Marillion formed in '79 as Silmarillion, after J.R.R. Tolkien's book of the same name - it was shortened in '81 to avoid potential copyright conflicts.
After a huge hit single "Kayleigh" and four albums, "Script For A Jester's Tear" ('83), "Fugazi" ('84), "Misplaced Childhood" ('86) and "Clutching At Straws" ('87), Marillion frontman Fish (Derek W. Dick) made a fateful decision.
"By 1987 we were over-playing live because the manager was on 20 per cent of the gross. He was making a fantastic amount of money while we were working our asses off," said Fish. "Then I found a bit of paper proposing an American tour. At the end of the day the band would have needed a £14,000 loan from EMI as tour support to do it. That was when I knew that, if I stayed with the band, I'd probably end up a raging alcoholic and be found overdosed and dying in a big house in Oxford with Irish wolfhounds at the bottom of my bed."
That realization, plus issues with fellow band members led Fish to take his quixotic lyrics and embark on a solo career.
Had the story ended there, Marillion would have been remembered for their most commercially successful album "Misplaced Childhood," which contained "Kayleigh." But the group decided to press on recruiting Steve Hogarth - perhaps a bit of an odd choice. Coming from New Wave, rather than Prog Rock, Hogarth never owned a Marillion album until he joined the group. Initially, Hogarth didn't even think he was a good fit for the group.
Since Fish's heady lyrics had been a key element in Marillion's success, Hogarth composed the lyrics for "Season's End" with author John Helmer. However, follow-up album, "Holidays In Eden" had Hogarth writing lyrics with the group. Though the latter set had definite pop leanings it failed to make an impact beyond the group's fan base - even disappointing some fans.
"Brave," a concept album, received little promotion which led to poor sales. The next effort, "Afraid Of Sunlight," was Marillion's last album for EMI Records. Here again, Marillion faced a possible end.
Signed by indie label, Castle Records, "This Strange Engine" dropped, and once again there was marginal promotion. The group couldn't even afford a U.S. tour. However, their fans raised $60,000 online to finance the trek.
The group's tenth album, "Radiation," and "marillion.com" completed their record deal.
Critics tended to dismiss the Marillion as a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis knockoff, thanks largely to Fish's lyrics and stage presentation from over a decade earlier. That impression was difficult, if not impossible, to shake.
"If we had known when I joined Marillion what we know now, we'd have changed the name and been a new band," said Hogarth in '00. "It was a mistake to keep the name, because what it represented in the mid-80's is a millstone we now carry. It's such a grave injustice that the media constantly calls us a 'dinosaur prog band'. They only say that out of ignorance because they haven't listened to anything we've done for the last 15 bloody years."
Rather than sign with another indie label and face slow death, Marillion asked fans to finance their next album through pre-orders. 12,000 responded. In addition to the pre-orders, '01's "Anoraknophobia" was also distributed by EMI. To promote the album, and trade on their unfashionable status, the group printed T-shirts with the logo "Marillion: Uncool as F*ck."
Three years later, "Marbles" was financed the same way. Only this time, there were 18,000 pre-orders. "You're Gone," the lead single from the album, reached #7, making it the first Marillion track to reach the UK Top 10 since '87's "Incommunicado."
Marillion released "Somewhere Else," in '07. It was their first album in a decade to make the UK Top 30.
The following year, the double set "Happiness Is the Road," was pre-released by Marillion via P2P networks - yet another first.
"Less Is More," an album featuring acoustic arrangements of previously released tracks (and one new track, "It's Not Your Fault"), dropped in '09.
Marillion's seventeenth studio album, "Sounds That Can't Be Made" could be purchased as either a 2-disc 'deluxe' version (with special features and soundcheck recordings) or as a single CD. The '12 release was partially recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios.
1983 Script For A Jester's Tear
1985 Misplaced Childhood
1987 Clutching At Straws
1989 Seasons End
1991 Holidays In Eden
1995 Afraid Of Sunlight
1997 This Strange Engine
2007 Somewhere Else
2008 Happiness Is The Road
2009 Less Is More
2012 Sounds That Can't Be Made