Starting originally under the name Silmarillion in 1978, a project of Mick Pointer (drums) and Doug Irvine (bass), they shortened their J.R. Tolkein novel inspired name to just Marillion the following year. The all-instrumental operation then added Steve Rothery (guitar) and Brian Jelliman (keyboards) and Fish (Real Name: Derek William Dick; vocals) and Diz Minnit briefly. Irvine would leave in 1980 and be replaced with Pete Trewavas, while Jelliman was replaced with Mark Kelly.
By the time EMI' came calling with a major contract they had been gigging around for some 4 years. Market Square Heroes would be their 7 debut in 1982, a track that dented the U.K. 60 marker and got them voted the best newcomer in Sounds Magazine early in 1983. He Knows You Know, was another top 40 single that same year which preceded their debut album Script For A Jester's Tear (1983) that made 7 on the U.K. charts and featured one of their best loved tracks, Garden Party, that on its own made 16. Marillion were a band who showcased ornate lyrical concepts of 70's mannerisms over a keyboardbacking; a sort of update to the more commercial effort of Peter Gabriel's Genesis operation, as if Punk had never happened. The follow-up album Fugazi (1984) with Andy Ward (ex-Camel) stepping in on drums (only to be quickly replaced with Ian Mosley (ex-Steve Hackett/ex-Curved Air)), however, was a harder edge affair and gained them new fans who were looking for an alternative to the American AOR; the album topped out at 5 U.K.
After their mini-set, the live Real To Reel (1984) they wooed the world with the love song Kayleigh that on its own made 2 U.K. and became the highlight of the follow-up album Misplaced Childhood (1985), an album that got them a 1 U.K. and their first U.S. spot at 47.
1987's Clutching At Straws was a huge seller and topped out at 2 U.K. but it's title had more truth than the band cared to admit and speculation over Fish's drinking problems eventually caused riffs in the membership causing the big guy would leave after their live follow-up effort The Thieving Magpie (1988). He would continue on with a solo career with Steve Hogarth (ex-Now We Live/ex-Europeans/ex-Last Call) took over the vocal duties.
With Season's End (1989) making U.K. 7 it was clear the Hogarth had won over the crowd with his smooth and strikingly different vocal style taking the act into unknown territory. Holidays In Eden (1991) fared equally as well, and their best of compilation A Singles Collection 1982-1992 (1992) made a respectable 27 position. But after 1994's Brave topping out at 30, Marillion found it difficult to match their halcyon days, never again to see a top 10. But to their credit they refused to sit around and churn out tried and true music that would interest only their fans by continuingto experiment well into the next century with Afraid Of Sunlight (1995), Made Again (live; 1996), This Strange Engine (1997; now on the Raw Power' label), Radiation (1998), Marillion.com (1999) and Anoraknophobia (2001), each making under the top 60 with the aforementioned Afraid Of Sunlight charting at 16.
Marillion would also be one of the pioneers in self-distribution with their albums being sold directly through the internet long before most others conceived of the idea and advertising almost exclusively to their fans vie e-mail and web technology.
Footnote: Do not confuse this Marillion with the Sylmarillion name used by a Canadian Alternative Rock band.