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30 Years Ago: Marillion Release ‘Fugazi’

EMI

You could almost hear the unified, horrified screams of thousands of aging punk rockers, on March 12, 1984, as they watched Marillion — the greatest new hope of progressive rock — crash the U.K. Top 5 with their sophomore album, ‘Fugazi,’ and deal a symbolic deathblow to punk’s late-‘70s pretension of slaying the might prog dinosaur, once and for all.

But in fact, the telltale signs of Britain’s so-called neo-progressive revival had been there for all to see in recent years, thanks to the release of notable albums by revealingly named new outfits like Twelfth Night, IQ, Pallas, and Marillion themselves, who’d made a sizable splash with their astonishing, grandiose debut album, ‘Script for a Jester’s Tear,’ just one year prior.

Then, over the subsequent months of intense touring, Marillion’s mission gained steady momentum across the U.K. and continental Europe; a momentum that not even the dismissal of drummer Mick Pointer could endanger — especially once he was replaced by the more accomplished and experienced Ian Mosley, whose CV included stints backing erstwhile Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, among others.

Indeed, Mosley proved to be the final piece of the Marillion puzzle, completed by guitarist Steve Rothery, keyboardist Mark Kelly, bassist Pete Trewavas, and charismatic frontman Derek William Dick — a.k.a. “Fish” — as they threw themselves into the grueling recording sessions (requiring ten different studios, according to All Music Guide expert John Franck) before emerging with ‘Fugazi,’ which, as a result, was named after the armed forces jargon for a “totally f-ed up situation.”

Amid all of these recording difficulties, it must have been a shock to Marillion’s still-developing fan base when the first single released by EMI, two months ahead of the album, was the uncharacteristically brief and uncomplicated, ‘Punch and Judy,’ which nevertheless defied suspicions to climb all the way to No. 29 in the U.K. charts.

And any concerns that Marillion might be “selling out” were duly quashed by the remainder of ‘Fugazi,’ which proved just as diverse, ambitious, even preposterous (in the best possible prog-rock sense) as ‘Script.’ They matched epic, complex musicianship with oblique wordplay to perfection on the likes of ‘Assassing,’ ‘Jigsaw,’ ’Incubus,’ and the title track — all of which would become perennial concert favorites for years to come.

If anything, the new album was, at once, more polished (in terms of both production standards and song arrangements) and a tad less consistent than its predecessor, unquestionably falling short of heightened expectations on the somewhat less-than-stellar ‘Emerald Lies’ and certainly the subpar ‘She Chameleon.’

However, ‘Fugazi’ easily proved its worth over the ensuing months, remaining on the U.K. charts for an amazing 20-week run that categorically proved that first album was no fluke, consolidated Marillion’s position at the head of neo-prog movement, and then set the stage for a bona fide commercial breakthrough to be accomplished via 1985’s ‘Misplaced Childhood.’

Next: Vote in March Riff Madness

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