This World and Body, the London Records debut album by the Macclesfield quintet known as Marion, are one of the U. K.'s hardest touring new bands. Spotlighting the smouldering presence of charismatic frontman/lyricist Jaime Harding and the incendiary interplay of guitarists Phil Cunningham and Anthony Grantham - - minds sharply observed, aurally absorbing tunes that maintain a sense of iconoclasm that distinguishes Marion from the current legion of similarly inclined combos. Or, as the music weekly Melody Maker put it in a recent cover story on the band, Marion rails powerfully "against the edifices of sartorial elegance and etiquette: against the blank-faced, evil, low-pitched hum of 99 percent of humanity. They kick away the dull grey scum. "I just can't find what I'm looking for in recent records," Harding commented in the same Melody Maker feature. "I want the essence of rock'n'roll -- the Buzzcocks and Joy Division and the Beatles. I understand why people think bands being interested in the past is a bad thing. But if I could find what I was looking for in modern bands, I'd love them just as hard." Indeed, This World and Body's twelve songs -- all written by the long-standing creative team of Harding, Cunningham and Grantham -- pinpoint the indefinable essence that made the aforementioned bands great. I mpassioned, vividly emotional songs like "Sleep," "Let's All Go Together," "Toys for Boys," 'The Only Way," "Your body Lies" and the disquieting album closer "My Children" balance brashly self-assured performances with soul-barring lyrics that forthrightly examine uncertainty, alienation and desperation. "That contradiction is definitely an important element," says Harding. "We do feel swaggeringly arrogant about the band and about the way we play gigs and the way we look, but there's also quite a bit of internal doubt as well." Although Marion officially came into existence in the summer of 1993, Harding, Cunningham and Grantham have known each other -- and played in bands together -- since their early teens. A month after the trio finally decided to give up their day jobs and concentrate on music, former Smiths manager Joe Moss heard a demo tape and eagerly signed on. The band spent the next six months rehearsing intensively, eventually adding long-time friend Murad Mousa (whom they had worked with in prior combos) on drums and Nick Gilbert on bass. In January of 1994, Marion issued a well-received debut single, "Violent Men," on tile legendary Rough Trade label. That impressive effort was followed by equally noteworthy sophomore release, "The Only Way," on the independent Club Spangle label. After signing with London, the band scored a minor hit with its first major-label single, "Sleep" (the song appears in re-recorded form on This World and Body), in March 1995, followed two months later by "Toys for Boys," and subsequently by the provocative "Let's All Go Together." The sonic and emotional resonance of Marion's singles is further expanded and refined on This World and Body. The band recorded it with renowned producer Al Clay (Frank Black, Therapy?), but only after a few false starts with other big-name board men who made the mistake of attempting to blunt Marion's more jagged edges. "We'd had a hard time with producers wanting to slow the songs down and smooth them out," Harding explains. "We wanted the songs to be rough and raw. We're more concerned with the vibe than with musical perfection, and Al's the same way." Marion has already developed a solid reputation in the U.K. and Europe as a riveting live act. The group has built a fervent live following by touring with the likes of Morrissey, Radiohead and Menswear , consistently threatening to steal the headliners' thunder. "We've been gigging constantly since May 1994, and we've built up quite a varied audience that way," Harding reports. The group intends to apply the same strategy in the U.S. "It's such a massive place," observes Harding, "but we're still gonna' get in a van and travel around and play as much as we can, like we did in the U.K. "When we started this band," Harding states, "we knew that we wanted to write really exciting rocky tunes with lots of melody, real singing and lyrical depth. That may sound simplistic, but there's so many crap songs out there, and we wanted ours to have a bit more substance to them. I think that people see us as something real, something that they can relate to. Not that it's gonna change the world, but it's something that people can identify with, something that can make them think 'Yeah, I've felt like that.' Oh yeah, and we rock like fuck."
To say that Marion had been quiet between the end of 96' and the beginning of 98' would be an understatement if ever there was one. A silence had descended. During this silence they recorded their long awaited second album, after This World and Body it was time to become a part of The Program.
The first single, Miyako Hideaway was released in February 98' and was the first new material since the re-release of Sleep in 96'. The disquieting undertones of the introduction signalled not so much of a change but a progression. The unmistakable vocals remained as breathtaking as ever and it was hailed to be Marion's comeback to the UK charts. Sadly it did not add to their previously earned 8 weeks in total in the UK charts and disappeared without a trace with little radio play or promotion.
With Britpop very much dead and buried, Marion it seemed, were no longer the critcs favourites and they received no such rave reviews as with their debut and it's follow-up was criminally overlooked. Its constantly changing release date didn't help matters either, scheduled for release in March of 98' it was not released in the UK until September, seven months later. Hardly any sizable reviews graced the music press's pages and those that did were hardly flattering; instead of concentrating on the music of The Program, the music journalists seemed more interested in the fact that Jaime needed to be on one. Few picked up on on the intense beauty that was evident after the first listen. True, with such a powerful debut it would be very hard to follow but as they proved, by no means impossible.
With The Program their style progressed and their approach may have changed but the fact that it was an outstanding album full of empowering tunes was hard to miss ... although some managed. The deeper lyrics could be the reason why many critics shied away from it's depth; but if you took away the honesty and the obvious passion it would not have been Marion. It was produced by ex-Smith Johnny Marr who also co-wrote Miyako Hideaway and Is That So? The title track is Marion at their most subdued musically but at perhaps their most powerful lyrically. It is an album brimming with strong tunes and intricate melodies. They created an extremely enduring album of many layers that should have rocketed them to the success they had long deserved.
During the summer of 98' Marion appeared at all the major UK festivals, introducing their new material to the masses and even appearing on ITV's V98 coverage, showing everyone that their immense live reputation was still something to be reckoned with.
With the release of The Program an official fanclub was set up, but the optimism that emanated from the official magazine (for anyone lucky enough to get a copy) was somewhat premature. The official web site remained unchanged and cheques for membership and merchandise remained uncashed. By now the optimism had started to fade and raised the question of whether Marion's future was as bright as everyone had hoped.
The Sparkle EP would have, once again been the band's opportunity to shine but it was only available on Japanese import; it featured three fantastic new songs and a Talking Heads cover version and hopes were raised once again. By the end of the year guitarist Tony Grantham was rumoured to have left the band and rumours of a split raged rampantly and an ominous silence descended once more.
During the early part of 99' the Marion information machine remained particularly alive on the Internet and it was on their mailing list that Jay Schatz (their U.S manager) kept fans updated with any news on the band.
In March the electrifying video for Miyako Hideaway was aired on MTV's 120 Minutes programme and in April their 98' Troubadour gig was broadcast live across the Internet. There was also major interest in the band in the U.S with The Smile being given heavy rotation on numerous large radio stations and they were generating a lot of excitement across the water. Rumours of a split were raised again in April but were again dismissed and it was said that Marion were preparing to sign with MCA/Radioactive Records with a view to re-releasing The Program in America re-packaged and with extra tracks with a full blown tour to follow. It was just as their assault on the airwaves seemed to be gaining momentum that their split became official.
The end of May 99', six years after their conception, signalled the end of Marion as a band. Negotiations between London Records, the label they had been released from and Marion's prospective U.S record company had fallen through and each of the members went their separate ways.
In the wake of the split the Internet Misinformation machine sprung to life. Unfounded rumours and venomous comments littered message boards and a posting declaring Jaime's death of a drug overdose sparked growing fears. The malicious rumour proved to be false.
Despite the split they still have a very strong following; only a band with such enigmatic intensity and perception could keep such a hold over their fans.
Fans are eagerly awaiting new material from CHALK (Tony Grantham's band) who have already received good reviews and of course ex-frontman Jaime Harding's new project with Wayne Ward.
Jaime's new project will still be under the name Marion and although unconfirmed at the present new material is hopefully expected later this year.
They have always been a band of deep and shadowy depths and scorching highs and even as this chapter closes, several new ones begin.
Copyright © 2000 Dawn Rumsey All Rights Reserved - Used By Kind Permission
Julian Philips/bass - 1993 - 1995
Antony Grantham/guitar - 1993 - 1998
(Fact sheet, good early history)
(toys for boys promotional shot)
Macclesfield, Marion's home town