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Introduction 2021

Thank you for visiting the Marillion – Explanations of Song Elements website.

The Explanations has been on the internet since 1997. I wish I'd given it a better name, but I'm stuck with it now. The site's moved around a few times, and constantly changed over the years, hopefully improving all the time. In 2021, I've been updating the navigation to make it a better experience on mobile devices, which mostly means giving links to all the songs on an individual album plus a cover to click for each of the albums within each post. As I've been doing so, I've been attempting to improve the writing and grammar and adding in additional snippets. Marillion are currently working on their 20th studio album (18th of all original material) and soon I'll update everything again. It's always a pain; Blogger is not always the most user-friendly platform, but it is more than outweighed by the lovely comments I get from readers.

This year I have been dubbed 'the unofficial third member of the team' by the Between You and Me podcast. Paul and Sanya Rose's weekly podcast reviews Marillion's albums and related matters, and they tell me that they have frequently used the Explanations to inform their commentary, and thus I have become the unofficial third member, which is incredibly flattering.

Back in 1997 when the Explanations began, the Internet was nothing like the place it is in 2021. The expression 'Web 2.0' wouldn’t even be coined for a further seven years, yet the first stirrings of what would evolve to become it were seen in communities such as the Marillion fans mailing list Freaks. Nowadays, of course, you can’t move for social networking sites and podcasts and forums and bulletin boards, but back then, things were simpler. If you wanted to discuss Marillion on the Internet in 1997, you needed to send an email with the words 'subscribe freaks' in the body to freaks-request@ax.com (later hosted at @torchsong.com, and now defunct) and soon you’d start receiving the latest musings about all things Marillion into your mailbox.

It was one such message that inspired the Explanations. Someone had posted their thoughts about Forgotten Sons. If it wasn’t clear from the user’s email address, some of the interpretations soon made me realise that the poster’s first language wasn’t English and I proceeded to post my own version. It struck me that Marillion's songs often contain words and phrases that are peculiar to British English. I’d also just discovered and devoured Scott McMahan’s astonishingly detailed online Genesis Discography. It contained a section that attempted to explain the phrases in some of the more 'out there' songs and having made a few minor contributions relating to Supper's Ready and Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, I realised I could do something similar with Marillion. An enormous debt of gratitude is owed to Mr McMahan for inspiring me.

My friend Matt and I convened in the Tottenham pub on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road in London one evening, armed with a sheaf of lyrics and several reference books. We proceeded to get very drunk and by the end of the night had thrashed out a rough first version of what would become this site.

What was interesting was the increased enjoyment we got from digging into the references. We weren’t trying to say what we thought the songs were about. A friend of mine had a nice analogy about sitting in dim classrooms poring over an author's intention behind one particular word for hours until, at the end of the lesson, you'd taken a butterfly of a poem, gassed it and pinned to a board before realising it was no longer beautiful. That sums it up pretty succinctly for me; people's own ideas of what Marillion's songs are about are as valid as what the author thinks.

Since that original pub session, I’ve been solely responsible for the development of the site, but it would be a lie to pretend that it would be anything like as comprehensive as it is without the contributions from other fans. However, it’s also true to say that I disagree with some of the explanations that appear in this site. There are some that are perfectly reasonable claims but which happen not to chime with my own feelings for what a song is about. It would be extremely churlish of me to reject them on this basis without something more concrete to go on.

What I hope I've managed to do is illuminate the songs. There was much in the songs which I'd not appreciated before starting this site and it took digging into the references to reveal quite how much I'd missed. The contributors to this site are constantly throwing up new points of interest for me that I simply never would have thought of, and I very much hope they do the same for you.

The section on each major studio release is preceded by an introduction with general information about the album including information about the explanations to follow and the cover and related miscellany. More detailed information about the Fish-era covers can be found in the beautiful Masque book by Mark Wilkinson and Fish, available from Mark's website The Masque. Each song for which there is an explanation begins with an introduction with general information about the subject matter. Then relevant lyrics are quoted with the explanation beneath.

Sources: There has been no direct input from band members, unless from printed material or conversations on Marillion.com, Freaks, The Opium Den or other online sources. Sources are acknowledged in the text and a comprehensive list of sources provided on the credits page.

Acknowledgements and Thanks: When the site was first put together, I had no experience of writing html, and it would be remiss of me not to mention Bert ter Steege, owner of The Marillion Discography, who kindly agreed to host the earliest version of the Explanations as a part of his site until I had become sufficiently competent to attempt my own first version of the site. Although Bert no longer actively updates the site, it is still online and contains a wealth of information about Marillion’s releases up to Marbles.

Another special thank you is to Jeroen Schipper, former maintainer of The Web Online, the original source of online information about Marillion, who generously let me quote from his FAQ.

Finally, I'd like to say thank you to Marillion: Fish, Steve Hogarth, Ian Mosley, Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas and Mark Kelly for the soundtrack to so much of my life.

Contributions & Caveats: Any additions, omissions, or suggestions regarding this site would be gratefully received, and fully credited if used, although we reserve the right to edit your contribution. Please email me at explanations@baldyslaphead.co.uk.

The fault for any mistakes is mine. If you notice any, please let me know.

I hope you enjoy poking around as much as I've enjoyed putting the site together.

Cheers,

Fraser Marshall - 14/04/2021