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The Tower (1979 Marillion Song)

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Marillion - Herne the hunter12:06

Marillion - Herne the hunter

"Herne the Hunter", an early song by Marillion.

In December 1977 bass player Doug Irvine formed the band that was to become Marillion. After asking around locally for a drummer he found Mick Pointer. They first called themselves Electric Gypsy and then changed the name to Silmarillion.[1]

In 1979, keyboardist Brian Jelliman and guitarist Steve Rothery joined the band, at which point they shortened their name to Marillion (due to copyright concerns). They recorded multiple demo tapes with the original line-up throughout 1979 and 1980 including a sole recording of an apparently lost song: "The Tower".

Many of the details about Doug Irvine and Marillion's early days in this article come from Claus Nygaard's excellent online biography of Marillion. Nygaard's website went offline in 2010, but the text, which contains obscure and unique information about the early years of the band, is still accessible through the Wayback Machine.[2]

Background

Marillion - MSS - 1980 - Berkhamsted - 1980

The only known picture of Doug Irvine, in the white shirt, playing the bass. Steve Rothery is in red. Brian Jelliman on keyboards. Berkhamstead 1980.

In November 1980, Doug Irvine, original vocalist and lyricist left Marillion. When new singer Fish joined the band in January 1981 they went on to enjoy a decade of success, the peak being 1985 UK number one album Misplaced Childhood.[3]

When Fish joined the band as vocalist, along with new keyboardist Mark Kelly and soon afterwards bass player Pete Trewavas, they scrapped all of Irvine's old lyrics and, reworking some of the old songs, Fish, who is credited by critics with being one of rock's most accomplished writers, wrote new lyrics. The band also began focusing on new material such as their debut single "Market Square Heroes".

The tapes with the original songs that were recorded during the Irvine-era were never officially released, although versions of the songs' instrumentals would make their way into Fish-era Marillion songs.

The only recordings known to have been made during the brief and poorly-documented Doug Irvine era of Marillion are four short demo-tapes:

  • October 1979, The Enid's Studios, Hertford (including songs 2,4, as listed below)
  • March 1980, The Lodge at The Enid's Studios, Hertford (including songs 1,5,6, as listed below)
  • 6th June 1980, The Enid's Studios, Hertford (including songs 2,3,4, as listed below)
  • November 1980, Leyland Hill Farm Studio, Gawcott (including song 3, as listed below)

​There may have been other tapes made. Also, these tapes may have contained more recordings than have been released through bootlegs.

The songs they recorded include the following. In brackets are the songs they developed into under Fish:

  1. "Herne the Hunter" (none)
  2. "Alice" ("Forgotten Sons")
  3. "Close" ("The Web")
  4. "Lady Fantasy" ("Madcap's Embrace")
  5. "The Haunting of Gill House" ("Skyline Drifter")
  6. "Scott's Porridge" ("Margaret")
  7. "The Tower" ("Grendel")

All of these songs except "The Tower" have been leaked online. They seem to have been taken from an 80's bootleg cassette tape called Early Demos and Sessions 79-81 which also included early, unreleased, Fish-era demo tracks such as "Time for Sale" and "Skyline Drifter".[4] The assumption is that some demo tapes were retained, containing versions of the first six songs on the list, whilst any other demo tapes containing other versions of the songs and the only recorded version of "The Tower" were lost.

The Song

"The Tower" was an early version of what came to be "Grendel", a b-side on their debut 12" single "Market Square Heroes", and a fan-favourite epic which has been orphaned by the band for at least 25 years. They have not played it live since 1984 and disregard the frequent mentions of the song by fans.

In its original form, "The Tower" was an instrumental track that lasted around 21 minutes.[5] It is assumed that it was the origin of many of the melodies and solos eventually featured on "Grendel", especially Steve Rothery's guitar parts, since he was in the band when "The Tower" was written. It is assumed to be dark in tone, like "Grendel", and perhaps have echoes of dark, long-form instrumentals by earlier progressive rock acts like King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic. However, the changes to many of the original songs such as "Alice" during the Fish-era are significant, and since "The Tower" is at least five minutes longer than "Grendel", "The Tower" is reckoned to be very much a lost piece of music.

From Nygaard's biography, Fish said the following regarding "The Tower":

"In January 1981, just a couple of weeks after I joined Marillion, I was sitting with Steve Rothery, discussing just what we'd do with the instrumental pieces Marillion then had in the set. One of the tracks was called "The Tower". It was a long, involving piece, but didn't at that time include the first acoustic sections that would become the first sections of our epic [Grendel]..."[6]

Status

At 21 minutes, it is by far the longest song of the Irvine era of Marillion and in fact the longest in the history of the band, exceeding 2004's epic 'Ocean Cloud' by several minutes. Its unearthing would be a huge coup for Marillion fans. Marillion are well known for releasing large quantities of extra material. A glance at the discography page on their website reveals copious releases of live concerts, demos, unfinished material, b-sides, covers and alternative versions.[7] Fans have the opportunity to hear everything they've recorded and know the band's music inside-out. "The Tower" is the only exception.

It is assumed that the available demo tapes were leaked by someone who worked with the band. Fans continue to wait for an official, hopefully higher-quality, release of these demos and possibly of the demo tape containing "The Tower".

If the tape does still exist, it is potentially in the possession of longest-serving band member and only remaining member to have been there during the Irvine era; Steve Rothery. Rothery is well known for his archiving and documentation of the band's music and affects. It also may be retained by original drummer and founding member Mick Pointer, latterly of Arena. The other, most likely, possibility is that Doug Irvine possesses the only copy of "The Tower". According to Mick Pointer, when Irvine left:

"I also had a tape of all the Silmarillion music, and about two days before Doug left the band, he said: "Oh, have you got that tape, cause I want to listen to it". And I handed him the only tape of Silmarillion music. I remember giving it to him. If only I had that tape. A lot of the early stuff from that period found its way onto "Script for a Jester's Tear" [Marillion's 1983 debut album]. Doug left I think it was around November 1980, I remember handing him this Silmarillion tape. I never saw him again after that day. He just disappeared. Never heard, never did anything, ever. It was really strange cause he was so enthusiastic, really, really wanted to make it, he always said: "If I don't make it by the time I'm 26, I'm gonna give up". No, it was women that did it, he met this girl I think at a gig we did in High-Wycombe, and he just disappeared."[8]

Where is Doug Irvine?

According to Steve Rothery and Mick Pointer, in interviews for Claus Nygaards's Marillion biography, Doug Irvine left the band in late 1980 with the intention of marrying. He may have believed progressive rock to be a doomed venture as he went on to never work in music again, as far as is known.

Strangely, after he left the band, Irvine fell out of contact with them and was never heard from again. In Nygaard's biography, Rothery claims that the only time he has seen or heard from him since was a brief meeting completely by chance in a Sainsbury's car park in 1990.

There is only one picture of Irvine available, released by Rothery on his website in 2011 (shown above). It shows a 1980 gig in a hall in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire with Irvine and Rothery on stage and some children watching. Steven Wilson, progger extraordinaire and front-man of Porcupine Tree, claims to have attended one of these early gigs. He would have been 12 or 13 at the time this picture was taken. Could one of these children be a young Steven Wilson?

As for Doug Irvine, his whereabouts remain unknown, as does the location of the tape containing "The Tower".

References

  1. Chapter 2, page 1 of In Shades of Green Through Shades of Blue, Claus Nygaard's biography of Marillion (via the Wayback Machine). Retrieved 18 Sep '13.
  2. In Shades of Green Through Shades of Blue index page. Retrieved 17 Sep '13.
  3. Wikipedia article on Misplaced Childhood, Marillion's most commercially successful album. Retrieved 18 Sep '13.
  4. guitars101.com forum post detailing the Early Sessions and Demos 79-81 bootleg tape and containing a download link to the album. Retrieved 18 Sep '13.
  5. songfacts.com page on "Grendel". Retrieved 13 Sep '13.
  6. In Shades of Green Through Shades of Blue, chapter 3, page 2. Retrieved 18 Sep '13.
  7. Marillion discography page on their official website. Retrieved 13 Sep '13.
  8. In Shades of Green Through Shades of Blue, chapter 2, page 5. Retrieved 18 Sep '13.

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