Marillion "The Tower" (lost demo track; 1979)
Marillion performing in Berkhamsted Civic Centre, Hertfordshire in 1980. The only known picture of Doug Irvine (in white), playing the bass. Steve Rothery (in red) on the guitar and Brian Jelliman on keyboards.
In December 1977 vocalist and 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.
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.
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.
When Fish joined the band as vocalist, along with new keyboardist Mark Kelly and soon afterward bass player Pete Trewavas, they scrapped all of Irvine's old lyrics and Fish wrote new lyrics, reworking some of the old songs. 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 songs they recorded include the following. In brackets are the songs they developed into under Fish:
- "Herne the Hunter" (none)
- "Alice" ("Forgotten Sons")
- "Close" ("The Web")
- "Lady Fantasy" ("Madcap's Embrace")
- "The Haunting of Gill House" ("Skyline Drifter")
- "Scott's Porridge" ("Margaret")
- "The Tower" ("Grendel")
The only studio recordings that are 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)
- March 1980, The Lodge at The Enid's Studios, Hertford (including songs 1,5,6)
- 6th June 1980, The Enid's Studios, Hertford (including songs 2,3,4)
- November 1980, Leyland Hill Farm Studio, Gawcott (including song 3)
Versions of all of these songs except "The Tower" have been leaked online. The versions available 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". Some demo tapes were retained by the band, containing versions of the first six songs on the above list, whilst any other demo tapes containing other versions of the songs, and the only recorded version of "The Tower", were lost.
"The Tower" was an early composition which was eventually reworked into "Grendel", a b-side on their debut 12" single "Market Square Heroes", and a fan-favorite 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. One can assume 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]..."
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 is 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. Fans have the opportunity to hear everything they've recorded and to know the band's music inside-out. "The Tower" is the only exception.
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 effects. It also may be retained by original drummer and founding member Mick Pointer, latterly of the band 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."
According to Steve Rothery and Mick Pointer, in interviews for Claus Nygaard'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.
Until 2017 there was 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, frontman of Porcupine Tree and sometimes producer for Marillion (on the 1999 track "Interior Lulu", and the 5.1 mix of the album "Misplaced Childhood"), claims to have attended one of these early gigs. He would have been 12 at the time this picture was taken. One of the children in the photo could be a young Steven Wilson.
On December 9th, 2016, a comment by an anonymous user was posted to the Lost Media Archive on the article for The Tower:
I worked with Doug from 1991 to about 1996, both of us in IT support, which tallies with the previously mentioned thing at Oxfordshire Council. I commented to him that all the computers were named after Tolkien characters (frodo, bilbo etc) and he said he did it because he was a bit of a fan of Tolkein's work. He then told me about him having founded the band, its original 'Silmarillion' name and that the name changed after he left. He and I once performed at a work's Christmas party! He played bass and sang, another staff member played guitar and I "played" keyboards. By which I really mean that I switched on and off the pre-programmed drum track!
I never saw Doug after 1996 but I still think of him, it was him and his approach to IT support that got me to where I am today.
The user explains that they worked with Irvine in the 1990s in IT support at Oxfordshire County Council. This comment is uncorroborated, but Irvine now appears to have a Facebook page and is very much alive and well and still performing on bass. On 17th July 2017, Irvine posted a picture of himself, shown here, apparently from the same 1980 Berkhamsted gig at which the previously only-known photo of him was taken, showing him from a different angle.
The location of the tape containing "The Tower" remains unknown.
- Lost Media Archive comment on Doug Irvine's life after Silmarillion. Retrieved 22 May '19.
- 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 Sept '13.
- In Shades of Green Through Shades of Blue index page. Retrieved 17 Sept '13.
- Wikipedia article on Misplaced Childhood, Marillion's most commercially successful album. Retrieved 18 Sept '13.
- guitars101.com forum post detailing the Early Sessions and Demos 79-81 bootleg tape and containing a download link to the album. Retrieved 18 Sept '13.
- songfacts.com page on "Grendel". Retrieved 13 Sept '13.
- In Shades of Green Through Shades of Blue, chapter 3, page 2. Retrieved 18 Sept '13.
- Marillion discography page on their official website. Retrieved 13 Sept '13.
- In Shades of Green Through Shades of Blue, chapter 2, page 5. Retrieved 18 Sept '13.
- Steven Wilson: "Not everyone will be aware of my history with Marillion. The short version is that in 1980 when I was 12 years old, completely by chance I attended their first-ever concert at the Berkhamstead Civic Centre, literally only a few miles from where I was growing up in Hemel Hempstead." Retrieved 22 May '19
- Doug Irvine's Facebook page. Retrieved 22 May '19.