Book review: Decades – Marillion in the 1980’s by Nathanial Webb

Sonicbond Publishing [Publication date 09.10.20]

Sonicbond have already published a series of enjoyable ‘On Track…’ books and now they delve a bit deeper into some bands’ histories with this Decades series.

Marillion are one of the first artists to get the decades treatment and the 1980’s was certainly a productive, successful and tumultuous time for the band. From their early days as Simarillion, the departure of founding member Mick Pointer, the Fish era and the band’s success on EMI and Steve Hogarth joining the band, as Fish embarked on his solo career.

Fans of the band will love the detail the author has gone into, taking in the early years with Doug Irvine and then Fish taking over as vocalist, the early gigs and the band signing to EMI. Once each album is released, the format mimics that of the ‘On Track’ series giving an overview of each song, along with any B-sides (Marillion produced some great B-sides like ‘Lady Nina’, ‘Freaks’ and ‘Grendel’ – oft called out by a fan at any Marilion or Fish gig to be played!) and bonus tracks.

The stories behind each album and subsequent tours/single releases are covered in great detail. This does make the ‘Decades’ idea more accessible to the casual fan than some of the ‘On Track’ books which are very much fan based, and avid ones at that!

Nathanial Webb gives a concise overview of the band as they struggled under record label expectations after the success of ‘Misplaced Childhood’, not helped by having to reschedule tour dates as Fish suffered vocal issues. Using band interviews from the time helps add authority to the writing too, as well as giving an insught to the pressures on indivdual band members as their fame grew.

Fish left Marillion in 1988 and by 1989 Steve Hogarth was in the band. They released another successful album ‘Seasons End’ (this reviewer’s favourite Hogarth era album by far). The author stretches the decade a little bit to include Fish’s solo debut album ‘Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors’ which came out in early 1990. But worth adding in as you can see how each took on their new respective directions.

The book closes with a look at where former members of the band ended up (most notable being Mick Pointer forming Arena with Clive Nolan) and a quick whizz through what Marillion and Fish did next.

I would think a Marillion and Fish in the 1990’s would be one for fans, followed by the 00’s and 10’s. Luckily for fans both the band and Fish have been releasing quality music in the subsequent years and decades after the 1980s, which makes them ideal for a joint tome (although that will doubtless start some fans frothing at their keyboards mixing both in one book).

Highly recommended for fans of the band and although some of the albums covered in this book have had 30th and 35th anniversary reissues, the music still resonates today and this book is a perfect way to reconnect with the making of the music and musicians involved.

Review by Jason Ritchie

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