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Genre: neo prog rock


Born: Derek William Dick

When: April 25, 1958

Where: Edinburgh, Scotland


The Studio Albums:

Hover over an album cover for the name and year of release. Click on album to see album’s DMDB page.

Marillion: Script for a Jester’s Tear (1983) Marillion: Fugazi (1984) Marillion: Misplaced Childhood (1985)
Marillion: Clutching at Straws (1987) Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors (1990) Internal Exile (1991) Songs from the Mirror (1993) Suits (1994) Sunsets on Empire (1997) Raingods with Zippos (1999) Fellini Days (2001) Field of Crows (2004) 13th Star (2007)


Compilations:

(Organized by dates of recording, not release)

Marillion – ‘Best of Both Worlds 1’ (1982-1987) Kettle of Fish (1989-1998) Bouillabaisse (1985-2004)


Live Recordings:

(Organized by dates of recording, not release)

Marillion – ‘Real to Reel’ (1984) Marillion – ‘The Thieving Mapgie’ (1984-1987) Acoustic Session (1994) Return to Childhood (2005)


Archives:

(Organized by dates of recording, not release)

Marillion – ‘B-Sides Themselves’ (1982-1987) Yin (re-recordings/remixes: 1984-1995) Yang (re-recordings/remixes: 1984-1995)


Key Tracks:

  • Market Square Heroes (1982) *
  • Script for a Jester’s Tear (1983) *
  • He Knows, You Know (1983) *
  • Garden Party (1983) *
  • Punch and Judy (1984) *
  • Assassing (1984) *
  • Kayleigh (1985) *
  • Lavender (1985) *
  • Heart of Lothian (1985) *
  • Shortcut to Somewhere [with Tony Banks] (1986)
  • Incommunicado (1987) *
  • Sugar Mice (1987) *
  • Warm Wet Circles (1987) *
  • Big Wedge (1989)
  • A Gentleman’s Excuse Me (1989)
  • Cliché (1989)
  • Credo (1991)
  • Just Good Friends (1991)
  • Fortunes of War (1994)
  • Goldfish & Clowns (1997)
  • Plague of Ghosts (1999)
  • Long Cold Day (2001)
  • Moving Targets (2004)
  • Arc of the Curve (2007)
* Marillion


Websites:


Fish
Overview/Early Years:
Derek Dick, aka “Fish,” was best known for his work in the ‘80s with British neo-prog rock group Marillion. His nickname dated back to his pre-Marillion days when he was a forestry worker. He “stayed in the bathtub for hours” (Progfreaks.com) and his landlady became upset, “allowing him to take only one bath per week; threatening him with charging twenty pence for every extra bath. Fish thus stayed roughly two hours in the bathtub every time and brought beer, sweets, a book, and other leisurely objects with him!” (Progfreaks.com).

“Marillion was initially formed as an instrumental band in 1979 by guitarist Steve Rothery (b. November 25, 1959; Brampton, England), drummer Mick Pointer, bassist Doug Irvine, and keyboard player Brian Jelliman. Irvine began singing in 1980 on the group’s first demos, but a year later Marillion invited Fish to join as vocalist, and he assumed the frontman position beginning with their 1983 debut album, Script for a Jester's Tear. His strong Peter Gabriel-inspired vocals enforced critics’ accusations that Marillion owed more than just a heavy debt to Genesis, but six more albums followed. Musical difficulties between Fish and the band caused him to leave after 1988’s Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra). He was replaced by Steve Hogarth…a vocalist quite similar in sound and style to Fish himself.” JB


Vigil:
After “leaving Marillion in 1988…he returned to his native Scotland to renovate an old farmhouse with it’s cluster of adjacent buildings.” CO “In 1989, Fish worked with Peter Hammill on Hammill’s Fall of the House of Usher project, but was then replaced by Andy Bell.” JB “His acclaimed debut solo album; Vigil in a Wilderness of MirrorsCO “appeared one year later and continued the theatrical flair of Marillion’s quasi-concept albums.” JBVigil was released on EMI Records in January 1990 and generated 3 Top 40 UK singles.” CO

The album was “written in the draughty rehearsal rooms and a dream of turning the outbuildings into a fully equipped recording studio was born…His decision to embark on a major building project seemed as impetuous as resigning from a top flight International band especially as a contractual dispute with his record company was to not only remove him from the public eye but to also prove a major drain on finances as the dispute dissolved into expensive litigation.” CO

In Fish’s own words, “‘it’s proved an invaluable asset and is now my residence as well as my place of work! In 1990 I didn’t have the finances to make an album without relying on record company advances. My dispute with EMI shut me down as I couldn’t record music, which meant I couldn’t tour as promoters wanted new product. By building the studio I took my first step toward independence.’” CO


Internal Exile:
“The studio was completed in 1991 soon after he signed to Polydor Records and just in time to begin the ‘difficult second’ album with producer Chris Kimsey who had worked with Fish on his last two albums with Marillion ; Misplaced Childhood…and Clutching at Straws…Equipment was still being wired in as the tapes started to roll.” CO

Internal Exile was released in May 1991 and – although containing songs that have remained firm live favourites - didn’t make the impact that both artist and label had hoped. The time in the cold during the litigation had taken its toll and Fish had been badly affected by the process both emotionally and creatively. His confidence was shaken and the myriad of styles on Exile led to some confusion as to which direction he should follow.” CO


The Covers Album:
Fish’s next album was a collection of covers. Fish explains the projects origins: “‘I needed to rediscover the magic that had pulled me into music in the first place. I needed to get rid of the cynicism and bitterness that had taken over my music during the last couple of years and opted to purge myself by recording an album of songs that were favourites of mine when ‘Fish’ was a dream and Derek William Dick was a teenager, songs I’d performed with a broom handle doubling for a mike stand in front of a large wardrobe mirror in the upstairs of my old family home in Dalkeith. Songs that had previously inspired me in some way or another.’” CO


Suits and the Dick Brothers Record Company:
“An album of cover versions was not what the record label or the fans wanted. In 1993 Fish found himself without a major label for the first time since he signed to EMI with Marillion 11 years before in 1982. Ironically the tour supporting Songs from the Mirror was hugely successful and Fish decided to go it alone with his own label ‘The Dick Brothers Record Company.’ His first release was Sushi; a double live album taken from the tour and the first of a series of ‘official bootlegs’ which he has continued to release on every tour since then. These titles have supported his extensive touring activities and, back in 1993 when he was without a label, were the difference between bankruptcy and survival.” CO “He was one of the first artists to promote the idea of ‘official bootlegs.’” CO

Fish’s official bootlegs “enabled him to finance Suits, his first independent solo release.” COSuits proved the big man…could still write and repaired some of the damage done by the covers project.” CO It also “gave him a number one independent single and a Top 40 entry with Lady Let it Lie, it also gave him a ‘first’ by releasing the second single – Fortunes of War – over 4 weeks and across a 4 CD package containing a complete acoustic concert. The project was touted for a nomination as most inventive packaging by the UK music industry.” CO

“The tour that followed seemed never-ending and the demand for a follow-up studio album of original material was plugged by a release of a two album package Yin and Yang which was a compilation of re-recordings and previously released material from both his solo and Marillion eras. This allowed the touring to continue as far as South East Asia and South America but at the same time created an awareness of the limitations of being an artist and a record company.” CO

The pair of albums provided “introductions to new areas of the world including a tour of Bosnia in 1996 where Fish performed for the British Army and other UN forces in a country that was still recovering from the effect of a terrible conflict. It would be the first of many shows he would perform for the army and he built up a strong reputation with the Forces that still continues today. This particular tour would leave an impression that would light the fuse on what many fans would regard as the resurgence of Fish’s solo career.” CO


Sunsets on Empire:
Sunsets on Empire would ironically be his last album on the Dick Bros label. As if forecasting the end of an era, the album soaked up his experiences in the Balkans and on the straggling monster of the previous worldwide tour. His co- writer and producer Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree) pulled him in a creative direction he had ignored for a long time and, with engineer Elliot Ness, they produced an album that defied his critics and signalled to the fans that he was back and in the mood to ‘rumble.’ Fish’s reputation as one of the great rock lyricists (he still does not play an instrument and writes with his voice through fellow musicians!) was greatly enhanced as he welded his worldly experience with his strong sense of social justice and political awareness, together with the emotional fallout from his private life which was beginning to disintegrate through prolonged touring.” CO

“The album received great reviews, as did the supporting tour, which saw him hit the USA and Canada for the first time since 1987. 150 shows later it was all over.” CO As Fish says, “‘I returned home from tour in Christmas 97…I had practically lost my house, had distanced myself from my family but I had changed out there on the road. I would have made the same decision again given the chance as that experience on the Sunsets tour woke me up to life. The big problem was that I was now back in the eyes of the fans, but broke and in need of a major re-evaluation.’” CO


Raingods with Zippos:
“Fish decided try again to work with a recognised label and signed his back catalogue, a new ‘Best of’ album Kettle of Fish and the forthcoming new studio album Raingods with Zippos to Roadrunner Records…However, the relationship soon soured. Kettle didn’t live up to expectations and the new studio album would sell as many as Sunsets with greatly reduced income.” CO

Of the writing process for the album, Fish says: “I started to work on Raingods after returning from a writing sabbatical.l’” CO He continues, “‘sessions gave me a lot of confidence as a singer/songwriter and working with other respected writers in focused situations showed me a different approach to creating music. It was a great experience overall.’” CO

“Two songs were utilised on the Kettle album and three tracks (including the poignant anti-landmine ballad Tilted Cross) were used on the new studio album released in 1999 which would also contain a 20 minute epic Plague of Ghosts…This piece marked yet another return to form.” CO


The Chocolate Frog Record Company:
“In 2000 his back catalogue was returned and once again Fish followed an independent direction with his new label The Chocolate Frog Record Company named after a lyric section of ‘Plague of Ghosts.’” CO Fish explains the term: “‘A ‘heid’ or head full of chocolate frogs is a Scottish term used for someone who isn’t quite with it, who’s drunk, out of it or acting weird. It seemed appropriate for someone who’s considered a ‘bit strange’ in the current manifestation of the music industry. The business I joined in the early 80’s is completely different from today’s slick corporate incarnation. I avoid the mainstream as much as possible these days but realise I still have to swim with the sharks every now and again.’” CO

“Further touring followed…in April 99 and he returned to his home near Haddington on the outskirts of Edinburgh with another costly experience behind him as illness and a bizarre set of circumstances plagued the tour.” CO

“‘The keyboard player had to get stitches in his head after falling over in a shower, the bass player nearly amputated his finger in the bus door, the drummer badly sprained his ankle after falling of a riser, the trailer nearly came off the tour bus on a German autobahn as the hitch sheared, the bus was hit by a passing car while parked in Milan – the bus driver was already close to a nervous breakdown. My production manager and best friend I had to leave in a hospital in Stuttgart after being diagnosed with severe blood poisoning from an infection in his elbow. At one point I was on a live phone interview to the "Trisha" TV show in the UK while in the middle of phoning Yatta’s family in the UK and being told that he may have to have his arm amputated to stop the poison spreading…I crawled through the remainder of the tour until I finally fell apart three shows from the end. I couldn’t speak. But there was a silver lining - they saved Yatta’s arm.’” CO


Fellini Days:
“Inspired by the neosurrealism of Italian movie director Federico Fellini,” CO Fish named the next album Fellini Days. Fish “took the works of the director and laid them alongside his own experiences to create ‘a movie for people's ears.’ It threaded Fish’s now intense personal life with the surrealism of road experiences in a feast of images…The album was released first on mail order and then, months later, to retail…[This] meant that he could finance the album and record with the production values his followers had come to expect…The album received great reviews but was mainly undiscovered through lack of promotion.” CO Still, this allowed Fish “to make albums on his own terms, to the standard and quality he wanted, with material he was in control of, under no serious commercial pressure and in his own inimitable style.” CO

As Fish says, “‘It doesn’t really bother me, the fact that I don’t sell millions of albums these days.’” CO “‘I don’t need the fame fix that is the current ‘junk’ of the modern music industry. I had that in the 80’s with Marillion.’” CO Now “‘I have a private life and the ability to choose what I want to do and when, while at the same time I can earn a living doing things that I love and provide a decent lifestyle for my daughter – Tara – and myself.’” CO


Turmoil in His Personal Life:
“The hard work had taken its toll…Fish’s personal life was thrown into chaos, when his wife Tamara decided to return to Berlin with their daughter Tara shortly before the tour began in early 2001. Huge debts forced the sale of the farmhouse and Fish ‘regrouped’ in the studio which was now separated from the main property.” CO

“2002 was spent working on converting the studio into a home while still maintaining the integrity of the sound rooms so that he could continue to write and record albums.” CO


Field of Crows:
“Fish began preparation on his new studio album Field of Crows in April 2003. Yet another adventure with the British army, this time in Kosovo, was to lead to the initial inspiration for the concept. It was after visiting the monument to ‘The Field of Blackbirds,’ a 15th century battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Christians who were mainly Serbian, and where so many men were killed on the field that both armies had to withdraw, that Fish got his principal image to work with.” CO

Fish says of the album: “‘The concept became whole around August when all the pieces fitted together and I had the story of a journey. It’s a life cycle. The main character ‘crow’ leaves behind what he knows, driven by dreams, desires and a legacy and heads to the open fields and the ‘big city.’ He joins the hunt and ends up being hunted and eventually caged where he’s left to dream of what he lost. Eventually he returns and so another circle begins. The field represents conflict, be it as a battle or a sports game or a shoot…Once the overall concept could be seen the rest of the lyrics flowed out.’” CO

“His career has come a long way since leaving a forestry career to become an internationally respected singer and songwriter. It also is apparent that his career still has a long way to go, even as the crow flies!.” CO


Return to Childhood:
2005 proved an important time for retrospection as Fish released a double album compilation that looked back over his entire career. Even more significantly, however, was the 20th anniversary of his most significant work, Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood. In celebration, Fish performed the entire album live, as well as a set of solo material. Recorded in November 2005, the concert was documented on CD and DVD – a must for fans who had followed Fish’s career since the beginning.


13th Star:
However, not content to rest on the past, Fish was soon working on 13th Star, his 9th studio effort. The album was released in 2007 to some of his best reviews in his career.


Biography Sources:


Last updated April 26, 2010.