Marillion’s Garden Party at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1986 was a day to remember.
There were two major outdoor gigs that both took place twenty six years ago (nearly to the day) on the 28th June 1986.
Wham! played their final ever concert at Wembley Stadium to a grateful and relieved world…
…and Marillion played their Misplaced Childhood album in it’s entirety for the last time to an adoring 60,000 crowd at Milton Keynes Bowl. They called it a Garden Party…
Well – what would you have done? Needless to say I headed to the loose collection of roundabouts that is the city of Milton Keynes. (I always thought Wham went too commercial after Club Tropicana…)
Supporting were Mamas Boys, Magnum, Jethro Tull and Gary Moore.
A Marillion gig was more of a happening than a concert. Everyone knew their part, somehow. It became
tiresome a tradition for Smart-Alecs to request “Grendel” very loudly at quiet moments. Grendel was a seventeen minute long b-side. It was a form of showing off to ask for it. But then Marillion were one of those bands with great B-Sides: Freaks, Market Square Heroes, Lady Nina….
Script For A Jester’s Tear (once you got over the title) was The Big Sing-Along. Fish just needed to start, and the crowd would do the rest. It’s not the most obvious sing-a-long. It’s an eight and a bit minute song and the lyrics are pretty introverted:
“So here I am once more / In the playground of the broken hearts / one more experience / one more entry / in the diary, self-penned”.
It’s not exactly “We Will, We Will Rock You!” but it was sung with as much gusto by the crowd.
I haven’t listened to that track for years, but I didn’t Google that, and I could recite the rest quite easily. Sad. I won’t.
Fans loved the lengthy songs and greeted them with all the enthusiasm of Russell Brand berating a Spanish Waiter by telephone. I had a bootleg tape (one of the better ones) of one of the band’s 1984 Christmas shows recorded before Misplaced Childhood was released. Fish introduced a still work-in-progress Misplaced Childhood (Lavender was still not written) as having two tracks called Side one and Side two. It got the biggest cheer of the night. It was also slightly disingenuous as upon release each side had five tracks which segued into each other neatly. A bit like taking the gaps out between songs on your iPod and calling it one long tune. No one cared.
The Milton Keynes gig was joyful. It was a beautiful evening. Side two of Misplaced Childhood was better live than on album, and reached a crescendo with Childhood’s End and White Feather. I vividly remember singing along with the whole crowd to Fugazi: “Where are the prophets? Where are the visionaries? Where are the poets…?”
I didn’t know what it meant. I think I got the words mixed up a lot, singing “poets” where “prophets” should have been and vice versa. It didn’t seem to bother the band, who had moved on to playing Chubby Checker‘s Let’s Twist Again...
The day was also memorable for The Great Panda Pop Bottle fight of 1986. Some Milton Keynes based genius (of which there are, no doubt, many) decided that small 250ml fizzy drinks plastic bottles would be a) a terrific way to refresh a thirsty crowd and b) harmless as long as you took the caps off. About 30,000 people proved them wrong whilst filling time in the gaps between the bands. Bottles almost blacked out the sky. I also learned that putting an umbrella up acts less as a shield but rather provides people with a target to aim at…
The day finished on a genuine high point as the band left the stage to a tearful yet happy and slightly hysterical crowd never to play together again. (Wham at Wembley Stadium, that is…)
Record #65 Marillion – Garden Party
Marillion tour Europe this month – and the UK in September
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