photo copyright Lee Millward
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. We spent some
time at Marillion's studio in rural Buckinghamshire and Pete willingly
and happily talked about Friars. Being a local boy he talks about it
from both sides, as punter and successful musician. Our gratitude to
Pete also for being so willing to carry on this interview a few days
I'm not from Aylesbury originally but I've lived here since the age of
six and growing up as a teenager in town a like Aylesbury, you really
appreciated what Friars was. It wasn't just a rock club like other towns
have rock clubs, between Dave Stops and Robin Pike, they seemed to be
tuned in to what was going on musically before it happened. Dave would
manage to book bands well in advance who were big news by the time they
played Friars. I remember the David Bowie gig just before Ziggy Stardust
- my sister who was four years older than me, saw the concert and I
couldn't go! 'Oh no you can't go to Friars you’re not old enough, was
what I got from my parents. I suppose I was two young in those days and
you couldn’t get the all important membership card officially till you
were 16. . I got my Friars membership card when I 15 I
think...that was a nervous day! I remember queuing up to get in and then
thinking I've been accepted! If you came from Aylesbury, there was a
real buzz about what was happening from week to week. There was a great
feel behind the ethos of Friars, the posters designed by Kris Needs had
a good feel for the time, (the whole thing) was a schoolboy's dream.
I mentioned in my website introduction that even
when I wasn't old enough to go, the posters and the imagery....
And the Friars handouts. If you weren't old enough to go you had to
borrow them off brothers and sisters. I would gem up on what I should be
My older cousin had all these Friars news-sheets
and I was fascinated by bands I never heard of and I only ever
discovered these news-sheets for myself by accident when I went into
Earth Records one day and saw them on the counter and I started
collecting them regularly. I was fascinated by the imagery etc even
though I didn't know at the time who Renaissance or Mike Heron was. They
weren't ordinary bog standard and it captured my imagination.
saw Mott the Hoople at Friars, I saw loads of bands. Stackridge, Gillan
and Queen in the early days. The first gig I ever saw (and at Friars),
Ian (Mosley) was playing drums for Darryl Way's Wolf (1973) At the time,
I obviously didn’t know who he was and would never have dreamed that we
would be in the same band or become such good friends. He must have only
been 17 or 18 back then.
That was at the Borough Assembly Hall which I
had a real love of that place. When it moved to the Civic Centre, it
changed for me a little bit but it was still good as they could put on
the slightly bigger bands they couldn't at afford at the BAH.
Your Friars history goes back ages, as far back as
1976 with Orthi. And you supported Mott in their British Lions phase
when Ian Hunter turned up.
was great, I loved Mott the Hoople. I was a big fan for a few years and
then to support them was very special. It was great for us in Orthi,
because we became Aylesbury's top band and got voted number one in the
annual polls. The Roxette helped the mystique of Aylesbury and helped
talk about much more of a scene than there probably was. But people from
as far away as London would talk about Aylesbury. The whole thing was
probably as much down to Pete Frame who was good at that sort of thing
(talking it up). I became good friends with Frame and knew Kris Needs
mainly as a friend of my sister and Otway and that whole group of older
musicians and people. Otway, Barrett, Warren Harry many others and Kris
Needs were part of an older scene than myself and my contemporaries but
I was in awe of him because he was so rock and roll! He started the Mott
the Hoople fan club and I thought 'wow, someone who knows really famous
remember supporting Ian Gillan and turning up scruffy and tiered and
wanted to get a shower. I asked Dave Stopps who said 'let's see
what we can do' and then I was told that Ian Gillan was lending me his
dressing room to have a shower. I thought 'Wow amazing!' Having played
the Civic many times since, I now know there are about six dressing
rooms! I was probably kept well away from Gillan and his crew! Probably
for my own good as I was still young and naive in those days.
Friars clearly holds great memories for you...
yes, as a member and as a musician who was still learning as I was and
then you go and see a band like Manfred Mann's Earthband who were in the
charts with Joybringer and I remember all night staring at the
mini-Moog... this mythical instrument and my mates were all the same!
Then there was another band I used to like, Greenslade, who had all the
keyboards you could think of and two keyboard players in Dave Greenslade
and Dave Lawson. Everyone wanted to be a musician and we all wanted to
see the bands.
Keyboard players reigned supreme!
They did! I saw Camel. But I didn't see Caravan
(Ed - Pete cites In the Land of Grey and Pink as one of his favourite
albums) and I saw the guy with the green pyramids....who was that...
(Mark Kelly in the background) Steve Hillage!
Yes, Steve Hillage! I saw Hawkwind...all these great bands made you want
to be a musician and you watched what they did. You kind of then started
to understand what they did to get people interested in what you do on
Also, my wife queued in the cattle market (where Chicago Rock Cafe now
is) for Genesis (in 1980)
So did I !!!! I remember it fondly.
didn't go as I was in a bit of an anti Genesis stage as Gabriel/Hackett
era was what I grew up with.
I love the Duke (1980) album - still play it.
is good. That Genesis gig was huge and big news in the town.
I have just been rescanning all the flyers for the
website and you must be fairly close to the all time appearance record
as aside from Marillion, you played with Orthi and The Robins...
also played as Heartbeat as well I think. Myself and Robin Boult had to
update ourselves as New Wave was just round the corner. But long hair
and pub rock, ruled at one point. Lots of good bands were around. Like
Good Habit (who became Racing Cars)...they were great (at Friars). I
used to really love Stackridge.
They were big in Aylesbury!
They (Friars) didn't always get it right but some corking bands played.
I worked for Earth Records on a Saturday and one day I ended up (at
David Stopps request) when it was quiet in the shop helping the Procol
Harum crew unload a Hammond organ, the heaviest thing imaginable. I'm
not really a humper (roadie slang for local crew) and it was very scary
trying to help lift this thing off an artic. I did, however, manage to
sit in on the sound check after all the unloading (humping) was
Regards playing at Friars..
see our names on a poster was unbelievable.
There were a lot of local bands who would have
given their right arms to play Friars.
Local bands didn't really get put on – Dave Stopps only put on bands he
felt could step up to the mark and were deemed good enough and had a
good local following.
There was definitely a quality control.
remember the last lesson of school with Robin Boult. We would see
Orthi's orange van pull up and we'd be thinking there was only a short
time (till end of school day) till we could rush out of school (for a
gig). Thinking back that must have made us look pretty cool.
Was it kudos?
No, I was quite shy then and just wanted to play music. It was all I
In terms of musical ability, you did get
noticed....Mark (Kelly) said when he joined Marillion he knew straight
away what did and didn't work and he said there needed to be a change of
bassist and that's where you came in.
that time, I had done a lot of live work and felt confident on the bass
guitar. It's only when you go into a studio you realise you know nothing
about your instrument and you have to be nudged in the right direction
A different discipline to live work..
Yes, in the studio, it's all about getting the right sound. I hadn't
really worried about the sound (before). When we recorded Market Square
Heroes with David Hitchcock, it was very pleasurable as we were
recreating what we did live. His attitude was pretty much 'let them play
and do as many takes as they want' and then take the best take. His ear
for music was helping in the arrangement and getting the best out of the
band in a live environment. When we went on to record Script for a
Jester's Tear, we'd spend a day recording drums, with us all playing but
just recording drums and then the evening doing bass or guitar. It was
very different to any way I had worked before.
Back to Marillion headlining in 1982...
was so proud of that. It was like being accepted at home, it really was.
My dream had always been to be a professional musician myself and to
play in your home town at the place you saw all those bands was a very
special moment for me.
It was a great day for local bands and for one to
be headlining that wasn't Otway....
Yes, I suppose Otway and Willy (Barrett) were the only stars from
Aylesbury up to that point
1983 was the big one for Aylesbury.....Marillion
got massive, Howard Jones got massive, Kajagoogoo got massive....a great
time for local bands
(Mark again!) Kajagoogoo are local?.
Yes, from Leighton Buzzard.
remember playing at the Hunt Hotel in LB. There was a local tour (of
venues) you could do because of the music scene in
Aylesbury....including the Britannia pub in Aylesbury
The first time I saw Marillion was at the Britannia (before my time in
the band). I also used to play there in other local bands.
As you were about to be break with Script in 1983,
David Stopps really 'bigged' up Marillion a lot on the news-sheets.
Because we were EMI's new baby and on tour and away so much I never got
to see any news-sheets so never got to know what was going on in my home
There were so many quotes on the news-sheets about
the Scottish tour, the Marquee etc.
tie in with the Script tour, EMI decided to get us to do record signings
in the major towns on the tour and all HMVs and chains etc. David Stopps
put a request in for Earth Records to be included on this and EMI didn't
want to know and Fish, ourselves and John (Arnison -former manager)
really pushed for that to happen.
were sat outside Earth Records with tables and there were seemingly
hundreds of people queuing up including people I had gone to school with
- it was a strange experience for me. There were people who wouldn’t
have crossed the street to talk to me a year earlier now queuing up for
my autograph! Very odd!
The Script album really got you noticed with
Hammersmith Odeon and the glorious homecoming at Friars. Then you did
Fugazi which I gather was an interesting experience...
From EMI's point of view they didn't think there was anything on there
to sell. It had cost a fortune to make as we had used Sony digital tape
and put two 24 channel recorders together to make 48 track recording
possible. It was expensive and time consuming and they had to be lined
up every morning by the engineers. We ran over budget. It cost a
fortune. That's how we ended up in Berlin recording what was
probably going to be our last album for EMI, if nothing happened. Berlin
was cheap, the studio (Hansa) was cheap with old equipment falling to
bits which in the UK would have been deemed redundant.
This was Misplaced Childhood of course...
EMI persuaded Chris Kimsey who had worked with the Rolling Stones for
ten years to produce us. Chris did a couple of Killing Joke albums in
that studio and took the job on (with us) to get his name out there in
the industry as he had been in one band or studio for so long and didn't
want to be forgotten as a producer. And EMI needed a cheap fix for our
A huge success for everybody then!
Kayleigh was the first single lifted off the album and everyone knows
what happened there.
Yes, there are many 23-24 year girls who have that
song to thank for their names!
That was strange! The single started off quite badly going in at the mid
twenties. Garden Party got to 16. Then it started to get played more on
the radio. We were on tour at the time and it kept on climbing and it
got to number two. I remember after the tour shopping in Tesco thinking
I've just had a number two single, what's going on!
What was also interesting post Friars was when we did return to
Aylesbury Civic (this time with Steve Hogarth), and we had three massive
articulated lorries. They couldn't get round the mini-roundabouts so the
police had to close the roads to effectively make it a straight road for
our trucks! It was the biggest lighting rig we could physically get in
and took the strengths of the Civic roof to the limit to the point that
weight of snow on the roof could have had a big bearing......
still played the Civic even when we were playing to tens of thousands in
As I was saying to Mark, your website is
Marillion fans are amazing. We have the Marillion fan weekends with a
few thousand Marillion fans and they immerse themselves in Marillion all
weekend and what is nice is that we can walk around without being
The way you work with the website and your fans is
an inspiration to any band to show how it can be done.
Pete, thank you for talking to us!
Marillion's official website
and its content are © 2009 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and
may not be used in whole or in part without permission.