Marillion Script For A Jester's Tear review

Marillion’s 1983 debut goes deluxe, with added excellent docco.

(Image: © Rhino Records)

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By telling the story of Script For A Jester’s Tear you’re effectively recounting the (ahem) genesis of one of the UK’s biggest progressive rock bands. In his astute liner notes for this delectable four-CD/one-Blu-ray box set (also available as four LPs), Prog’s own Jerry Ewing notes that the band coalesced into their all-but-final form and this, their debut album, landed in the UK Top 10 in just two years. This box set documents that progress well.

Anyone eyeing this with credit card in hand will already be familiar with the music here. Remixed for 2020 by trusted collaborators Andy Bradfield and Avril Mackintosh, Script glistens once more. The dramatic title track is still a soaring, heartbreaking behemoth, He Knows You Know a muscular and fittingly desperate examination of drug abuse, The Web an engrossing piece of musical theatre. Garden Party, asserts Steve Rothery, remains one of Fish’s crowning achievements.

Such perspectives, some 37 years on, are plentiful on Sackcloth And Greasepaint, the entertaining and informative 90-minute documentary here that features all the major players. Rothery admits to struggling to re-listen to Script because he hadn’t quite got a handle on his guitar tones at the time. Pete Trewavas recalls loving the recording process at London’s Marquee Studios, and he’s right that Script… sounds of its time (part of its era-defining charm), while Mick Pointer laments its lack of sonic ‘beef’.

Pointer formed Silmarillion with bassist Doug Irvine in Buckinghamshire circa ’78, and it’s a thrill to watch all the pieces fall into place over time. Steve Rothery rocks up fresh from Whitby, and with each new arrival – Fish (whose focus was deadly), Mark Kelly, Trewavas – the band gets stronger, their sense of united purpose more concentrated. Diz Minnitt, whom Trewavas replaced on bass, offers real insight, as does cover artist Mark Wilkinson. He liked that Marillion’s prog was less about ‘unicorns’ and more about the topics of the day. “We were playing the kind of music people wanted to hear,” says Fish, “but the mainstream media said was dead and buried.” Damn right.

The Market Square Heroes EP is remixed here and, along with Script it comes in HD audio on the Blu-ray too. The concert footage from the Marquee in ’82 and ’83’s Hammy O sets Marillion’s ascent in time. How many Prog readers, you wonder, are amid the morass of churning bodies? 

The promo videos for Market…, He Knows You Know and Garden Party are a fun bonus along with other rare footage and photos, all of which makes this box a pleasurable walk through the playground of yesterday.

Buy from Amazon.

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.