Friday, June 13, 2008

If You've Even Heard of This Band, I'll Be Shocked

Ann Marie Don Vito introduced me to Marillion during my junior year of high school. The progressive rock band's Misplaced Childhood album featuring the ballad "Kayleigh" had recently come out and apparently it resonated with her. I mean REALLY resonated. She wrote down all the lyrics to the song -- yes, by hand -- and then made copies for all her friends on the school's ditto machine.

That was actually a pretty significant investment of time and effort back in those days. Much more involved than just sharing a link with your Facebook friends in a status update. Or posting on your blog, for that matter.

I was pretty much a mainstream pop/rock guy at the time, but the lyrics were pretty cool so I gave the song a listen and liked it. I picked up the album (on cassette, of course), then got Clutching at Straws the next year and I was officially a fan.

Even when I went on to college and got very into new wave music, I continued to listen to Marillion. I didn't meet too many other folks who knew them, but the ones who had were always fans. The very definition of a cult following, I suppose.

A huge concert poster from one of their tours of France adorned the wall of my dorm room, which I couldn't read but thought looked really cool. Sophomore year I met Mirek Bobek, who got me into the band's older stuff (and would eventually go on to be my fraternity brother, roommate and a groomsman at my wedding). I made a tape of his copy of B'Sides Themselves which I wore out on a bus ride back home to Albany for fall break.

Then lead singer and songwriter Fish left the band. Their next album, Season's End, came out in the spring of 1989 with new singer Steve Hogarth and I eagerly bought it. It was all right, but Fish was such a big reason why I liked Marillion in the first place (literally -- I think he's 6'6" tall) that the music just wasn't the same without him.

I never bought another Marillion album again, even though the band has continued to have a very successful career to this day. Fish has since released a bunch of solo stuff and I never bought any of that, either. There was just something special for me about what they did together that neither could pull off separately.

I found out years later that the band's original name was Silmarillion after the J.R.R. Tolkien book of the same name, and they shortened it to avoid copyright issues. Tolkien fans?!?! No wonder I liked them!

I always thought if I ever had a daughter I'd name her Kayleigh. It's a beautiful name and I have some Gaelic in me on my mom's side. But when we actually did have our daughter in 2003 Danelle correctly pointed out that there were already way too many Kaylies, Kylies, Kylas, Kaylees and so on running around, so Taryn it was.

The Aes Sedai I played in the Wheel of Time MUD got the name as a consolation prize, and I do believe it struck some fear in young Novices and Accepteds. There was one other player who immediately got the reference -- his own name, Llewlyn, was similarly inspired.

Somehow I found out a couple of weeks ago that Fish was on his first solo tour of the States in 11 years and was going to be at the Fox Theatre in Boulder last night. Having never seen Marillion in concert I figured I'd go, and I was glad I did.

He's 50 now and never had the most powerful voice to begin with. But in a small venue like the Fox with a small crowd (200 people would be a generous estimate), his presence definitely filled the place.

His solo stuff was better than I expected, but I most enjoyed the old Marillion stuff he did. For some reason he stuck exclusively to songs from Clutching at Straws, doing seven of them during his set. He stopped every few songs to chat with the crowd, usually for several minutes and always well received. I'm sure it wasn't the same as if I'd gotten to see the full band during their heyday 22 years ago, but getting to experience some of their music in person filled a little hole in my personal concert history.

I heard at my 20th high school reunion last summer that Ann Marie was living somewhere in Colorado, but she was nowhere in sight. Since he didn't play "Kayleigh" she probably would have been disappointed anyway.

But I wasn't. :)


Ace Hunter said...

"I always thought if I ever had a daughter I'd name her Kayleigh."

Do you remember when I asked you how your kids "Zak and Kayleigh" were doing? You corrected me, but at least I feel better about where I came up with that.

As you may know, I'm a huge progressive rock (and progressive metal) fan.

At the last Dream Theater concert I attended they worked some of Marillion's Sugar Mice into one of their own songs. Good stuff.


SteveHarbula said...

Oddly, Sugar Mice wasn't one of the songs Fish did. He pranced around like a fool at the beginning of Incommunicado, like he clearly thought the song was a trivial piece of pop fluff that the record label made them do. He opened with Slainte Mhath, which I've always liked even though the melody sounds eerily similar to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.