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 secreatary 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 http://www.billfrech.com/tourhistory/1982.htm 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 http://www.faqs.org/faqs/music/marillion-faq/part2/section-7.html.

Decriminalising Cannabis

Last week the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, announced that cannabis we be downgraded to a class C drug in the UK’s legal classification of drugs. The effect of this change will be that possession of small amounts of cannabis will be effectively decriminalised. This follows an experiment along these lines in Lambeth over recent months.

The Daily Mail dislikes this decision a lot and every front page since the announcement has had a story saying how terrible this is and campaigning against this policy.

The problem is that, much as I hate to admit it, on this occasion the Mail may well be right. Let’s look at the evidence…

I go to Brixton occasionally and to other areas of Lambeth more frequently. Recently walking out of Brixton tube station has become a nightmare. You have to push thru crowds of people trying to sell you all kinds of drugs. On Saturday night, just outside Clapham North tube station I was offered drugs by a group of teenagers who got a bit unfriendly when I didn’t buy anything. This kind of behaviour has become much worse since the drugs laws were loosened in the area.

Unfortunately it seems as tho’ decriminalisation will lead to more of this unpleasantness. If the drugs were completely illegal (as there were until recently) then this kind of activity does go on, but it’s far more low key. You don’t come across it as you’re just walking down a main street. You have to know exactly where to go to be offered drugs on the street. On the other hand, if the drugs were made completely legal, then you would buy packets of joints from the newsagents and there would be no reason for pushy drugs sales-people on the street corner.

It’s only this current “halfway house” that seems to give us the worst of all possible results. I wonder if it’s a deliberate ploy by the government to seem as tho’ they’re being liberal, whilst all the time knowing that the experiment will fail and they’ll be forced to withdraw it.

Summertime (and the living is crap)

It seems that the British summer started today. It’ll no doubt be over by the weekend.

It’s too hot to do anything constructive. I can’t think straight. I just want to lie down in a darkened room and listen to Beth Orton records.

The weather in the UK isn’t supposed to be like this. I like living in the UK because its weather is supposed to be grey all the time.

Maybe I was a vampire in a former life.

Broken Browser

I use Galeon as my web browser of choice. It’s a Gnome browser based on the same software as Mozilla.

Generally it’s a really nice browser, but there’s one thing that I seem to have broken. At some point in the past I configured it to not allow popup windows. That’s generally a good idea, but there are a few sites that I need popups from – and I’m buggered if I can work out how to turn them back on again :(

Any advice gladly received.

Teetotal

Not entirely sure how this happened, but I seem to have become teetotal.

For many years I’ve had a habit of staying off alcohol for the month of January. This has met with varying degrees of success over recent years, but generally it’s been getting easier. This year I barely noticed it and when February started I didn’t find myself rushing out to drink that first pint. I think I went until the london.pm meeting on Feb 7th before I had a drink.

Over the next few months I was drinking, but I noticed that I was drinking less than I usually did. This, of course, started to lower my resistance to alcohol. This meant that on the occasions that I did drink a lot I was a) getting too drunk too quickly and b) suffering huge hangovers that lasted for days.

So a decision had to be made. Either I could increase my drinking to offset these effects or I could cut it right out. As I was also trying to lose some weight and alcohol is a fantastic source of calories, I chose the latter.

I believe that it was the 4th May that I had my last alcoholic drink – so I’ve been going for just over two months now. I don’t feel fitter or healthier, but I am losing weight. And I really don’t miss those hangovers.