Marillion / Fugazi 40 Years And Half A Million Pounds Later

It has been just over 40 years since Marillion released their sophomore album Fugazi. Its release in February 1984 was met with excitement from the growing numbers of fans. A festival-busting performance at Reading in 1983, plus the early 1984 tour including the famous Chippenham Goldiggers BBC performance, had opened the eyes and ears of many. This was a band going places.

MetalTalk Editor Steve Ritchie was one eagerly awaiting the release and was thrilled on the first play. There were plenty of great tunes on there, and the Assassing video would appear on new video jukeboxes in pubs. The show at St Andrews Hall in Norwich on 22 February 1984 would open with Assassing, Punch & Judy and Jigsaw, exciting a pumped audience.

We were not aware at the time that the album cost nearly £500,000 in today’s money. Nor were we aware that Marillion were having drummer issues. Backed by EMI, the band had been busy touring to promote Script For A Jesters Tear and were behind in the songwriting.

You can read many online reviews of Fugazi written in the last decade that talk about a disjointed album. That’s not how it appeared to me when it first came out. We gobbled it up and bought the VHS Video, which had all the videos on as well.

With the benefit of hindsight, Fugazi was the definition of the difficult second album.

“Like most bands, writing our first album took over two years if you count the early versions of songs like The Web and Forgotten Sons,” Mark Kelly wrote in his book Marillion Misadventures & Marathons. “When someone in the band came up with a promising-sounding idea, we worked on it. If we didn’t have any new ideas, we didn’t worry. Now, for the first time in our lives, faced with the demands of a major label wanting the next album, we had to write one to order.”

Marillion spent a few weeks in Wales, interspersed with making videos and playing German festivals before their debut tour of the USA and Canada. “The only genuinely good idea we had was a riff Steve [Rothery] had written,” Marks says, “which became the foundation of Assassing. Fish wanted the song to have some Eastern influences because he was channelling whirling dervish assassins in his lyrics.”

The band would have a few months more to play with in the autumn before they were expected to start recording their sophomore album. “We had already decided that She Chameleon, which had been through more changes than Spinal Tap had drummers, wasn’t cutting it musically,” Mark wrote.

The Marillion performance from Reading ’83 was aired on BBC Radio 1 and featured an early version of Assassing. The music was much the same as the final album version, but the lyrics were different in some places. The band were, once again, confident to try out new material in a live setting.

“Fish had already informed EMI that Punch & Judy would be the first single from the new album,” Mark says.” He probably failed to mention that it was about domestic violence or that there was no music just yet. Easy, all we had to do was come up with a catchy tune to go with it. Fish was fixated on the idea of a Bo Diddley type beat, so we tried to incorporate that with something a bit more scintillating. I had a lot of fun working out the 7/8 keyboard intro with Jonathan [Mover].”

The album recording started in mid-November 1983. “An overly confident Nick Tauber [Producer] had decided to record the album in 48 tracks,” Mark says. “This was ambitious because it involved using two 24-track machines running together. A piece of kit that should never have left the lab was used to read the timecode from the master machine and vary the speed of the second slave machine to make it match. In practice, it took 20 to 30 seconds for the slave machine to catch up and stabilise, which meant that every time you had to stop the machine, rewind the tape and go again, it wasted valuable time.

“Over the course of a day, this resulted in many lost hours. We only had about eight weeks booked at The Manor and the first few were spent finishing off the arrangements and writing the music for Fugazi, the title track.”

Tauber would be fired from the project over Christmas. Ian Mosley would become the new official drummer in January 1984. By January, the time at The Manor was over and the band would work across eight studios to complete the album.

There was still time for grand plans, with Mark recording the organ part for She Chameleon at Angel Studios, a former church that still had a working pipe organ. The rush to complete was on. The band would split into two camps to speed up the mixing. The UK Tour began on 11 February 1984, with virtually no rehearsal and the Fugazi mix not complete.

The tour was sold out, and Fugazi entered the UK charts at number five, topping the position of Script the previous year. “What we didn’t know was that EMI were disappointed with the lack of a hit single,” Mark wrote. “Punch & Judy, even with an appearance on Top Of The Pops and kids TV show Razzmatazz, only managed to reach number 29 in the singles chart before dropping like a stone the following week.

“They were also unhappy about the huge studio bill run up by our late album delivery (which wouldn’t be the last time that would happen). Fugazi cost over £120,000, almost twice as much as Script while failing to match its sales. Back in London, storm clouds were gathering over Manchester Square. EMI had pored over the paperwork, added up the numbers, and were now considering dropping Marillion altogether.”

The £120,000 cost of Fugazi is the equivalent of £483,000 in today’s money. After the album’s release, there was to be a renegotiation of how band royalties were divided up. “Putting it bluntly, Fish felt he deserved a bigger slice of the publishing pie, a 50% slice to be precise,” Mark wrote, “which, no matter how you cut it, is a lot of pie. Fish agreed that 50% should be divided equally between the five of us and the remaining 50% be split equally between the lyric and music writers.”

Fans would see another two studio album releases and would enjoy the Fish era for almost another five years. Steve Hogarth joined in 1989, and the band continued on the path of innovation for many years to come.

Sleeve Notes

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