The ‘difficult second album’. It’s one of the most repeated cliches in rock music over the last few decades, but the number of bands who have their own examples are legion. Marillion were no exception when Fugazi arrived a year after the debut Script For A Jester’s Tear in 1984. Personnel changes, producer issues and time constraints all came together to make the recording of the album something of an uphill task. As always, the big problem with Album Number Two is that the debut contains material that you’ve been playing live for a while, honing the songs perhaps over years, whereas the sophomore effort is the first time that material has to be composed quickly and to order, which has temporarily derailed many a talented artist over the years. Nonetheless, when Fugazi appeared it scarcely betrayed any hint of upheaval in its gestation, and retains a special place in the hearts of many fans (present company no exception!) to this day.
The album has now received the deluxe treatment already afforded so splendidly to the Script and Misplaced Childhood releases, on either side of it, and as with those two albums – particularly Script – it could easily be said to be fulfilling its true potential. We’ve already reviewed the album, but it’s always nice to get another opinion – and those opinions don’t come much more definitive than the recollections of ex-frontman Fish and bassist Pete Trewavas, who both kindly agreed to share their thoughts about the new release, and their recollections of making the album, almost four whole decades ago! I’ll pause for a moment at this point while you shake your head and mutter about how old you feel…
The first thing which I brought up was the lead-up to the album after the release of Script For A Jester’s Tear just twelve months earlier, because it had been a chaotic year to say the least. Of course, founding drummer Mick Pointer had been fired from the band after the final show of the 1983 UK tour, but what often gets forgotten is that, by the time Ian Mosley came in to record the Fugazi album (he’s still there now of course), the band had got through three other drummers before recording even began! Brought in as the first replacement for Mick was ex-Camel drummer Andy Ward who did a US tour and filmed an Old Grey Whistle Test slot with the band, before having to leave owing to personal issues. Following that came John Marter (aka Martyr), who played on the re-recordings of Market Square Heroes and Three Boats Down From The Candy which appeared on the Punch And Judy single. He played a series of shows in the USA with the band as support to Rush, and was an excellent drummer, but was felt to be a little too straightforward ‘rock’ in his style for Marillion’s material, so he was in turn replaced by Jonathan Mover, who took part in some early writing sessions for Fugazi before personality conflicts with Fish saw him replaced, at last, by the man who was finding his ‘band for life’, Ian Mosley.
Fish was first to offer his thoughts about this time: ‘Yeah, we got Andy in first, pretty much without auditioning, because it was Andy Ward, you know! And he was good for a while, but what we didn’t know was that he had been having some personal issues, and he started to have a pretty bad time on the American tour. It became clear that he just wasn’t up to it in terms of his mental state at the time, so unfortunately we had to change things. John Marter came in, and he was actually very good, a good drummer and a nice guy as well, very reliable. He did the Rush shows with us, but his style just wasn’t quite right for the stuff we were doing at the time. He was more of a straight rock drummer rather than the material that we were doing. I’ve played with John in recent years in my own band though, and I have a lot of respect for the guy. We got Jonathan Mover in then, but almost straight away I knew that was a mistake. We didn’t get on at all, he had a bit of an attitude about him, and it would never have worked with him on a personal level. I just felt he was never the drummer for us.When Ian joined it was different again, he is a great guy to have in a band. As well as his drumming, which was excellent from the word go, he was always a very calming influence whenever disagreements started happening. To be in a band you have to be a well rounded person as well as a musician, because you spend a lot of time together. Ian had all of that, and straight away he was the right fit’.
Pete has similar feelings in the main. ‘Getting Andy in was something we jumped at, really. I mean, I loved Camel, and I thought Andy’s playing in the band was fantastic. I remember when I was at college, and I went into this big common room where there was a big stereo system with an album playing, and the cover propped up by it. It was Mirage, and I just remember thinking ‘oh, I’m going to like it here!’ That album was such a great record, and to get Andy in the band was a big thing for me. Unfortunately we didn’t know at the time but he’s had a kind of breakdown shortly before, and he started drinking quite badly on the American tour, so he just wasn’t in the right shape at the time. John Marter was good, but a little simplistic in his style for our crazy things, whereas Jonathan Mover was a great player but he and Fish clashed almost as soon as they met. When we got Ian in, it was interesting because of course he had played with people like Steve Hackett and Gordon Giltrap, but one thing I really knew him from was a band called Trace. I remember the first band I was in when I was about fifteen, called Orthi, we had a keyboard/violin player – who went on to work for Radio Three actually – and he loved Trace. So I was familiar with them before a lot of people were. Even now, when people sometimes bring a Trace album for Ian to sign, I’ll look over and go ‘Oh yeah, I know that!’ Of course, having been with Steve Hackett was a big thing though, because all that stuff was right up our street!’
The firing of band members is, of course, directly addressed on Fugazi‘s opening track Assassing, but Fish is quick to make it clear that there is no connection to any of the aforementioned drummers. ‘No, a lot of people assume that’s about Mick Pointer, but it’s not, not at all. It was written about Diz [Diz Minnitt, bass player before Pete]. That was the hardest firing I ever had to do, because he was my mate, in a way that Mick Pointer never was. Diz and I joined the band at the same time, and we were close friends. He had to go, because he really wasn’t good enough as a bass player, but I hated having to do that, and that’s what the song is directly about. The ironic thing about that was that Mick was very keen that Diz should go, but that caused the writing on the wall for himself, because Pete was so good as a bass player, such a step up, that he demanded a better drummer to play alongside, and Mick Pointer wasn’t going to be it. Pete made such a difference to us it was incredible – I remember seeing him play with a band called The Metros in a pub in Aylesbury, and I came back and said ‘Guys, I think I’ve found our bass player’ – because Diz had been fired without a replacement lined up. Everybody was unsure about Pete at first, because he was like a wee ‘pop star’, you know? But a great bass player’.
Pete perhaps surprisingly has a slightly different take on the subject of Diz: ‘It’s nice to be appreciated of course, but I also have to say that Diz was actually a pretty good bass player really. The issue was that he was more from a punk sort of background, and his style of playing was the wrong fit for the band. But there again I liked a lot of that sort of stuff – The Jam, The Stranglers, particularly The Blockheads – great bass players in a lot of those bands. Diz might not have been what Marillion needed of course, but he was no slouch – playing the right sort of stuff he was very good. I was completely different musically though, my influences made me just right for the band. I’d come from the 1970s prog rock world, and I loved the likes of Camel, Caravan, all that sort of thing. You remember that Caravan album In The Land Of Grey And Pink? What a record that was – and For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night as well. They were great albums. And Kasim Sultan from Utopia, I admired his bass playing enormously. So when I heard the sort of long pieces that Marillion were doing, with the guitar solos and all of that, I instrinctively knew what I would so with it. That was my ‘bread and butter music’, that I loved listening to and absorbing stuff from, so in that regard it was easy for me’.’.
Perhaps the most divisive track among fans is She Chameleon, which is often cited as a weak point, but of course the keyboard-driven, atmospheric, almost sombre music the track is put to is not the original version of the song, as it began life as a much more upbeat and lively song until being retired as a stage number in early 1982, before reappearing in its Fugazi guise with the same lyric. As an admirer of that original version, I was keen to know why it was changed in that way, and how successful they view its reinvention. Fish is somewhat critical of the piece, but not of the new arrangement itself: ‘I think the version which made it onto the album is the more fitting, as that accompaniment fits the lyric much better than a livelier arrangement which is a little at odds with it. But the problem with it was that it is just too long, and it had bits added to it which didn’t really fit. It starts off really broody, which is great, but then it changes and loses that quality a bit. If I’d been working on that as a solo piece, it would have ended up a different song. I’d have kept the darkness, because that’s what it needed, but the arrangement would have been better’. Pete: ‘I actually don’t think I ever played the earlier version. Looking back, I think it might have been dropped when Diz left. But I agree about it being a bit too long on the album, I think that’s a valid point’. That original take on the song had been available on taped gigs traded between fans for decades of course, but is now accessible to all as part of the Early Stages box set.
One of my personal favourites on the album has always been Emerald Lies, both musically and lyrically. Fish, however, is much more guarded about this. ‘Emerald Lies was a good song, but I can’t listen to it as we recorded it on the album, because there is a piece which just doesn’t fit in there. It’s going along as it should, and then there’s an instrumental part which is dropped in from something else, and it’s totally jarring to me. It’s like ‘am I listening to the same song here’, you know? It was put in I think from necessity rather than good songwriting practices, and there are a few things like that on the album’. Pete once again has a slightly different viewpoint here, as he suggests ‘Yes, we certainly ended up doing that a few times, dropping a guitar solo into a song or something, because we were being so rushed that we would have to start working on another song before the previous one was finished, and it was impossible to focus 100% on each song at once in isolation. You were up against a schedule with the studio costing a thousand quid a day or whatever, and the record company were strict about it. We had targets to hit and complete each day. Having said that, I don’t have a problem with Emerald Lies in particular, I think it’s pretty good. I think what it might be is that Fish had a very clear view of how he planned the song to end up and develop, and with that in mind a difference will always stand out and be jarring. But to someone who never heard it during development, it probably sounds absolutely fine, because that’s how they’ve always heard it and how to their mind it should be. It’s the same as when you hear an edit when you’re used to the full piece, it can sound all wrong, yet someone who didn’t know the longer version would probably find no problem with it. The closer you are involved with the creative process, especially in terms of writing, the more that can happen’. This is actually an excellent point, as I for example heard the original She Chameleon, and liked it, before Fugazi came out, and that may always have coloured my view, skewing my perspective on the remake. It’s an interesting point, I tell Pete, and one which we often don’t take into account when we are very critical of an alternate take or live version of something we know well.
Perhaps the two most popular tracks with fans over the years have remained Incubus and the title track (the latter of which has given rise to some online discussion regarding a couple of changes for this new release, in the shape of a period of silence early in the song being shortened, and the fade-out ending changed). Fish is in unequivocal agreement about those two tracks being highlights. ‘Absolutely, those two are my favourite tracks on the album, without a shadow of a doubt, particularly Incubus, I love the drama of it, the theatre of it, and I still like it from a lyrical point of view. Melodically it moves through different dynamics, and it is a classic Marillion song. It’s one I’ll definitely play on my farewell tour, and in fact I think I might bring Fugazi back in for the UK shows this November. As regards the remaster, I think the album sounds much better now. The sound was better than Script when it first came out I think, punchier, both because of the production and because as musicians we knew what we were doing a bit more, but it was nothing like as good as we wanted it to be, owing to time constraints and other issues as the release date came up’. Pete agrees with the quality of those songs, but goes into some more detail as to the edits: ‘I can’t specifically remember the circumstances around cutting out a bit of silence – though the way things are these days if you leave more than a couple of seconds of silence people will switch off or do something else, it sometimes seems! No, in all seriousness, any changes were discussed and approved by us all. We had meetings about it, and we all signed off on it. I do remember that we were unhappy with the ending of Fugazi itself on the original record, and it is more in line with how we envisioned it now. Once again, it’s another example of being familiar with something, but in fact there were probably more edits and cuts we were unhappy with on the original vinyl release, because you had to get it down to a certain length with the vinyl restrictions’.
Cinderella Search is a song which has become a favourite with the fans down the years, but it didn’t make it onto the album, having instead to settle for being the B-Side to the Assassing single. As Fish explains though, ‘It was a great song, that’s right, but it was done too late for the album. It had already been finished, and we did Cinderella Search when we needed a B-Side. This is what often happens actually, when the pressure is off you can come up with something really good. We were probably a lot more relaxed after the album was complete, and it just came out that way’. One other song which was of course a hit single was Punch And Judy, in a style which belied its rather dark subject matter relating to domestic violence and the like, which many people, and kids especially, seeing it on Top Of The Pops wouldn’t have picked up on. ‘Yeah, domestic violence and failed marriages. That was one that got ‘Marillionised’, and I felt a little bit that it went in a direction I didn’t really envision. When I played it later myself at my solo shows, and even stripped it back to an acoustic arrangement, it ended up much straighter and I think fitted the lyric a bit better. But you can’t go back and change what was on Fugazi, it was what it was. One thing I think you can see when you listen to the Real To Reel live album is how much that material developed on the road, and how different it is after having been played live for a while. More so than any other album we did, largely because of those time constraints. It wasn’t just the band either, [producer] Nick Tauber was really stressed out towards the end of the recording, and it’s almost miraculous that we got the album out at all. That’s why Cinderella Search was so easy to come up with, there was nothing to prove and no pressure by then’.
I ask both of the guys how they rated Fugazi in terms of the four that the Fish-fronted band recorded. Fish is quick to answer this: ‘It’s my least favourite of the four. Partly because of the things I talked about which were done to get it finished and didn’t really fit, but also partly because of the time we had recording it, which was so stressful and rushed. If we’d had another three months or so I think the album would have sounded very different in the end. Clutching At Straws is still my favourite actually’. Pete largely agrees in terms of the experience of the recording, but is a little less critical of the result. ‘I think it’s still a good record in the main. It was certainly rushed, and some things weren’t quite right, but there is some good material there. In the current band we do return to some of the songs from that era, but I must admit that Fugazi is one which we have very seldom gone back to in that way. A big reason for that is because of the style Fish was using in his delivery on those songs, which is very much at odds with the way Steve [Hogarth] sings, and they just wouldn’t work. One that we have played a few times and it’s been very good is actually Cinderella Search, but not too many, no. I still think there’s a lot of good stuff on the Fugazi album though, some great drumming on there, and I’ve always been quite pleased with the bass playing on it. I have to say that, for the four of us in the band who were involved back then, it’s been great fun to go back and listen to the stuff again, and compare the new mixes. I’ve really enjoyed it’.
The year of the Fugazi tour was also the year which saw the old warhorse Forgotten Sons retired from the live set, having already moved from set-closer to encore – though it was fittingly celebrated with a superlative performance featured on the Real To Reel album. I can only imagine that a song like that which generates (and relies on) so much emotion can only be performed so many times before it becomes a ‘Free Bird’ or ‘Paranoid’, churned out by rote. Fish: ‘Yes, it would have become very difficult to keep performing that one with the same level of emotion and power in it, and it was something which had to be like that. There are always new songs coming in as well, and something has to give to make room. It’s like Grendel or something, there’s only so many times you can perform something before it starts getting like going through the motions, and you don’t want to do that with a song like Forgotten Sons. I do agree about that version on Real To Reel though, that’s a brilliant version of it, one of the best I think’. I comment that there was a silver lining to Fugazi not selling quite as many copies as EMI were hoping on first release, as it made them put out Real To Reel, with a tour to promote it, which gave the band a little bit of a breather before having to come up with what would become Misplaced Childhood. ‘Well, that’s true – but don’t use the word ‘breather’! We certainly didn’t get a rest out of it, we just had to do more touring. A ‘writing breather’ maybe you could say, but certainly not an actual break!’
Talking of live performances, the deluxe set also includes a complete live show which is excellent. Pete is enthusiastic about this: ‘Yeah, I know! We wanted to get that out as it was , because we were a great live band at the time, and this recording is exactly how it was, warts and all. Unlike when we released Real To Reel originally, we would be over-picky I think, sort of ‘we can’t release this, because there’s a bass pedal squeak that you can hear!’. I think we were probably lacking a little confidence over putting out live material at that time, but if you listen to this recording on the new release, if you care enough about it you will be able to hear the odd bass note which would have been fixed at the time, but we wanted to go with all of the crowd noise on there and everything, so there was nothing I could do about it. But that’s fine, you know – it’s live, and it’s a good performance. As long as it’s ‘vibey’ as you might say, that’s what matters at the end of the day’.
Having covered the Fugazi period in some depth, I turn to the subject of the ‘fan divide’ which exists with many, who still proclaim allegiance to either the ‘Fish-era’ or the ‘H-era’. Having been around for both, I ask Pete about this, whether it surprised him, but firstly whether the band ever considered changing their name after Fish departed. His answer is interesting. ‘Yes, we did consider it, actually. We considered it quite seriously, but there were reasons not to, and certainly the record company strongly insisted that we carry on under the same name, which you can understand from their point of view, as they didn’t want to risk losing the audience we had built up and start from square one, as it were. In fact, they originally had more faith in Fish than us after the split. He got a deal, whereas we had to give them demos for approval. When they heard what would become Seasons End they liked it, so they got behind us, but I think they were a bit wary about what we’d do. Starting again under a new name would have been hard, so I think there were good reasons not to change the name. And I’m fine with that now, I’m comfortable with it. There was a time when I’d think ‘hmm – maybe we should have changed the name’, but I think the fans are okay with it now as well. I suppose it can be strange people being strongly in one camp or another, but t’s fine for people to like what they like though, all music and art is like that, there’s no obligation to like something which you don’t, and Marillion were a very big band back in the ’80s. You could argue that we’ve never been as big since, but once again, that’s fine, it’s all music and it’s there for people to enjoy. There was a time of course when Marillion nearly ceased to exist before we started the crowd-funding thing, but in more recent years there has been quite an upsurge, I’m glad to say. You have to go back to how you felt yourself when you were young as well, because it all goes in cycles. I remember as a big Genesis fan, my favourite album was Selling England By The Pound – I liked The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway of course, and that one sounded great, if a little ‘punky’ in a way, but Selling England just had everything. Some of the bass playing and sound on that album, on things like Battle Of Epping Forest – it was incredible. David Hentschel and the engineers working on that album got some amazing sounds, absolutely marvellous. And when Peter Gabriel left and Phil took over on vocals, I was absolutely adamant that this wasn’t Genesis, and that it wouldn’t work, until I heard the Trick Of The Tail album and had to accept I’d been wrong about it. Actually, thinking about that, we shouldn’t have been surprised at having a tough time ourselves after them going through it! And I admit, I was I was just as bad in 1975 – I’d be going ‘How dare they call themselves Genesis?’ (laughs) Then I heard Trick and I was ‘Oh, well this is great, isn’t it? I was wrong…”
Out of all of the band, Pete has probably done more extra-curricular work outside of the band, often in more traditionally ‘prog’ bands – most notably Transatlantic, of course, but also in projects such as Kino, Defence Of The Realm, Edison’s Children and more. Was that from a desire to still play some of that old-school ‘prog’ material as Marillion went down a slightly different, often more ‘atmospheric’ sort of route? ‘Yes, that’s probably fair to say. Not that I didn’t love what we were doing with Marillion, but I suppose I still had that itch to pretend I was Chris Squire! Ha-ha! Actually, a lot of that started when Marillion were in that difficult time which I mentioned before, and there was quite a bit of spare time, and I just love playing, basically. Transatlantic really took off, and I loved that. I still do, but thankfully we’re so much more busy with Marillion now, so the downside of that is that I don’t have as much free time on my hands! I just love the music though, and I love playing’ And nobody can argue with that.
Just before wrapping up, Pete had one final thing he wanted to add: ‘I’d just like to say thank you for doing this, and thank you for being so enthusiastic about it. I know for us it can be ‘oh, it’s just an old album’, but I know that for a lot of people it was a time in their musical lives when they thought a lot of us, and it really was an important album for them, and it’s lovely to be reminded of that, and to find out that it’s still carried through even now. I wanted to say that we really do respect all of that, we really do’.
Which seems a perfect note on which to sign off. My thanks go to both Fish and Pete for their time and openness in talking to me about this, and for the great music which both branches of that original ‘Marillion Tree’ have gone on to give us over the years. ‘Slàinte Mhath!’