Progressive Rock

Anyone remember Marillion? I do. I was a big fan at one time. In fact back in the days when I was social secretary at The City University and before they were famous, I booked them.

I mentioned this in passing on a newsgroup recently and was contacted by someone who is writing a book about them. He asked me to give more details of what happened. My reply to him is below.

I became the social secretary at City University in summer 1982. One of the things I found in my new office has a large box of demo tapes that the previous social secretary had discarded. I found the Marillion tape in that box. I wouldn’t have bothered listening to it, but I’d read a couple of reviews of Marillion gigs in NME or Sounds and everyone said they sounded like early Genesis. I loved early Genesis, so I thought I’d listen to the tape.

I remember thinking that they didn’t sound very much like Genesis, but I thought that the tape was really good. I decided that I’d like to book them, but thought that as they were getting so much press attention they’d be too big to play a small student union bar, so I thought no more about it.

I’m not entirely sure about the next sequence of events, but at some point in September or October I was speaking to an agent about some other bands and one of us mentioned Marillion in passing. It turned out that he was either their agent or a colleague of their agent and knew that they were looking for somewhere to play a low-key warmup gig just before their first major tour. This was to coincide with the release of their first single “Market Square Heroes”. He asked if I’d be interesting in that booking and I leapt at the chance.

I’ve just checked at and that site has confirmed my suspicion that the date was Tue 26th October 1982. I know that I already had another band booked that night that I had to cancel. As the contracts had been signed, I had to pay them off too.

Normally on the day of a gig I’d let to roadies in and let them get on with the setup, but on this occasion I hung around in the venue for as long as I could. I chatted a bit to the band and they all seemed like a really friendly group of people.

Unfortunately, Marillion’s music was apparently not what City students wanted to listen to at that time and the turnout was pretty small. There were maybe twenty people in the audience. I do remember that a number of other London college social secretaries came along (on my guest list) to see what the fuss was all about.

To be honest, I can’t remember what they played that night – I didn’t know very many of their songs. I know I’d been sent a copy of the 12″ of the single by the agency, so I recognised all of those tracks and “Garden Party” from the demo tape. I also remember that the few people who came all had a great time.

A few weeks later their agent rang me again, to tell me that they were playing an extra gig at the Venue at the end of this short tour and to ask if I would like to be on the guest list. It was lucky that I said yes as that gig was a huge sellout. It was great to see them again – and this time with a massive and appreciative audience.

There’s one other connection between City University and Marillion. The social secretaries both preceding and following me booked gigs by The Europeans. In fact, the gig they played at City in 1983 was recorded for their live album (this is mentioned in the credits if you have a copy). It’s probably the album just called LIVE as listed at


  1. Yep, I did like Marillion back in the day now that you mention it. The only album I ever bought though was Misplaced Childhood. It was one of the first albums I ever bought – I was only 12 at the time :-)

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