorium where I would make my way to the back and the standing room area and dream of one day being up there on stage myself.

It was my favourite venue at the time. The stage was a front man's dream. Wide and deep with the audience a hand shake away. The venue - despite a capacity of 3500 - was intimate as the seated areas were split between the expansive stalls and a large spreading balcony that was still relatively close to the action.

It was an incredible feeling turning up at the stage door to be greeted with huge smiles from the security guys who were genuinely pleased to see us finally arrive and to have our name up in lights on the hoarding above the entrance to this famous venue. I would never have thought at the time that we would be returning with such frequency over the next few years.

The shows on April 17th and 18th were a marker in many ways as it was to signal founder member Mick Pointer's last show with the band and the beginning of the saga of the revolving drum stool.
The next time we would appear on stage at the "Hammy Odeon", 8 months later, we would be with our 5th drummer.

After the Reading Festival appearance with John Martyr on drums (Andy Ward made a brief appearance on stage that day playing percussion on "Assassing") we headed back across the Atlantic to play 5 shows supporting "Rush" at the Radio City Music Hall in September.

It was becoming obvious that John Martyr was only going to be a temporary replacement. He wasn't seeing eye to eye with the others in the band who considered him too "straight" in his drumming style.
We returned once again to the UK and to Nomis rehearsal rooms to conduct auditions.

The band had been approached in New York by a young American drummer, Jonathan Mover, who was looking for a gig. I'd heard about him from Phil Spalding (Toyah's bass player) who I knew through Nick Tauber, our mutual producer. I was told to be cautious.
He came over to audition, the musos were impressed and we took him on. I was not totally convinced but agreed with the others. I considered him too flashy and busy, exactly the opposite of John Martyr, both in drum style and personality.
But we were desperate. The second album was a long way off being written and the pressure was beginning to bear down on us all.

We retired to The Mill rehearsal rooms at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth in Wales to attempt to write the new material which everyone was shouting at us to deliver. No album, no tour.
One month and one gig in Germany later, Jonathan was gone.
As the days went by I discovered I just couldn't deal with him and brought the situation to a head in a "Him or me" decision. Not one of my proudest moments I admit but I knew in my heart he wasn't the Marillion drummer.
Of course, there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the manager and the record company but I knew there was someone out there who was the right guy for the job.

He showed up in a battered old green Mercedes under his trademark baseball hat, a Benson and Hedges cigarette dangling precariously from the side of his smiling mouth and a wicked glint in his eye which indicated a twisted sense of humour with a slice of "don't fuck with me" about it. I liked him immediately and from the beaming faces around me we all felt the same. The vibe was there and was confirmed when he got behind the kit and jammed with the guys.
Ian Mosley was to bring the experience and the professionalism that we needed to move forward.
I'd seen him with Steve Hackett in '83 and had suggested him when we were auditioning the first time. He couldn't make it as he was otherwise committed and ironically he had contacted the manager just after we had taken Jonathan on board.
Ian closed the circle and we could now concentrate on what we were supposed to be doing rather than on external issues.

The writing moved forward and we were soon to begin recording at the Manor Studios with Nick Tauber again at the helm.
But there were always gigs. Three college and Uni dates before the customary Marquee gig, this time under the moniker of "Lufthansa Air Terminal" (I think we took it from a sketch on the "Young Ones" TV show, the airline threatened to sue us as we had printed T shirts for the occasion!).

We continued recording the album which was taking an intolerable amount of time. The one respite was the mini tour between Christmas and New Year consisting of 5 shows, including our return to Hammersmith Odeon with the new line up on December 28th.
The difference was remarkable. We were a different band. Ian and Pete had gelled to form a daunting and impressive rhythm section which provided us with a strong backbone on which Steve and Mark could build their own trademark sounds and finally combine as a whole in a definitive Marillion style far removed from the early '70s leanings we had in '82. This was the real deal and we paraded the new material with confidence and a maturity that had been missing for a while as we traversed the line up issues of the previous year.
I felt I was now fronting a "Big Band" and our new attitude definitely reflected in my performances.

As always at the Hammersmith Odeon I signed the ceiling with the blessing of my backstage door guys. There was a small area just outside the main dressing room where you gathered to take the entrance to the stage. Every show we ever played there I left my autograph with the date of the gig. I was the only person ever allowed to "desecrate" the walls, or in this case the ceiling of the Hammy Odeon...
I would sign it 6 more times in the coming year.

We eventually finished the "Fugazi"album in January and almost immediately set off on another marathon series of gigs.
We were playing fewer shows in the UK but bigger venues. Three Hammersmiths in March on the 9th, 10th and 11th heralded our assault proper on mainland Europe.
Apart from a few festivals the previous year we had left the continent on the back burner and it was now time to turn up the heat.
Apart from a brief return to North America in June for 8 shows, the rest of the summer was spent touring, mainly in Germany.

July 21st saw us as the main support on the first of the "final farewell" shows from Status Quo at the Milton Keynes Bowl. An unlikely pairing but, as we shared management offices with them at the time, the money men had obviously come up with a cunning plan.

And then, unbelievably, we were back in rehearsal rooms starting work on our third album.

"Fugazi" had sold about the same as "Script" and we had run up some big bills through tour support (especially in the States where the gamble had gone badly wrong), studio hire and residential writing and rehearsal costs.
We were in the red, big time. There were whispers that we could be dropped from the label if we didn't deliver on the next album.

We figured that if we were going down we would go down in style and elected to follow our instincts and go for a concept album. Two sides of music (it was still vinyl back then) with recurring musical themes all linked together and held by a lyrical story about a journey of self discovery. Management and record company baulked at the idea but complied as long as we could deliver a hit single. Like schoolboys we promised, our fingers crossed firmly behind our backs.

We spent 3 months writing and by October had the first side complete and enough bits to fill most of the second, although it would still require a lot of work.

The only respite we had was a gig on August 27th at Nostell Priory near Wakefield where we had played our very first festival in '82. The festival was moved there at incredible short notice as we had originally been booked to headline Reading Festival but the local council had refused a license at the last moment. Needless to say it was a disaster. Phil Lynott, who was below us on the bill, renamed it "Nostril Priority".

We had recorded the Leicester De Montfort show in March and the gig at the Spectrum in Montreal in Canada in June. These were put together and the live album "Real to Reel" was released in November. This not only enabled us to continue touring in Europe but it also helped pay back the debit balance at EMI.

We would spend most of the next two months on the road in Europe with UK dates topping and tailing our journey.
The tour ended in Aylesbury, the band's "birthplace" but, of course, we had to revisit our spiritual home and on the 13th, 14th and 15th of December we tore the Hammersmith Odeon apart.

We had debuted the first half of "Misplaced Childhood" at Liverpool Royal Court in November and it had come in and out of the set during the tour as the Europeans had still to hear the previous albums. "Real to Reel" had done its duty and we were making a name for ourselves especially in Germany and Holland.

The band just got tighter and harder. We knew we had a killer new album on our hands and as we walked out on the Odeon stage that confidence infused the performance. When the strains of "Pseudo Silk Kimono" filled the auditorium the expectation was immense. We were still trying things out on stage and I was writing the lyrics as I went along. I didn't have "Kayleigh" written down and jammed the words every night we played it. Some moments were tentative but overall the version we were performing was the definitive album arrangement.
When "Heart of Lothian" drew to a close the place erupted.

"Assassing" was proving a dramatic and explosive opener and altogether the set was extremely powerful and demanded a reaction.
"Incubus" and "Fugazi" had become fan favourites; the live renditions blew away the album versions. The use of a "window" made out of tracing paper alternating between front and back lighting gave me a brilliant "toy", the shadow effect and bursting through the "wall" had a tremendous visual impact. The manager liked it because it was cheap! I loved the drama!

"Jigsaw" was poignant and the huge spinning silver foil coated jigsaw piece dangling on fish wire tied to the overhead lighting truss, spun and thrown over the crowd and caught by the beams of Super trooper spot lights had a magical resonance.
It was a tremendous set and those three nights were possibly our finest hours at the Hammersmith Odeon.

It was the end of yet another era in the band's history. As I wiped away the last remnants of the greasepaint mask in front of the bright lights around the dressing room mirrors, I had no idea of what was about to happen next. I didn't then realise we were about to go stellar.

I signed my name for the ninth time on the ceiling and trudged up the stairs to the cramped backstage bar for the obligatory Jack Daniels and Coke with the liggers.
It had been a long tough year on the road. I longed for my home in Aylesbury but knew it was only a transit stop.
We had an album to make in Berlin.

Fish September 2008

© Derek Dick 2008
 

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