My 2012 book contains the following paragraph:
'I’d originally, been drawn to the stunning Marillion cover artwork by Mark Wilkinson as I browsed the record department of Woolco, but when I heard those first few lines I was immediately captivated, it was heady stuff. The almost poetic lyrics of Script For A Jester’s Tear or the grim depiction of a young British soldier on the streets of Belfast in the haunting Forgotten Sons, spoke to me in a way that no music ever had. '
Now, in common with many of you, Marillion & Fish have played major parts in my life, but how many of you also found their music during the early 80s where Dungeons & Dragonsand similar role playing games were all the rage, with avant grade political art exhibitions, ten a penny?
Moreover, how many of you were also drawn to those things? How many of you found several introductions to the cultural aspects of the world in a similar way?
I am not a political person by nature although I am a dreamer and something of a cultural Pandora. But as I roamed the streets of Sheffield as a teenager, I found myself drawn into role playing games (these have filled my life and indeed shaped it ever since and are how I make my living aged almost 50) and as I was already heavily influenced by art and history, I spent a lot of my spare time in galleries, looking at renaissance paintings, modern automata and strangely developing a taste for radical politically inspired artwork. I would collect flyers for various fringe groups, taking in the rhetoric and the graphics, without any thoughts on the actual politics and if I saw an interesting shop such as ‘EXIT Books’ which stocked some really hardcore underground literature, as well as books full of R. Crumb artwork which blew my mind, I had to go in no matter what.
Remember that at this time it was very easy to get a kicking for looking different to other youths or being perceived as ‘standing out’ so for a timid, skinny kid this was pretty risky.
My musical tastes at the time were very eclectic and included Ian Dury, Adam And The Ants, Skids, Iron Maiden, Hazel O’Connor and Tenpole Tudor. Then on a regular trip to Woolco, having been drawn to a Roxy Music album cover, I walked back along the racks and saw the Script cover. I marvelled at the artwork and read the lyrics on the sleeve, trying to put a tune to the words. I was pretty damned certain that a band who had such stunning artwork on their records would be just the ticket musically. And so, I bought my first Marillion record and from there on it was a downhill slope into a world of alternatives to the norm.
A natural loner, I lost myself in the fantastic. I absorbed fantasy and science fiction like a sponge. Back then you kept things like that to yourself and at school there were about half a dozen people with similar tastes. We talked of fantasy, Marillion, Yes and who’d been bullied lately. We compared art homework, bitched about how basic the history course work was and found that with our combat jackets, white Hi-Tec sneakers, mullet hair cuts and ability to converse about more than just sport and who was the ‘hardest’ kid in the school, we became rather popular with the girls - not that we did anything about it.
For me the perfect afternoon in my last 6 months of school was to finish at lunchtime, walk home with a group of gamer mates and girls (two of them were also into D&D - unheard of at the time) arguing over which Script track was best, and then after a salami salad sandwich (with salad cream), I’d stick on the newly released Fugazi, knock off any coursework and then lose myself in Ringworld by Larry Niven. To this day I often have to grab my well thumbed copy, visualising myself looking down from space at the immensity of the Ringworld with Incubus and Emerald Lies taking me back to simpler times, despite the fact that at the time it was all a lot heavier to my youthful mind.
Just after Fugazi was released I was the victim of some serious bullying by a sixth form kid at school, and a fight resulted. Something in me snapped and I fought back for the first time in my life. The end result was I was charged with assault despite being the victim and for about 3 months I had the threat of prosecution over my head, until I was given a caution and told it was a formality because frankly I was plainly not a hardened criminal…
But all through that time a cocktail of escapist literature and Marillion probably stopped me doing something fatally stupid and preventing me ‘taking the alternative way’.
Anyway, how many of those of you in this group find that my own experiences resonate with you?
I expect that all the best freaks are here...