Phil Collins

#774: The Original Mustard Tiger

GETTING MORE TALE #774: The Original Mustard Tiger

 

Gary was a customer of mine after I was transferred to a store on the shittier side of town.  It’s not like where I worked before was high class.  The new store was in a part of town that, frankly, I never went to when I wasn’t working.  There was nothing in that part of town, just the same fast food joints as everywhere else.  Not a lot of people with disposable income.  The store recently came to an end, to no-one’s surprise.  But that was the store that Gary frequented.

I inherited Gary from the previous manager.  Since we started carrying DVDs, we acquired a brand new niche clientele:  movie and TV fans.  They rarely, if ever, bought music.  It was a whole new market, and Gary was one of the guys who bought DVDs pretty much exclusively.  In particular, he liked TV show season box sets.  M*A*S*H*, Gilligan’s Island, the classics.  He bought a lot — and returned a lot.  He was high maintenance, so not the kind of guy I was really excited to see walk in at any given time.  But that’s retail.

What was most memorable to me about Gary was his appearance.  Large, bald, and…shall we say, unkempt.  The shirt that disgusted me the most was the one that had mustard stains all over the front.  Dried mustard on cloth isn’t my thing when it comes to fashion, I guess.  And when he talked to me, trapped behind the counter, I could barely take my eyes off it.  It was like a car accident — some people can’t help but look.  That was me with Gary’s shirt, which didn’t seem to completely cover his skin, by the way.  The easiest and most accurate comparison would be the character of Phil Collins on Trailer Park Boys.  Gary was taller, but Phil was bald, had a protruding gut, and wore a shirt covered with mustard stains.  Phil’s shirt had a picture of a tiger on it, hence his nickname:  the Mustard Tiger.  Well Gary was the original Mustard Tiger.

I quit the store a couple years later, but life is circular, and that was not the last of the Mustard Tiger.  About a decade ago, Jen and I were obligated to go to a wedding.  It was one of her bridesmaids tying the knot, the one we referred to as “bridesmaidzilla”.  (You can read that story in #559:  Hotel Hobbies.)  I wasn’t thrilled to be going, and for Jen this was kind of a final obligation before she was able to put some distance between them.  They were having a “Hillbilly Wedding”, I believe they billed it.  And guess who the best man was?

It was Gary.  He traded in the mustard shirt for something clean, with buttons.  Adorned atop his bald pate was a 10 gallon cowboy hat.  Upon his ample belly, a giant golden country & western belt buckle.  It looked like the WCW Championship belt, so huge it seemed.

I’m sure that some of you, if you were in similar circumstances, would walk up to Gary and ask him how he’s been doing.  If he even remembered you.  I did not do that.  When I quit the store, I was bitter and wanted to move on with my life.  I didn’t want to talk to Gary and remember all the times he returned some shitty TV show box set.  We all make choices, and I chose to pretend that I didn’t remember the Mustard Tiger.

As if!!

 

REVIEW: Marillion – Script For a Jester’s Tear (2 CD remaster)

Hey Uncle Meat! Who’s your favourite lyricist?

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MARILLION – Script For a Jester’s Tear (EMI 2 CD remaster, originally 1983)

“So here I am once more, in the playground of the broken hearts.”

So let it be written, the first words on the first full length album by the singer Fish and the band Marillion. Indeed, early Marillion is so heavily associated with their original singer that it is futile to try to separate them. Early Marillion, meaning the first four crucial albums, is revered for their lyrics as much or even more than their music. Layers upon layers of meanings, tongue-twisting words, symbolism galore, it’s all here for the poetry lover in you. I especially like Fish’s use of homophones for that extra touch of wonder.

Musically, early Marillion were very much in Genesis worship mode, even if they don’t like to talk about it. “Grendel” (appearing here in an awesome alternate take) is essentially “Supper’s Ready”. Many people in my own record store have confused Fish’s voice for Peter Gabriel’s and even Phil Collins from time to time. This is progressive rock for the dudes who love progressive rock. Do you like 8 minute songs with time changes, and ample keyboard & guitar solos? Early Marillion is the band for you.

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Highlights on this album include the broken-hearted and angry title track, and the drug-induced “He Knows You Know”. Part of the appeal of Fish’s lyrics is how he alternately caresses them and then spits them out at appropriate moments. “He Knows You Know” is a great example of this. From high pitched emphasis to mid-range melody, Fish knew how he wanted to express his words.  “Don’t give me your problems!”

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“Garden Party” is, of course, a wry stab at the English class system. These lyrics could only have come from the man known as Fish, and this is one of his most sarcastic and humourous achievements.  It is also one of Marillion’s bounciest songs, one that still creates euphoria in audiences today.

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The bonus disc here is loaded with greatness. Their first single “Market Square Heroes” is present in alternate versions. One of these is the “Battle Priest” version. Fish was forced to change the lyrics from “I am your antichrist,” to “I am your battle priest” (???) and that version is available here. Fear not, collectors, as the original is available on the singles box set, and other compilations as well. “Grendel”, all 20 minutes of it, is also present in an alternate take. It is simply stunning that an alternate take of a 20 minute song even exists. Again, the original is available on the box set as well as the album B’Sides Ourselves. The original take of “Three Boats Down From The Candy” is here, slightly different from the version that would turn up later. Here, there is a slight reggae vibe in the final verses. Fill out the bonus disc with some well fleshed out demos, and you have a very solid listening experience.

Liner notes, by Fish and the others, are of course essential, brilliant, and engrossing. Ample photos and artwork from Mark Wilkinson are also included.

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For the die hard collector who just can’t get enough, there were two singles (“He Knows You Know” and “Garden Party”) plus the debut  “Market Square Heroes” with additional material to enjoy.  As far as live material goes, the six CD box set Early Stages has four discs from this period alone, including not one but two live versions of “Grendel”!  Finally, the beautiful Curtain Call box set included a live album from October 1983 in Germany, featuring new (short tenured) drummer Jonathan Mover.

Script For a Jester’s Tear is an essential Marillion album, but it is not for beginners. Beginners may find such progressive fare as “Forgotten Sons” or “Chelsea Monday” to be a bit impenetrable on first listen. They would be advised to pick up the magnum opus Misplaced Childhood first. Once you are addicted to that music, come back here and feast of the bones of “Grendel”.

4.9/5 stars. A near-masterpiece for this band.