I recently received an email from one of my all-time favorite bands, Marillion. They have been playing their own style of rock - some would say it ranges from progressive to pop - for over 30 years. While not an stadium-filling kind of ensemble, Marillion are undoubtedly popular and fill venues worldwide with music-hungry fans.
Fifteen million albums sold, sharing the stage with Queen, a catalog with literally scores of songs, and more world tours than you can shake a stick at is nothing to look down upon.
After being introduced to the band in Tucson in 1986 by Herman Brau, a guy Rob Schumacher and I met the previous year in London whilst back-packing through Europe after college, I quickly fell in love with the style, the lyrics and the cadence (if you will) of the band. They drew upon influences like Genesis, Camel, and the Beatles; later Radiohead and others. They are on their second singer, who joined the band in the late 1980's. Singer Steve Hogarth took some getting used to, but brought a more "poppy" influence and certainly a greater sense of social and environmental sensitivity that did their previous singer Fish.
Still, the standout for me has to be Steve Rothery, one of the most soulful rock guitarists of his own right I've ever heard. Read an interview from Classic Rock Blog here. Plus, he races Porsches in his spare time! Seriously though, his solos are to die for. Click here for a listen to a great song called "Neverland" that features the full measure of the band.
I've seen Marillion a few times, interviewed their keyboardist Mark Kelly, attended a "listening party" in LA, joined their "Front Row Club", and even participated as an early contributor to the Internet fund-raising North American fans conducted in the late '90's to help fund the band's tour here in N.A. All of it - including the fan-funded tour - has stretched into a marvelous experience and I think perhaps the inspiration for their forward-thinking approach to using the Internet to connect directly with their fans. As such, over the years they've added some great staff like Lucy Jordache and Erik Neilson (to name but two) to handle the website, promotions, tour planning, ordering, etc. and well as linked up with video producers The Boom-Boom Boys to create some killer DVDs.
Which brings us back to the aforementioned email announcing Episode #1 of "Racket TV" (Play now on the Marillion YouTube channel) The bands' homespun practice place and recording studio is called the Racket Club. This first episode begins the chronicle of the making of their next album, which will be an acoustic "re-rendering" of many of their earlier songs (and maybe a few new ones) called "L=M" (or Less equals More).
I, for one, am hoping for a band rendition of "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney). The interview with bass guitarist Pete Trewavas is cool as are the clips from the studio floor filled with all manner of interesting musical goodies.
L=M is promised this fall; you can bet this rabid fan will be checking out every Racket TV video and will be most assuredly pre-ordering!