Marillion are, of course, the band that after John Otway, not only put
Aylesbury on the musical map, but have stayed in the mainstream for over
25 years. In addition to talking to Mark and Pete, we have also got the
thoughts of Chairman Fish, who was the very distinctive front man of
Marillion until 1988 and played right through the Friars years. Fish
spoke to us from his Scottish studio.
Fish - photo copyright the BBC
Friars Aylesbury Website: Thanks for talking to the Friars Aylesbury
website. Marillion were the band that put Aylesbury back on the musical
Marillion were always identified as an Aylesbury band. Certainly with
Friars. People were following your progress on the Friars news-sheets.
You were talked about a lot whether it be at the Britannia pub in
Aylesbury or the tour of Scotland that you and Steve Rothery put
early days, when I answered the advert and went down to Aylesbury, I
didn't even know where Aylesbury was! I knew it was close to Luton and
that was it. So we turned up at Aston Clinton and met the other guys.
Then we did some... shall we call them "rehearsals" - they had very few
lyrics so I was coming up with stuff and singing. When we started, we
found out we were one of the hardest working bands in the
time I had seen the distinctive Friars adverts in the press but hadn't
associated it with where I was going. When I got there (Aylesbury), I
discovered that Friars was a hive of activity and I discovered David
Stopps. We were a young band and I was virtually managing the band as I
didn't have a job. Neither did Steve. He had come down from Yorkshire
and me from Scotland and we were taking it very seriously. It was a do
or die thing. So we were working our arses off getting gigs and getting
a gig at Friars was our first target. To do our 'home' town and to try
and get a support slot at Friars. So we were in contact with Dave very
a very amenable person, a flamboyant character. What he did for
Aylesbury was incredibly important for music and his love of
That is unquestioned!
got in touch with Dave who put us in touch with Les Payne (local Friars
legend) and we did our first demo tape. Then we got our first gig at
Friars in the small hall....
That was the Aston Hall at the John Cooper Clarke gig in 1981.
Ironically John Cooper Clarke and Pauline Murray and The Invisible Girls
(also at that gig) were managed by John Arnison who was to become
Marillion's manager in 1983. That night was also when we had monks
outfits and Hammer Horror stuff. We went down a storm!
Was that around the time when you did 'He Knows You Know' with a rubber
skull and syringe?
Probably, there was some weird shit going on! I remember the black
crosses. I lived opposite Aylesbury Police station and we had all these
weird props and the place was full of them. I'm surprised we never got
Back in 1981 after that gig, you played again supporting Spirit and
later John Martyn....
first in the small hall and then John Martyn was a real trial as it was
in the big hall. I remember meeting John and we would later become
friends. I do remember we were waiting on our soundcheck and all the
(John Martyn) band and crew were sitting there at tables in the hall
eating their dinner and I thought 'how dare these bastards eat food
while we are standing on strange waiting on our check!' I discovered
later (when Marillion got bigger) on the road that regular scheduled
meal times are more important than unscheduled local support bands.
remember (at that time) supporting Lindisfarne at what's that big round
This would be St Albans City Hall I think.
a dreadful venue to play, the sound came back to you about three seconds
after you played it! Awful place! Whoever thought that a round building
could deliver decent acoustics?
Friars supports were very special.
I was at that John Martyn gig and was the first time I saw Marillion
having heard lots about them. You got an encore being third on the bill
and made the other support band (Bumble and the Beez) and John Martyn
work hard for their encores.
an upcoming local support band and we were hungry. Being a support band
in a local venue was a lot different to being a support band on a tour
and Friars might have just been gig No 35 or something. They didn't
expect us to attack (the gig) like that.
listen to Marillion's Early Stages CD on EMI recently, there's a lot of
stuff on there that's quite punky, a lot of attack and a lot of energy
although there was progressive rock that could be compared to Genesis
In terms of influences, the music was attacking, but with the image as
well, that was a bit of Peter Gabriel wasn't it?
particularly...Alex Harvey used make up, Alice Cooper used make up, Kiss
too. A lot of people were doing this. We were coming out of this middle
class suburb (Aylesbury) and the one influence that united all the band
was Genesis' influence. So ideas tended to flow that way and some ideas
worked. You wore your influences on your sleeve. Just as the Rolling
Stones played the blues. You get the point.
Yes! You first headlined Friars in 1982 and by now you were the big
local band and that was a great gig as I recall.
was a big thing for us, it was a big marker flag for us.
It was around that time that Market Square Heroes was not far from
coming out - I'm sure this remains the only record dedicated to Friars
Aylesbury on the record sleeve...
asked Dave Stopps to be our manager in early 1982 and he came on board.
And this is something I've thought about a lot. He did wonders for
Howard Jones who supported Marillion back in the Marquee days. Dave was
our manager for only a short while. By early 1982 we were hungry...we'd
had the BBC Radio One session with Tommy Vance. We were hungry and
wanted more and wanted to move forward faster than we were. We took on
Dave and we had a lot of ideas, but we weren't moving forward. We were
very impetuous, me in particular. I just felt that we had made a lot of
inroads and now we weren't moving fast enough. But that was Dave's
style. I've often wondered when in Marillion's latter period (with me)
when we had bad management how we would have done if we had Dave. As a
guy, I still see Dave on an irregular basis.
What did you see at Friars as a punter?
King Crimson.... but you'd go every week - there'd be Teardrop Explodes
one week, then Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure....
We were at the same gigs!
thing about Friars was that people were interested in live music and it
wasn't tribalism. The tribalism was in the club itself. You were a
member of Friars and it didn't matter who played, a huge core of that
audience would be there each week regardless of who played.
You are absolutely right. You may be aware that Friars has just had its
40th anniversary party and people at those original gigs in 1969 came
out again and it was one big reunion.
have been incredible, I wish I'd been there. One of things I loved about
Friars was that there were certain heads you knew and were there every
gig. It's the kind of thing that happened at certain venues in Holland
or Germany where people went to listen to music regardless of genre.
They just knew if that band was playing that venue, there would be a
certain quality. That was the magic of Friars. Dave Stopps could
identify the 'buzz' bands and bands wanted to play there because of the
kudos of playing Friars. Marillion wanted to strike up a flag at Friars
in Aylesbury and say 'this is where we come from, this is the castle.'
Exactly. With the Script For A Jester's Tear in 1983, it was big news
when the Friars news-sheets announced the album and also the fact that
the local boys were going to be doing a major tour featuring Hammersmith
Odeon and Aylesbury. It was really big news. You came back in December
1983 and December 1984 when you were huge.
our home town, it was a spiritual thing. Pete was from Aylesbury and
although Steve and I had moved down, we were living in the area, I was
still drinking in The White Swan! It was our spiritual home and every
time we toured we wanted to come back and play. In the early days it was
easy but it got more difficult. There was a spiritual shift during the
Yes, Marillion in fact played what was the last Friars gig for 25 years
when you played in December 1984.
didn't know that. We were on the road for nine months a year at that
point, so we missed out on that (information that Friars had closed) so
we were never about and then in 1988 someone pulled the pin out of the
But you came back to Aylesbury Civic a few times as a solo artist. I saw
some of those gigs!
missed Dave. The Friars badges and the flowers backstage and whatever
you wanted! There wasn't the family atmosphere.
For the 40th party, a lot of traditional trimmings were kept such as the
flowers. Many artistes have commented about the family atmosphere where
everyone knew each other.
got older, I realised that when you are on a long tour on a bus, all you
want to do is wake up in the morning and have a hot shower, all you want
to do is to arrive at a venue that welcomes you with a smile, you want
to arrive a venue that hasn't just bought something from the local
supermarket, pulled back the plastic and put it on a plate.....that's
where Friars delivered. You felt welcomed, you felt at home. It was one
of those important things for any working professional musician...to be
treated like a human being and not a piece of meat. Dave Stopps and
Friars delivered. If you look at Friars as a venue, it was your average
British Town Hall piece of shit. Whitewashed, concrete, the same
standardised fire doors and concrete steps....BUT what happened on the
night of a Friars show, Dave, the team, the people, that switched it on.
It was special and magical.
I was at that last gig in 1984 and a couple of years ago when I first
started the idea of this website, the point you just made about it being
magical was my reason for doing it. My wife attended her first ever
Friars gig at the 40th anniversary party and she realised that it was
not just any old gig, there was something special.
but you won't create the old magic...it's a different world to the
naivety in those days. I came to Aylesbury in 1981 when there were riots
in the Market Square....which inspired the single Market Square Heroes.
There was such a vibe and energy....I don't think you could recreate it.
It can't be duplicated.
Maybe not, but you can have a good stab at it!
remember the Hobble on The Cobbles - the Market Square is an amazing
place. I play many similar gigs to that in Germany and Holland and they
don't seem to cotton on to that (type of gig) in Britain. The Market
Square used to have a few events and it would be great to see some of
that vibe back.
Although this is ostensibly a Friars related conversation, you mentioned
Hobble On The Cobbles. You did play that in 2007 and is now an annual
event. In terms of what happened that day (Fish reunited with Marillion
to perform Market Square Heroes...in the Market Square). Were you
surprised at just how many column inches that generated?
didn't think it would cause the furore that it did. To me, it was
unplanned, it wasn't in the press, it wasn't on the radio, it was off
the fucking radar. I wanted to keep it like that. To me, it was just
five guys having a bit of fun. A lot of people got the wrong idea and
thought it was a reunion. I don't want to say any more about that. Let's
Fair enough, I mentioned it only as we were talking about the Market
Square and the Hobbles. No offence intended.
like to go back there some time. I have so much affection for the town,
so much of my history is locked up there.
Fish, thank you for talking to us!
This interview and its content are © 2009 Mike
O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used in whole or in
part without permission.