It took the Steve Hogarth line-up of Marillion almost three decades to fill the Albert Hall, and in light of such gentle progress it’s easy to forget just how rapid the ascent of the original band was.
Two nights at Hammersmith Odeon on the first album tour? No problem. Second on the bill at Reading the same year? Sure, why not? Without their success, the neo-progressive movement would have been a long-forgotten bump on rock’s long and winding road rather than a recognised genre whose other protagonists – IQ, Pallas, Solstice, Pendragon, Twelfth Night – are, somewhat remarkably, still with us.
Script For A Jester’s Tear was the album that built the beast, and, following deluxe-edition reissues of Brave, Misplaced Childhood and Afraid Of Sunlight, it’s the debut album’s turn to be given a polish.
There’s no real surprises. The album benefits from a crisp new mix. A decent set of sleevenotes from Prog magazine editor Jerry Ewing tells the tale, from the band’s roots as Buckinghamshire hopefuls Electric Gypsy to the Top Of The Pops debut. A documentary fleshes out the story. The Market Square Heroes EP is here, as is Charlie The Seagull… sorry, Charting The Single. There’s a 5.1 mix for listeners with the appropriate equipment.
Sadly there’s no previously unreleased studio material, but this Deluxe Edition is rounded off by a quite brilliant live set recorded a few months before the album’s release, at one of the band’s spiritual homes, the Marquee on London’s Wardour Street.
It’s brilliant for a couple of reasons. First, the band are on the rise and know it. It’s a supremely confident show, with Fish a mischievous, confrontational presence. Second, the audience know it too, and that unique fervour the band continue to inspire is already in place. It’s a celebration. Occasionally it actually sounds riotous.
“The tickets for the Hammersmith show go on sale on January twentieth,” says Fish, and the news is greeted by the kind of roar usually reserved for last-minute winners at pivotal football matches or surprise election results. He’s on dramatic form throughout – the venom with which he spits the ‘shaper’s lies his poisoned tongue malign with mocking harp’ line in Grendel is something to behold – while Steve Rothery’s guitar solos on the same song and on Chelsea Monday are beautiful.
It all ends with the punk/prog thrash of Margaret, with Fish’s voice stretched to breaking point and the audience picking up the slack. Marvellous times.