Interview With Mick Pointer
With the re-release of Marillion's milestone debut album, Script For A Jester's Tear, and its re-entry into many album charts, Stefan Hennig had the opportunity to catch up with the band's founding father Mick Pointer and discuss how without his Mum and Dad's coal shed, the album may have never been made.
Hi Mick, how are your keeping? You look very well in the recent photos you posted on Facebook of your walks around Germany.
It was about three years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, something I had had for many years without knowing. So I lost 20 kilograms. I have always been active and enjoyed walking, it was the diet which was the problem. But since Christmas, the weight has slowly been creeping back on. So I am taking up the NHS 0 to 5 km challenge, where you aim to be able to run 5 kilometres in 11 weeks. There is very little to do at the present time (due to Covid-19) apart from exercise.
Which was most exciting, the release of Market Square Heroes or Script...?
There was already the equivalent of an album's worth of material on Market Square Heroes with the inclusion of Grendel. EMI called it an EP, but the reality is that it was almost the length of an album at that time. Personally, I think we were cheated a bit by EMI, who brought it out almost like a bit of a throw-away. However, I understand why they did not want to release it as the first album, because there's a 20-minute track on there. So when Script was released six months later, as the debut album, people tend to forget what came before.
Can you describe how you felt when Script was released?
One of the things that absolutely stands out for me was when we discovered it went Silver, in the UK, only a week or so after its release. This happened while we were on tour. We began the tour at the same time as the album was released. At the time it felt like only weeks before that we were playing in pubs and clubs, just like every other band at the time was doing.
You never know what an album is going to do. We knew it was a great album, as we had been playing the material live for some time. It is very difficult to see what is going to be successful, because there are plenty of great bands who have bought out brilliant albums that have gone nowhere.
I'm not sure the actual date when it was announced that Script had gone Silver, but it was bloody quick. When it entered the UK Album Charts, it entered at number 7. Then it went Silver, but entering the charts at number 7 was incredible. But it was very difficult to gauge how many albums were sold that week. But to get an award, that stands out for me as a great moment.
Have you still got the Silver disc on display?
Yes, and the gold one, and the platinum one. They used to be hung in my bathroom.
I imagine, with the success of Script, and the increase in crowds coming to see Marillion, that it was an indicator that the band were on their way to making it?
When you begin playing in pubs and clubs, playing in front of only a few people, which Marillion did plenty of times, you can gauge how many people are coming along and know of the band.
The next step was playing the Marquee Club. Then selling out the Marquee Club was the next gauge of success. Next is being signed by EMI and releasing the Grendel stuff, then playing a session on the Tommy Vance Friday Night Rock Show. These are all jumps in the band's success.
The recording and release of Script was the next step. Not many albums that are released actually sell enough to receive a Silver award, so the album going Silver within a few weeks of its release, you start to think: “My God, there are a lot of people out there that like the stuff we are doing”.
When you start off like myself, playing in my Mum and Dad's coal shed, and going from that to creating a silver selling album, is well, not an overnight success. These things take years. So yes, it was a great moment.
When you went into the studio, Script was the only song not written? How did it come together?
There were always ideas floating around. Every time you go into a rehearsal, there will be ideas or bits that were there to be used at some point, or even using some of the older material, of which some made it onto the Script album. So it came about as part of being constantly creative, which is the whole point of writing music.
Was She Chameleon already written at that point?
Yes it was, so I have always wondered why I have never received royalties from when it was recorded and released.
What is your favourite Marillion song to play?
I really like He Knows You Know because of the drumming parts. The original track was very different, but it was changed quite a lot, and that was all down to my drum parts, which I am really proud of. On top of that I really like the instrumental part of The Web.
Are there any plans to go on tour with Script again?
I originally did that to celebrate 25 years of Marillion. But not enough people came along to support it.
Who got the brunt of any pranks in the early Marillion days?
I'm a bit of a piss-taker and sarcastic, but not in a mean way. I'm a bit of a joker as well. There were some of the band, like Pete Trewavas and Steve Rothery, who weren't like that. I do remember one time on tour, I always used to share a room with Mark Kelly, and there was one time when we turned everything in the room upside down and built something in the middle of the room for the cleaners to find. We found it incredibly amusing. We never threw TV's out of a window though.
I spoke to you last March at the Arena concert for the CRS and asked you about the re-release of Script, and you said something was in the pipeline, are you glad you contributed to this?
Absolutely, it is as much part of my history, as everyone else who contributed to the album. I've never been derogatory about the album. I've never gone out of my way to say anything derogatory about anybody on the album. They have gone out of their way to say derogatory things about me. I had editorial-say to exclude anything I was not happy with during the interviews, as did everyone else involved, so there is no reason for anyone not to be happy with the release.
Brian Jellyman was asked if he wanted to contribute to the boxed set, and refused, as did Doug Irvine. Diz Minnitt is on it. I did not quite see the point of having Diz Minnitt on there, it would have been okay if all the old members were featured, it seemed an odd decision to have just one old member on the set. It should have been all the members at the time, or none at all. Just to be clear, I mean all the people who did not play on the album.
There is no reason for anyone to say negative things about the album, it is probably Marillion's second most successful album after Misplaced Childhood, and Script is seen by many people as one of the greatest albums of all-time. So to answer your question, yes I wanted to be involved, as that album and band came from me starting playing in my Mum and Dad's coal shed. So for the whole process, I was there from the second it began, to the release of the album.
Marillion — Script For A Jester's Tear - Deluxe Edition
My assumption is that most people reading this will already be familiar with Marillion's 1983 debut. The real question with these types of re-releases is whether there is a compelling reason to own them if you already have a previous version. This decision becomes even more difficult, due to the fantastic remastered editions of Marillion's EMI albums that were released in the late 1990s. Filled with b-sides, demos and live tracks, they were essential for any fan of the band.
So, is this new box set of Script For A Jester's Tear worth purchasing? In a word, yes.
First of all, as with the other recently released Marillion deluxe editions, the packaging is sublime. In book form, with informative liner notes and great photos from the era, it makes an aesthetically-pleasing addition to any CD bookshelf. Also, the documentary, Sackcloth And Greasepaint is a fascinating look into the formation and early days of the band.
Script For A Jester's Tear contains some legendary material, such as the title track, He Knows You Know, Garden Party, and Forgotten Sons. Overall though, I don't consider it a top-tier Marillion album. Both the Fish and H eras produced superior works. That said, the album deservedly played a prominent role in the prog resurgence of the early 80s. Ultimately, I have always found the original production a bit lacking. It took live versions of these songs to bring out their true power.
That fact holds true on the Live At The Marquee Club 1982 concert that is included in this collection. This outstanding show is one of the key reasons to own this release. The band were already masterful performers at this early stage of their careers, and at the age of 24, Fish was a commanding showman. Also, it is astounding to hear how enthusiastic the crowd is, considering that the release of the Script album was still several months away.
The stereo and 5.1 surround remixes by Andy Bradfield and Avril Mackintosh are stellar and a vast improvement on previous versions. Their work brings out nuances in the performances that I hadn't noticed before. To me, that is a big part of why good remixes are fun to listen to. There is no denying that this is the absolute best that Script For A Jester's Tear and the Market Square Heroes EP have ever sounded.
One sour note is the inclusion of the radio edit of Market Square Heroes over the original version. The edit includes the softening of a very prominent lyric ("antichrist" was changed to "battle priest" for the radio edit). This odd decision has received disapproval from some fans, which is warranted. One has to assume that it was a mistake, because otherwise, it doesn't make a lot of sense. However, aside from that curious situation, this beautifully packaged set includes excellent remixes and compelling extras. It is undoubtedly a must for any fan of Marillion.
How do you review an album that has had such a distinct affect on so many people? Marillion's debut EP, Market Square Heroes and their debut album Script For A Jester's Tear transcend the description of a classic release, they are more a social statement in history. Many fans focus solely on the album, but without the statement of intent which Market Square Heroes provided prior to its release, it is questionable whether the album would have achieved the success it did at the time.
The MSH EP was EMI dipping their toes in the water, to gauge whether their new investment would work. As the music industry was still recovering from the kicking that the Punk Era provided, a band based in Aylesbury, consisting of young, ambitious wanna-bes, were generating enormous interest due to their large fan following gained purely from their live performances.
The dominating frontman, all six-foot-plus of angry, imposing Scotsman, wearing bizarre, multi-coloured face paint, gained them a comparison to Genesis. At the time nobody seemed to highlight that the guys in Marillion were working class, rather than private school educated, like many of the progressive bands that went before them. The band's compositions contained an anarchic edge in comparison to Genesis. The music press at that time, always needed to find a suitable label to fix to a band, and so this comparison stood. This pigeon-holing was typical of the social clans at the time, and while Marillion would have fitted into the rock category, they played a more mature and accomplished music than the rock scene could accommodate at the time.
1982 saw the evolution of the super-group with Asia releasing their self-titled debut album. While not doing a massive amount in the UK, they were a phenomenon in America. The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal had evolved, wih the first glimmer of what the future would hold for rock music with the release of Iron Maiden's, Number Of The Beast album. And now a group of minstrels had stormed to the fore of the UK musical scene and were creating an unprecedented wave of fan following. Eventually the music labels' interest would be attracted, and EMI lured Marillion into signing what must have seemed a lucrative contract.
The publicity machine went into overdrive as I remember. I was, at the time, a fan of Yes, Gillan, and similar bands. So when the rumblings of a new band, playing symphonic rock music, having an outlandish singer, and seeing the publicity for their first “single”, with its terrifyingly-manic jester appearing from behind a mask as the cover, (plus the 12 inch single containing a nearly 20-minute track entitled Grendel), what more could a sixteen-year-old youth wish to be associated with?
I remember listening to the single constantly. In the era of the Thatcher government, the unrest in Ireland, the Cold War still ongoing and the risk of nuclear war a distinct possibility, the political rally cry really did reach home to me. From that point I was hooked, not only with Marillion, but the other bands which were around and were labelled with being part of The New Wave Of British Progressive Rock. Again evidence that the media needed to put a label on everything. This label may have isolated many of the early Marillion fans as at the early concerts, the audience was an eclectic mix, including both fans of rock and punk.
The investment for EMI would see the single, released on 25th October 1982, enter the UK singles chart, peaking at number 60, but selling constantly for a number of weeks. Its biggest achievement would be being voted number 4, in the best singles of 1982, in the UK rock magazine Kerrang. Quite a success considering the magazine focused mostly on hard rock and heavy metal.
Marillion were the first out of the starting blocks to properly announce the return of progressive rock. But, this time, the working class had claimed a foothold in the camp. With this came the scepticism and stark reality of youth, giving their lengthy musical journeys an edge with which to drag progressive rock out of its safe, middle class doldrums, and surge forward with a new found vitality, appealing to the next generation of music fans.
The release of Script contained the compelling mystic of Fish's lyrics with the edginess of four musicians who had set their stall out to be successful in their own way. With the 2019 remix of Script, you are presented with a fresh vitality from music originally released 37 years ago. What is most noticeable is the revitalised sound given to the rhythm section. Pete Trewavas' bass drives the band along, with Mick Pointer's drums being given a whole new dimension. With what happened with Mick at the end of the Script tour, the well-documented dismissal from what was his band, his idea, and without whom there would not have been a Marillion, listening to his drumming and sound on Script, it does make you consider whether there was more of an agenda than just Mick's alleged technical ability. While this unpleasant occurrence can never be undone, it further adds to the mythology of the album.
A confusion for me, which could have easily been corrected, is the included version of Market Square Heroes radio edit, with the “Battle Priest” lyric, not the one I remember so fondly which is the “Anti-Christ” version. Surely, with the available space on the second CD, both versions could have been included for completeness. The liner notes do not make any reference to this. This leaves me a bit puzzled.
I can remember first seeing Marillion on the Script tour at Hull City Hall, and being one of the masses marvelling at what was being presented before me. During the finale, I joined with the masses declaring my allegiance, and singing with the enamoured throng: “Are You Following Me”. I can't remember many times that music resonated with me more, than at that precise moment.
The new release treats the album and Grendel release with the reverence it rightly deserves. The package contains many unreleased photos from the time, along with a narrative by Jerry Ewing. The inclusion of the previously unreleased Marquee concert from 29th December 1982 sees the band at its peak. They thunder through the set with a confidence derived from having reached a milestone in their career.
The Blu-ray included with the release adds the icing to an indulgent cake. It was a surprise to see the full Recital Of The Script included, but it is a fitting historical artefact that completes the available material of the Mick Pointer-era Marillion.
Then we have the documentary, Sackcloth And Greasepaint, which includes interviews with all members of the band. The puzzling inclusion in the interviews is the appearance of Diz Minnett. Not that his contribution should not be recognised, but why are Brian Jellyman and Doug Irvine excluded, as arguably their contributions to Marillion's history are at least as important as Diz's.
The only disappointment, if you can go as far as calling it such, is that there are no worthwhile recordings available of the very early Silmarillion and Marillion tracks available to track the band's and the songs' evolutions. I am sure there are many people still around that wish the early material was available in a better format than the well-known bootlegs that provide the only historical record.
But that is a very minor gripe, in what for me, is the most important musical release in my life. Credit goes to all concerned in this new release, due to the obvious respect, care and love gone into this glorious historical record.