“Should I try again?” Marion

18 Apr

1994 feels like a very long time ago to me. Many gigs, lots of bands and memories now pickled and faded. Thankfully, one of my lasting memories of that particular year was hearing Macclesfield’s Marion for the first time. “Sleep” flew out of my speakers like a passionate, angry snarling dog that possessed the voice of an angel and a musical love affair began…

Marion’s first run of singles saw them reach heady heights in the press and their live performances were renowned as raucous but intimate affairs. Marion, at the time, seemed to have nothing standing in their way. Appearances on The Word and the Britpop Now TV programmes garnered rabid interest for the debut album ‘This World and Body’ and European and American tours were packed to the rafters – Believe it or not, this is where things started to change dramatically.

1997 saw Marion go through a fairly quiet period before recruiting Johnny Marr to help produce the band’s second album, ‘The Program.’ The band released a single from the album at completion and toured extensively once again.  London records did nothing to promote the album, which in fairness, does have some blistering moments but lacks the sparkle of the debut. Harding had developed a serious drug addiction and the band completely fell apart, with Harding failing to even turn up for rehearsals.

In the early days of Marion, Harding was using cocaine for its stimulant effects but ask anyone who has been there, what goes up, must come down and with cocaine it’s a fucking hard bang.  To quell the anxiety of the cocaine comedowns, Jaime’s only solace was found in heroin. The selfish nature of this opiate was the painkiller Harding needed to cope but was one that stopped him functioning enough to even dream of carrying on with music.

Harding’s addictions lead him to what is known in junkie circles as “Speedballs.” A “deadly” concoction that involves injecting heroin and crack simultaneously and this is supposed to dull the side-effects of each drug. Mixing opiates and a stimulants is like playing Russian roulette with a sub-machine gun. The effect of doing this on Harding’s body, haunts him to this day.  Jaime was now having heart problems that were confirmed by a specialist and the singer was put on intravenous antibiotics to aid his drug-riddled body.

Jaime Harding – Early days.

Marion was finished and the last I heard of them was when the press reported that Jaime was caught stealing garden ornaments to feed his addictions. At the time I felt deeply saddened that someone I had deeply admired for “that” voice and Marion’s incredible songs could be in such a state. Talent was being wasted and everything just seemed so senseless and so utterly fucking miserable, it must have been 100 times worse for Harding himself.

Around 2006, Harding set about making music again and recruited former Marion guitarist Phil Cunningham. The duo started writing songs and thought about whether or not to use the Marion moniker again. During this period Harding fell seriously ill and needed open heart surgery as a result of what the drugs had done to his body and to make matters worse, one of the new members suffered a broken neck in an accident. Despite sold out shows and a huge interest from old and new fans alike, illness was to plague Marion once again. In 2008 gigs were cancelled when Jaime contracted Pneumonia, his body succumbing to the scars of addiction once again.

2011 gave every Marion fan the news that had wanted to hear – The band had recruited another two original members and were about to play some gigs and had more new material recorded. A bigger tour was in the pipe-line and everyone was fit and well. This is where I finally got to see Marion in a live arena which I had wanted to do since the mid-90’s.

When a friend told me about the gig, I was at first excited and stunned but I also had a hint of trepidation. As much as I wanted to see the band live finally, I was scared it was going to be a shambles of a reformation. A band reforming either brings back blissful memories or it makes your toes curl up and die. Thankfully, in Marion’s case it was the former and even the new songs had something refreshing to offer.

The first song of the night ‘Fallen Through’ possessed all the passion and anger that attracted me to the band originally. “Now all my work has fallen through, should I try again?”, these lyrics never seemed so poignant and heart-wrenching. Jaime’s voice still held the passion and conviction it did almost two decades ago.

Jaime Harding – In full flight. 2012 (Photo Jen Juniper)

‘I Stopped Dancing’ which was always a favourite of mine and many others didn’t disappoint. The guitars weaved effortlessly, the bass punched through perfectly and despite being the newest member, the drummer held things together perfectly. Even my youthful energy was coming back and that doesn’t happen much these days.

The old songs came and went; leaving  feelings and thoughts of, bloody hell, that was a bit special. You could see people smiling and laughing during the gig. Oh, and the dancing at the front was as if the mosh pit was 200 degrees on the floor.

(Photo Jen Juniper)

New track ‘Hurricane’ had the band showcasing the fact that they can still write an amazing tune or two. Choppy guitars, swooning vocals and a bass line that walks about with a confidence that only being in a band like Marion can exude. Oh, and I haven’t forgotten the drummer – A powerhouse of cohesion and rigidity that left me in awe throughout the whole gig.

I have to say that new song ‘I Won’t Pretend’ did very little for me. A rockabilly guitar riff that’s a cross between The Cramps and The Birthday Party. I actually think this song will be a grower but on the night it didn’t stand out as much as the other new tracks.

I was surprised that the band only played ‘Sparkle’ from the second album. It left me wondering if the band wanted to forget about that record like some kind of embarrassing relative. ‘Sparkle’ had Jaime in fine form and you could see the whole crowd signing along – Seeing people looking so intently at the stage proved how much Marion had been missed.

(Photo Jen Juniper)

During the gig the shouts for “Sleep” were more than obvious and during the encore we finally got to hear the Marion classic. Jaime passing around a bottle of vodka to the crowd, playing the intro on his harmonica and smiling like a Chesire cat was the perfect way to end the gig. Jaime told the crowd “I love you all” and Marion left the stage.

I turned to the friend that I went to the gig with, we both smiled and I said, “That was incredible.”

To coincide with Marion releasing a new live album, I managed to have a quick chat with Jaime and here’s what he had to say.

Hi Jaime! What has been happening?

“Marion are really busy, we have a tour of the uk in April. a live album was released on April 2nd.”

How has your health been and how does it feel to be back?

“My health has got a lot better, it was always a question of when I would be ready again.  We actually reformed in 2006. All the members of Marion felt like we had so much unfinished business to take care of. we only have two records out that were released years ago. We all feel like a new group, so have wanted to play gigs and record new records for a long long time. Finally we are.”

How have the fans reacted to you re-forming?

“The response to Marion is always very intense and passionate. We are lucky that way. We have a cult fanbase of seriously great people.”

Was it the drugs that broke the band up originally and why did you re-form?

“I have suffered a lot of consequences for my drug addiction and actions. Yes, the group did break up in the nineties because I became to sick to work. Then again in 2006. The only difference was that in 2006 we all new it was just a matter of time before we would all be back together again. This was mainly from the response of the fans in 2006 and the response to the new Marion songs. I think I speak for all of the group when I say Marion is the only work we could all ever do. Life dosent mean anything to any of us without music. That’s what the fans see too, I think.”

 How do you feel about your two studio albums these days?

“I love both albums. I think they still sound great today. To me the only difference between the two of them, is that one had money and a campaign behind it (This World and Body) and the other didnt… Making the second album was so exciting for us, working closely with Johnny Marr and becoming friends. He taught all of us many many things that will be useful this time around.”

Jaime 2012 – Islington. (Photo Jen Juniper)

What is on the horizon?

“We are planning to record Marion’s third studio album this year, we have most of the songs already but want to write more too. Writing comes alot easier now.”

What have been the highlights of being in Marion?

“I think my personal highlights are being in a group that people care about. And listening back to songs we have created that then go on to blow me away. I listen to music whatever mood I’m in. All kinds… but I still feel I can say things clearer than other artists I listen to, and be better live.”

What music do you listen to these days?

“I listen to different tunes to suit my mood. I love garage music alot and live and exciting guitar groups. I love all the great singers and crooners too. Anybody thats worth a damn. I find great stuff in all kinds of music thoough, blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll, glam, punk…. The list is endless. Everything bar jazz i think.. i just find that a bit retarded not having any structure to the songs, nothing you can get hold of.”

How has the music business changed since you started?

“The music business has changed radically since I started out in Marion. The main difference is the internet I think. Now people dont have to travel hundreds of miles a night just to win three new fans. But the whole download thing is messy and wrong too. The music business never remains the same for even a day. It’s a constant shapeshifting beast.

 Which Marion songs are you most proud of?

“The Biggest Painkiller of all, The vines (full band version) and a song called Waiting for no One.”

I always thought you had cracking B-sides. Did you make a concious effort with that?

“The reason our B-sides were always good was because the record company (London) didnt give a damn about what we wrote or recorded for them. So we didnt get bothered with pressure to sound like Babybird, or whoever was shifting a few records that week. It’s hard to find people that understand an original vision. You don’t need to look too hard with today’s music to witness that.”

“Thank you for the interview and your time, Jaime.”



4 Responses to ““Should I try again?” Marion”

  1. kinski November 23, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    great piece!

  2. Matt January 10, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    A great read. Such a shame that the band seems to have imploded again, and the third album as discussed here never appeared.

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