Book review: STEVE ROTHERY – Postcards From The Road

STEVE ROTHERY - Postcards From The Road

Astral Horizon Press [Publication date 21.05.20]

Steve Rothery’s photo book was first published in 2016 when it was sold via a pre-order campaign and then at gigs and the band website.  Now it gets a full release.

Rothery was a founder member of newly-monikered Marillion in 1979 and for the most part, for the ensuing 12 year journey covered by this coffee table-sized tome, he took his camera.

This book will appeal to those fans of “early” Marillion with references to band members and associates who have come and gone or died.  Amongst them Mick Pointer, Andy Ward (early drummers), John Arnison (manager), Keith Goodwin (PR) and Dave Meegan (engineer).

It announces the arrival of drummer Ian Mosley in 1984 whose good humour managed to defuse tension and whose professionalism moved things up a notch musically and of course the coming of Steve Hogarth in 1989.  It also charts the progress of Mark Kelly’s hair loss.  Readers are also referred to Hogarth’s two volume of diaries for further background information (see review link below) although sadly the diaries don’t really begin until 1991.  And then of course there are Ian Mosley’s own collected memoirs.

Naturally, covering the years 1980-1993, the emphasis is the Fish-era of the band.  There is minimal accompanying text but some of that is illuminating nevertheless.  The reader is actually left wanting more detail rather than Rothery’s sometimes tantalising prose, for example referring to the “Big Man” and his “sometimes aggressive way of getting his point of view across.”

Fans will be especially interested in the book’s preamble where Rothery traces his progress from childhood to band formation.

The narrative charts the rise of the band in the 1980s when the amount spent by the label on promotional video would exceed that of recording costs and had to be recouped from 50 per cent of the band’s album royalties.  As Rothery says “despite selling millions of albums, we were never wealthy.”  To a large extent this situation was corrected by their groundbreaking crowd funding approach after 1996, freed of big label shackles and with ultimately a constant recycling, reshaping and reissuing of catalogue.

Mind you, in the 1980s Rothery was able to buy his first house, own five Porsches and travel the world so it wasn’t all bad.  In that sense “Postcards From The Road” is essentially  a rock and roll travelogue taking in places such as Berlin (before the wall came down) and Tel Aviv.

As we creep into the Hogarth-era the band are working with a pop producer Chris Neil.  If ever someone was going to knock a band into shape as a means to an end it was Neil who apparently worked very quickly. However Rothery bemoans the fact that some band members thought the resultant album ‘Holidays In Eden’ was too commercial in places and he thought it might have been more rocky.  It remains one of their finest offerings.

Unless you are a Marillion fan through and through – a fan of both Fish and Hogarth period – this book is not essential.  If you lean more towards the early period it provides a fascinating pictorial record.  We assume that from 1993 the available material via digital cameras and smartphone will have grown exponentially.  Lovers of the Hogarth era will have to wait for a projected volume two.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

Steve Hogarth Diaries (Volumes 1 & 2, 2014)

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