Midnight suns bid moors farewell, retreats from charging dusk
Mountain echo, curfews bell, signal ending tasks
They place their faith in oaken doors, cower in candlelight
The panic seeps through blood-stained floors as Grendel stalks the night

At age 15 I imagined that all women could be seduced merely by plying them with the right tune at the right time, every lock having its key and all that.  Easy.  Given that I was an intelligent, sensitive soul I knew I would need to distance myself from all my usual sweaty songs about sinking the pink, giving the dog a bone and shaking her all night long and move towards something a little more sophisticated and distinctive that would brand me as a suave caring attentive lover*.  Marillion were as complex as I got, Fish’ poetic lyrics and clever-clever wordplay had me all agog, imagine what would be possible if it were deployed chickwards? it just wouldn’t be a fair fight.

Marillion Grendel 04

Now for the connoisseur there was only one real choice, eschewing album tracks as being too common the real mother lode for us spotty Marillion fans had to be one of their top quality B-sides and what could be more niche than one of the B-sides from their first, non-album, single Market Square Heroes? That the one in question was a 17-minute epic based on Beowulf? even better, nothing makes ladies horny like 1000 year-old epic poetry in the Christian-Germanic tradition, bring on the hot lovin’; that the track was based on a novel that I bought and couldn’t properly understand that told the tale from the monster’s point of view? I’d be fighting them off;  that it was such an insanely cool song that the band had already retired it after the 1984 Reading Rock Festival?** It had to be ‘Grendel’.  Surely this would prove to be the elusive mystical element I needed in order to lower girls’ defences, Chicktonite if you will.

Marillion Grendel 03

Now sadly, I was never quite able to inveigle myself into a position where I could scientifically test my theory.  My two recorded attempts at Grendel-based rudeification ended in abject failure, one young, formerly meek, lady stopping mid-kiss to ask ‘what is that shit you’ve put on?’ and Chick #2 simply got up, walked over to the tape player turned it off and put on a Deacon Blue CD instead – which, ironically caused me to react in exactly the same manner as Chick #1 had.

As Grendel leaves his mossy home beneath the stagnant mere
Along the forest path he roams to Hrothgar’s hall so clear
He knows that victory is secured, his charm will testify
His claws will drip with mortal blood as moonbeams haunt the sky

Marillion Grendel 06

Oh yes! Here’s one to sort out the casuals from the committed.  A mere 28 years later the band got around to giving this track the release it deserved, Marillion Grendel, 12″ Picture disc was released for RSD 2013 – I first found out about it via Mr HMO and found myself desperately wanting it on what must have been a sub-atomic level, before having to buy it from some profiteering eBay turd a couple of days later.  Picture discs and mark Wilkinson artwork being my own Chicktonite. And so it goes.

28 years ago ‘Grendel’ was like nothing I’d ever heard before, 17+ minutes of changing moods, rhythms and movements, all culminating in the protagonist’s murderous rage at being branded the outcast, monster and, umm, murderer.  Essentially humanity’s hypocrisy in the way it treats those it brands as ugly and different is exposed and, essential to all good adolescent rages, religion is given a bit of a kicking too.  It’s deep.

Marillion Grendel 05

Grendel has two versions on it, the early 19-minute ‘Fair Deal Studios Version’ and the final performance of the track at Reading Rock Festival 1983, which weighs in at a puny 18 minutes.  The earlier version is a bit undercooked and tentative, very understandably so in fact; Steve Rothery’s guitar solo is probably the most notable manifestation of this.  When you compare this to the Reading Festival version, which captures a bunch of confident young bucks in full flow before an admiring crowd, the results are startlingly different.  The music pounds and flows, the sections are sharply divided and Steve Rothery’s guitar solo spirals straight up and out of the song, arching off into the sky the way it was always intended to.

Marillion Grendel 01

Great though Marillion are, it is Fish’s vocals that really fizz me.  I’m a big fan of the big man and ‘Grendel’ reminds me exactly why, all his range and ability to carry a ton of emotion are in evidence, no mean feat when you have to deliver lines like this convincingly,

Silken membranes*^ span his path, fingerprints in dew
Denizens of twilight lands humbly beg him through
Mother nature’s bastard child shunned by leaf and stream
An alien in an alien land seeks solace within dreams
The shaper’s lies his poisoned tongue malign with mocking harp
Beguiling queen her innocence offends his icy heart.

I must have listened to this upwards of 12 times last night and tonight and enjoyed every second, every time.  I do know just how daft the whole thing is, how it is easy to mock, how it resembles Genesis’ ‘Supper’s Ready’ a bit too closely at times BUT I love it for all that, there is something wonderfully unselfconscious, naïve and a bit unsophisticated about the whole thing, a bit small town, which I find really endearing.  AND I haven’t even mentioned how Fish performed the last part of the song wearing a mock Anglo-Saxon helmet and in a move, later copied by Bruce Springsteen, he would get an audience member on stage and mime disembowelling them^.  True story.

Marillion Grendel 07

So I did eventually come to realize that popping ‘Grendel’ on as mood music was basically the musical equivalent of turning up to a first date with the AD&D: Monster manual tucked under one arm (I instinctively knew that would be a jive move), but who cared? I’d found the love of a good tune instead.  Anyway, I’d learned the lyrics off by heart so well that I could write them out from memory by this point – surely the chicks would dig that?  Just wait until I unleashed that on them, it just wouldn’t be fighting fair (etc, etc).

553 Down.

Marillion Grendel 02

*once that had been established and my vict companion lured into a false sense of security Operation: Fumble would be launched. potentially even Operation: Omni-Fumble.

**presumably, quietly, fearing their ability to pull chicks would forever be negatively affected if they carried on. Rightly so, too.

*^I misheard this as ‘silken men brains’ of course.

^although Bruce just danced with his volunteer, lightweight!



62 thoughts on “Silken Men Brains

  1. Haha “Chicktonite.”

    I’m telling you folks, when Mr. 1537 publishes all of this genius into a book (complete with footnotes), it’ll be a friggin’ international bestseller.

    Also, sweet picture disc. I’ve alerted Pearson airport about Mike’s attempt to jaunt over there on a theft mission. 😉

    1. Too kind – can you do a book that’s mostly footnotes? They’re the bits I like best. I had an almost indecent amount of fun writing this one, I really did.

      1. You could easily do a book with that many footnotes. Look at textbooks and scholarly books. Yours would be a scholarly text, so it would fit right in!

        I would be a first day buyer.

  2. Whew. We’re all good. I thought for a moment I was going to have to board a plane and commit an international crime, by stealing your copy. Record Store Day…not sure I like it anymore.

    I have the Fair Deal version on the Script remaster.

    I have the Reading track in the Early Stages box set.


    1. This is just such a nice Pic disc, I’d have bought it even if it featured a version performed solely on comb and paper, with Fish’s vocals done through a kazoo. Actually thinking about it, how awesome would that be?

      I need to ask my dad about it properly, but I think Marillion did some of their very earliest EMI-funded demos at a tiny recording studio in a village very near where I grew up, Abergorlech. From memory, I think my dad remembers them being in the local pub – I’ll check it out and let you know.

      1. Wow, that’s cool man! I want that to be true. In fact I want him to have had a drink with Derek W. Dick!

        Dude, you KNOW if Marillion did that version and released it, my OCD demands that I buy it.

      2. I’ll ask him soon, my dad was wearing his full jester’s gear at the time and he distinctly remembers the burly singer looking at him and making notes.

        Killing Joke definitely did quite a bit there. It was owned by an ex-member of Hawkwind, I can’t remember the name of it now (its no longer going).

  3. Brilliant stuff – really enjoyed this one. I really ought to check out Marillion. It’s on my to-do list, but that’s getting way to exhausting.

    1. Thanks a lot, I had a lot of fun on this one. My Marillion advice (although Mike’s might well differ) is go as early as you can.

      1. I will see what I can find next time I’m out and about, but I’m more interested in the Fish years (the early years, aye?)

      2. I’d say start with Misplaced and then work your way backwards and forwards through the Fish years. I’d also advise picking up Seasons End and Brave after that.

      3. Clutching, for me, would definitely be a two-part review, because I would want to take an equal amount of time talking about the excellent bonus CD. And I wouldn’t want that to overshadow the album itself, which is just…what is it? The perfect Marillion album maybe?

      4. For me definitely, although I’ve never felt ‘White Russians’ fitted on it properly – I’d have substituted ‘Tux On’ (which my mate ruined for me forever, by pointing out that if you start singing ‘Hard on’ instead, you can never take it seriously again ever)

      5. Come on, it’s comedy gold!!

        With a hard on, look at him now with a hard on / The last time with a hard on, take him away with a hard on

      1. J., it’s true! I bought Misplaced… on Mike’s recommendation on one of our trips to Toronto. It ruled. Then he gave me a compilation of theirs from their web site, (aptly) called Crash Course. Also brilliant. I get the feeling that the deeper you go with these guys, the deeper you’re gonna wanna go until you’re like Mike and you own all of it (or damn near it). 🙂

      2. I suspect Mike has a Marillion room at his – housing rack after rack of their Christmas CDs and variants on their albums. I’ll never understand obsessive types like that.

    1. Christ yes! I see it as a triple LP concept involving several characters, giving it a damn good go and lyrics that teeter on the edge of profoundness, with a bit of an ambiguous ending.

      Quick ‘phone the band, we’ll make a mint!

  4. Brilliant read! Ooh, did I make you buy this?! I’m shocked and saddened to discover that this song didn’t deliver the goods when “deployed chickwards”. What is wrong with people?. I imagine that’s why they don’t play it live anymore. They’re worried they’re going to spoil some poor dude’s chances.

    Didn’t Bono rip off the disembowelling at Live Aid too? Poser.

    1. I thank you. You definitely made me buy this one, before you mentioned it I hadn’t thought about buying any Marillion for years and years.

      I’m sorry about my results, strictly speaking the theory needed a wider test population but, I was a skinny spotty dude with a mullet and no wheels – I did my best!

      You can’t beat a good crowd participation disembowelling moment at a gig – its what live music is all about as far as I’m concerned.

  5. Never thought of using Marillion for seduction although I wouldn’t have needed to with my first wife. She was a Marillion fan and that was the first concert we went to see together as husband and wife. Great write up, I’m going to give this one a listen. BTW, I had a lot of fun playing a half-orc fighter assassin.

    1. Yup, don’t listen to the Aussie, half-orcs rule!!

      Thank you! There we go, my theory is proven correct – except I just applied it to the wrong laydeez. I’ve never seen Marillion actually, I’ve come close a couple of times but just not quite managed it.

    2. I’ll admit to something really sad.

      I had a personals ad in ’99 or so. In it, it said, “If you have heard of Marillion, we have to meet.” I’m not making that up, sadly.

  6. Your finest moments (and this is one) have me in inner conflict about which zinger to pick up on. Here are the options for this wonderful post:

    1. Operation Omni-Fumble? Please don’t go there.

    2. (Adopts silly playground taunting voice) “You love pro-og, You love pro-og”.

    3. Given that the titular monster murdered by dismemberment, it may be just as well that your plan of Grendel-based rudeification failed – otherwise you might need a good lawyer.

    4. (Adopts silly playground taunting voice) “You love live albums, you love live albums”.

    5. I never really understood John Gardner’s book either. I mean, I get the arty point but I found it impenetrable. Wonder if it’s still on the shelf.

    6. Thanks for explaining by abject failure with girls. Who knew that the fairer sex found the AD&D Monster Manual less than thrilling?

  7. Great little Aca Daca name drop of three classics in one sentence! Bravo!
    This is a band I obviously heard but outside of Script For a Jesters Tear (which I owned on cassette tape eons ago) just never clicked to my ears anyways in North America! Why who knows as Prog was big at there time.
    This was a cool read….

  8. Ahh, the quest to find the song that will allow you entrance to any girls pants… Has anyone ever discovered this? Is it a myth? Or does it truly exist?

    1. Legend has it that the identity of the song is inscribed on a scroll locked in the deepest level of the Dungeon of Az-Bakurr The Magnificent. But it’s guarded by a Red Dragon and a Lich. True story.

      1. It is definitely a scroll. A drunk wizard let that slip one night at the Green Dragon. But I heard it was in a five-dimensional chest placed on an alabaster rune-engraved table at the top of the Tower of Sheezagrrl.

      2. Apparently it only appears once every third All Hallows’ Eve, to a warrior who has proven himself unworthy.

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