Monday, March 14, 1983

Marillion released debut album, Script for a Jester’s Tear

First posted 3/10/2011; updated 10/3/2020.

Script for a Jester’s Tear

Marillion


Released: March 14, 1983


Peak: 175 US, 7 UK, 51 CN


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.3 UK, 0.3 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: neo-progressive rock


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Script for a Jester’s Tear [8:42]
  2. He Knows You Know [5:07] (1/31/83, #21 AR, #35 UK)
  3. The Web [9:10]
  4. Garden Party [7:17] (6/6/83, #16 UK)
  5. Chelsea Monday [8:17]
  6. Forgotten Sons [8:22]

Lyrics by Derek Dick (Fish). Music by Marillion (Dick/ Kelly/ Mosley/ Rothery/ Trewavas).


Total Running Time: 46:45


The Players:

  • Derek Dick, aka Fish (vocals)
  • Steve Rothery (guitar)
  • Mark Kelly (keyboards)
  • Pete Trewavas (bass)
  • Mick Pointer (drums)

Rating:

3.925 out of 5.00 (average of 13 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

Marillion formed in 1979 in Aylesbury, Buckinhamshire, England. By the time of the neo-progressive rock band’s first officially released recordings in 1982, only drummer Mick Pointer and guitarist Steve Rothery remained from the original lineup. Fish had joined as the leader singer and lyricist, Mark Kelly as keyboardist, and Pete Trewavas as bassist. This lineup released the October 1982 single “Market Square Heroes” in October 1982 and, in March 1983, Script for a Jester’s Tear, “a landmark debut album that would give prog a much-needed shot in the arm.” DE

The myth that punk rock killed prog has been overstated; the genre “was doing a job of killing itself. Its founding fathers had either imploded (Yes, ELP), streamlined their sound so much as to be virtually unrecognizable (Genesis, Rush), or faded into commercial irrelevance (Caravan, Camel).” DE Marillion was “regarded as the pre-eminent force of this neo prog movement,” MD a banner Fish wasn’t excited to hoist. “I never saw us as being champions of anything…We were just doing what we did.” DE As Trewavas said, “We weren’t necessarily a rock band, we certainly weren’t a pop band. But we were selling out clubs like the Marquee, and we had quite a fan base.” DE They weren’t the first of their kind, “but they were certainly the most successful, and arguably the most important.” DE

A large part of the band’s appeal was due to Fish, who Rothery called “a very forceful frontperson.” DE The songs on the album completely satisfy as Fish’s poetic and introspective lyrics require repeat listening to completely absorb. Fish always has something to say and is never at a loss for a clever way to do so.

Musically, it sounds like the rest of the band shuffled through instrumental bits and pieces until they found suitable background noise to accommodate whatever Fish retrieved from what one guesses is a vast collection of journals and diaries. That isn’t to say that the music doesn’t adequately complement the lyrics (the title track exemplifies how the music can enhance the drama of the vocals), just that neither appears to have been crafted with the other in mind.

Detractors have accused Marillion of copying early Genesis when they were fronted by Peter Gabriel, a comparison not without merit considering both band’s tendencies toward complicated imagery and dramatic flair, not to mention the theatrical stage presences of their frontmen. Regarding the musical similarities, Fish said, “I look back on it now and a lot of those criticisms were justified. I mean, ‘Grendel’ [the 17-minute epic featured on the ‘Market Square Heroes’] was ‘Supper’s Ready’ [a nearly 23-minute song from Genesis’ 1972 Foxtrot album]. We were holding onto the skirts of our influences, trying to find the confidence to break away from it.” DE “Mark Kelly’s keyboard textures and Steve Rothery’s restless guitar work” DE also “paid lip service to their influences.” sup>DE Even so, “this was new music for a new decade” DE as Marillion reignited interest in progressive rock.

“Script for a Jester’s Tear”

Every song on the album except the title cut had existed in some form for at least a year. Fish wrote the song about his first serious relationship and, as he said, “all the questions and issues that brought with it. There was a lot of introspection going on in the lyrics.” DE

Musically, it “started with a piano-led lamentation that then transitioned into a playful, Medieval-styled mid-section that conjured an image of a bustling king’s court. The mood then turned gloomy and dark with marked flourishes of distorted guitar along side lush organ, then bleeding into an epilogue of anthemic guitar ad-lib as well as glassy chimes and bells.” CR

“He Knows You Know”

This “rockin’ stomper” CR was the first single and the only cut on the album to come in under seven minutes. Lyrically, it “sweated junkie paranoia from its every pore” DE while musically it was “vibing off something more sinister and metallic, courtesy of the scathing guitar as well as punchy bassline.” CR

“The Web”

On this “nine-minute, textured epic,” CR “Fish’s lyrics veered between rage, frustration, and heartbreak.” DE “With its spider-like guitar plucks, keyboard melodies, and heat-of-the-moment guitar interlude” CR this “was a prog bedsit anthem.” DE

“Garden Party”

The second single from the album “showcases Marillion at the peak of its powers.” JF Fish lashes out at the cultural elite with phrases like “smiles polluted with false charm” and “social climbers polish ladders, wayward sons again have fathers.” “It was the anti-Brideshead Revisited; a furious, sarcastic class-war anthem that punched and jabbed like a Muirhouse street fighter.” DE “Here, the influence of Rush was very apparent, especially in Fish’s vocal timbre and phrasing that recalled that of Geddy Lee, as well as the rhythm section’s symphonic shots and overall structure.” CR

“Chelsea Monday”

Fish was inspired to write this “tale of a doomed rich girl” DE because of a newspaper headline he read on “one of the amphetamine-fuelled early morning walks through London he had taken to going on.” DE This “was initially a bit bluesy and starry, then breaking into a stellar mid-song guitar-led instrumental interlude, and ending in a piano coda.” CR

“Forgotten Sons”

This song “concludes the opus magnificently.” JF Fish attacks warmongers “who order desecration, mutilation, verbal masturbation in their guarded bureaucratic wombs.” It “was ostensibly a protest song about the situation in Northern Ireland, though it could be read as a furious critique of the Thatcher government.” DE Musically, it displays “vestiges of the band’s Punk and Post-Punk beginnings; then proceeded to the mid-section in a gracefully flowing rhythm; and ultimately, wrapped up the entire jester’s show with the majestic Yes/ELP/Styx-reminiscent, horn-adorned denouement.” CR


Notes:

A reissue includes a second disc with a demo of “He Knows You Know,” an alternate version of “Chelsea Monday,” and non-album tracks “Market Square Heroes” (two versions), “Three Boats Down from the Candy,” “Grendel,” and “Charting the Single.”

Review Sources:


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