If you’re any kind of Marillion fan – and if you’re a follower of, or regular visitor to musicbugsandgender then you’llknow that I am – then you may know that Grendel is to us what How Soon Is Now? is to hardcore Smithsheads: the b-side that transcended its second-billing to become the most revered, near-legendary song in the band’s catalogue. As anthemic in its own way as the aforementioned How Soon…, Comfortably Numb, Hey Jude, White Rabbit, The Final Countdown …well, you get the idea 😉
For the Marillion novice, Grendel is an extended set-piece from the band’s early years, drawing lyrically upon John Gardner‘s novel of the same name – which re-imagines the Beowulf legend from the antagonist’s point of view – and musically upon the formative years of ’70s symphonic prog, notably Genesis‘ Supper’s Ready and Van der Graaf Generator, with a bit of Floyd thrown in for good measure. It was a staple of the Aylesbury-based band’s early sets, and, if the testimony of die hards is to be believed, something of a highlight. As the fledgling neo-progger’s canon expanded, it was phased-out in favour of newer, more original compositions: but the sentimental attatchment lingered…
Requesting Grendel at both Marillion and Fish gigs has become something of a ritual over the intervening years. When it was announced that ex-frontman Fish was planning to perform the track for the first time as a solo artist at this year’s fanclub convention in Leamington Spa a couple weekends back, Fish and Marillion-related message-boards quickly filled with traffic from both nostalgic long-term fans and aficionados of a newer generation who never had the chance to see the original line up perform.
There was an understandable note of cynicism, too; understandable because the great Scot’s attitude toward the ‘Grendel!’ contingent has been as impatiently dismissive as his former colleagues over the years. Well, on the whole: when I caught him at Brighton’s Komedia on the 13th Star tour, he teased the crowd – or rather, guitarist Frank Usher did – with a few opening bars before declaiming ‘Ahh, fuck off!!’ and moving onto the next song. Well now, albeit probably in the ‘one off’ spirit of his Market Square Heroes performance with his former bandmates, Fish has finally caved in to fan nostalgia. So without further ado, here it is:
Without wishing to derail proceeding into the much-discussed ‘Fish’s voice isn’t what it used to be’ debate, it’s fair to say, that based on this unmixed i-phone type recording, the audience singalong does tend to dominate, so if your nostalgia has been piqued and you yearn to hear it the way it sounded in days of yore (and how ‘prog’ an expression is that?) the try this for size; Hammy-O, ’83:
And as a bit of an added bonus for the symphonic prog freaks, here’s some more epic tuneage from a few more recent bands who have had a stab at creating their own ‘Supper’s Ready‘ moments: