The band was formed as Silmarillion after J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Silmarillion in 1979; due to heavy rotation in the first years, Steve Rothery is the only remaining original member. The band name was shortened to Marillion in 1980. The group released its first single, "Market Square Heroes", in 1982, with an epic song "Grendel" on the B-side of the 12" version.
Studio album personnel since 1982:
- Fish (Derek W. Dick) - Vocals (left in 1988)
- Steve Hogarth (aka "H") - Vocals (joined in 1989)
- Steve Rothery - Guitars
- Pete Trewavas - Bass
- Mark Kelly - Keyboards
- Mick Pointer - Drums (left 1983)
- Ian Mosley - Drums (joined 1984)
The early works of Marillion contained Fish's poetic and introspective lyrics, melded with a complex and subtle musical tapestry to create a sound that was reminiscent of the early works of Genesis, while acknowledging other influences to progress beyond that sound. This was evident from the first album, which ranks as one of the most accomplished debut albums of any progressive rock bands. Fugazi, the second album, was not of the same quality (mostly because of apparently ridiculous production circumstances), but contained sophisticated song material.
Their third and commercially most successful album, Misplaced Childhood, was quite possibly their most cohesive work. The brave decision to create a concept album (considered hideously unfashionable at the time) paid off, with great success both for the album (which was number one in the UK) and for the singles spawned from the album. One of these, "Kayleigh", charted at #2 in the U.K..
The fourth album, Clutching at Straws, also followed a concept, but did not quite achieve the same popularity. However, the lyrics remained as clever as ever, with the song "Warm Wet Circles" arguably representing the most carefully crafted piece of poetry in the entire genre.
The departure of Fish to pursue a solo career, reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's departure from Genesis a decade and a half earlier, left a hole that would be difficult to fill. Both Marillion and Fish continued to release albums, but neither of them managed to even come close to the commercial and (arguably) artistic success of the first four albums. Both sides also had substantial problems with their record companies. After tedious legal battles, informal contact between Fish and the other four band members apparently did not resume before 1999. Both sides have made clear though that a reunion will never happen.
After the split, the band turned to Hogarth, the former keyboardist and sometimes vocalist of The Europeans, to fill the hole that Fish left. Hogarth stepped into a difficult situation, as the band had already recorded demos of the next studio album, which would become Seasons End, with Fish on vocals, and using Fish's lyrics. After Fish left the group, taking his lyrics with him, Hogarth set to work, crafting new lyrics to existing songs with lyricist and author John Helmer. The demo sessions of the songs from Seasons End with Fish vocals and lyrics can be found on the bonus disc of the remastered version of Clutching at Straws, while the lyrics found their way into Fish's first solo album, Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors.
Hogarth's second album with the band, Holidays in Eden, was the first he wrote in partnership with the band, and includes the song "Dry Land" which Hogarth had written and recorded in a previous project with the band How We Live. With Brave, the next album, the band took another stab at writing a concept album.